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Dear Harriette by Harriette Cole

DEAR HARRIETTE: My assistant has been doing a good job at work, so I offered her a promotion and a 20% raise. I was surprised and disappointed by her response. She said she thought the raise wasn’t enough and that she deserves a lot more. I run a small business and do not have more to give her. I never know if all of my current contracts will last, so I have to keep sizable savings in order to pay for all of the expenses it takes to run the business. I know that many companies, including ones much larger than mine, don’t even give cost of living increases on a regular basis, let alone a whopping 20%. I can’t go higher, nor do I think she deserves it. But I also don’t want a disgruntled employee. How should I handle this? — Disappointed

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Sit down with your assistant and remind her of how much you value her. That’s why you offered her both a promotion and a big raise. Acknowledge that you know she is not satisfied with your offer. Share insights with her about job trends in our country so that she can gain a bit of perspective on her situation. In 2019, for example, the U.S. Government’s cost of living increase for Social Security was 2.8%. Many corporations paid a similar amount to employees. According to, the average raise these days is 4.5-6%, so 20% would be considered exceptional. That said, it probably doesn’t seem so great if the base salary was low. It can take time for a smaller starting salary to increase to a comfortable figure.

For anyone looking to request a promotion or a raise right now, you may want to take a number of factors into consideration — take a self-assessment of your job performance to honestly consider whether you are deserving, prepare a presentation to demonstrate clear reasons why you are ready, and go in with confidence. Here are more suggestions: career-advice/pay-salary/ what-is-a-reasonable-raise.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter and her friends are stressing out as they wait to find out which colleges will accept them. Many of them did not get into their first-choice schools through the early decision process. The rest are waiting for early action and regular decision. Each time somebody gets rejected, there are lots of tears. I don’t know how to support my daughter or her friends. I keep telling her it will all work out, but that doesn’t seem to be much consolation. — Nail-Biting Time

TIME: Be a good listener. Let your daughter tell you what’s going on, and do your best to stay quiet. You cannot guarantee anything during this process, so don’t promise anything. Give her hugs if she welcomes them. Show her that you love her and support her. When she learns about schools on her list, be right there with her. If she is emotional, allow her to go through that. You can express your emotion, too. Now is not the time
to be wooden or cold. Be yourself and remain the strong parent. Remember that it will all be settled by May. That seems far away, but it will be here in a blink.

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