This economy has been tough. Not only have record numbers of employees lost their jobs, but annual merit and cost of living increases have been frozen in many industries. At the same time, companies are squeezing as much profit as they can out of products, offering fewer diapers per pack for the same price, or increasing the cost per pound of apples. Working Americans are stuck in the middle, and even the hardest-working, most talented employees may feel underpaid while at the same time thankful for their jobs. It’s a hard place to be.
So, how do you decide to ask for a raise? First, determine whether or not the raise is justified. Second, think about what’s causing you to ask.
Is a Raise in Order?
Make a list of reasons why you think it is justified. Document your long-term accomplishments and goals. You won’t get a raise just because you recently brought in one big sale or finished one significant project. The burden is on you to show an increase is in order.
Also, do some research. Consult salary surveys for your industry, both nationally and regionally. The labor market is changes quickly, so it’s important the data you pull is up to date. Furthermore, certain disciplines are especially in demand right now and therefore can demand higher compensation. Your industry trade association probably keeps salary data.
Why Are You Asking?
If you have recently taken on new debt (like a bigger house or boat) or had a child, you may be feeling the financial pinch. However, you can’t expect your company to finance your choices. Even if those are the real reasons why you’re asking, be sure that you can justify your request with performance-based data and salary comparisons.
Why You Might Get Turned Down
First, your employer will also do the research, and it may show that your current salary is fair and in line with your industry. Simple as that. So be sure you know.
Second, your accomplishments may not warrant it. One or two successes, no matter how significant, shouldn’t necessarily result in a raise. Your boss expects that level of performance consistently to justify increased compensation.
Third, your company may be willing to lose you. That’s hard to hear, but be sure that your boss isn’t going to call your bluff. Even if you have offers from other companies for more money, the boss won’t want to start a bidding war every time this happens, especially if you aren’t considered key to your company. Your loyalty may also be called into question based on your willingness to pursue outside opportunities. Only play that card if you really want to stay where you are but can’t afford to turn someone else down.
Fourth, your company may be hurting financially in ways you don’t realize. If you are aware of financial troubles, you’ll want to craft your pitch accordingly. Don’t give up a great raise in the long-term for a pittance right now.
What to Ask for if the Answer is No
If your boss says no, swallow your hurt and frustration before you respond. While you might feel angry in the moment, taking some time to carefully think through your response is the best way to maintain your professional image.
Ask your boss to clearly outline what expectations will result in a raise. Develop a three- or six- month plan that includes specific goals that must be met. In addition, have your boss talk you through your career path and future opportunities at that company. (Hint: if your boss can’t do that, it’s time to quietly start looking elsewhere.) Set a time to re-evaluate the situation in six months.
Mulling at Work – Relevant Episode
Linda McCleod talks about what successful performance management looks like and how it should matter to the corporation AND the individual. Hear the episode here.
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