Asking for a Raise

Fundamentally, there are three major hurdles to getting a raise in pay.  The first has to do with equity, meaning the person asking must deserve to be paid more money.  Second, most bosses don't voluntarily give them away, so someone has to initiate the meeting or conversation.  Finally, several people in the chain of command may have to agree to the increase in pay.

In this article, we're going to address the topic of asking for a raise in pay.  As part of that discussion, we'll first talk about the planning that should be done before a meeting.  Next, we'll talk about creating a win-win approach when meeting with a manager or supervisor.  Finally, we'll run through some tips that should help increase everyone's chances of getting that raise.

Getting a Raise

Anyone that really wants a raise in pay is going to have to work for it.  This includes planning the exact approach, and preparing information, before meeting with a manager.  The first item we're going to address is the equity hurdle, which is convincing someone that you deserve more money.  Two strategies we'll use for proving worth or value include:

  • Compensation Benchmarks
  • Performance Documentation

It's important to keep detailed documentation of all findings for both of the above items.  When meeting with any manager, the data needs to be available to backup all claims.

Compensation Benchmarks

One of the easier ways to benchmark compensation is by tracking the values placed on job openings within your organization.  For example, if there is an internal job posting board, then it's possible to record both the pay offered as well as the requirements of each position.  This information can then be compared to the job requirements of the position you hold, as well as compensation or job value.

It may also be possible to consult with internal support personnel in the Human Resources department.  They should be able to provide pay scales for jobs that are similar.  Two valuable online resources include:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics:  conducts a National Compensation Survey, which provides comprehensive measures of wages, employment costs and benefits.
  •  a free online salary wizard that provides users with base salary, bonus, and benefits information for similar positions in a given geographic region of the country.

This first step is an important one because if the information indicates you're already being fairly compensated, then it might be a good idea to abandon the notion of asking for a raise.  But if the data indicate you're not being fairly compensated, then it's time to document those findings and continue to the next step in this process.

Performance Documentation

While the compensation benchmark information can be used to prove the worth of a job, this doesn't mean that someone brings that value to their organization.  Anyone that's been recently hired into the company probably doesn't have a long record of accomplishments or a long list of achievements.  If that's true, the probability of success is greatly diminished.

The goal of this step is to demonstrate that you provide above-average value to the organization.  If there is a performance management system, then your "exceeds expectations,"  "exceptional," or "above average" grade should be used as one piece of evidence that you're a valuable member of the company.

It's also a good idea to document all accomplishments over the last 24 months.  Ideally, this would be a bulleted list of achievements that can be printed out and presented to your manager during the compensation meeting.  Be specific, and use a great deal of care preparing this list, just as you would when writing a resume or preparing for a job interview.

If possible, performance documentation should include examples demonstrating a commitment to the company.  Perfect attendance, evening training / classes aimed at acquiring new skills or improving existing skills are just a few examples that demonstrate someone is a solid member of the department's team.

Negotiating a Raise

The best time to talk about getting a raise is immediately after a boss has praised you for doing an excellent job on a recent assignment.  It's best to schedule a meeting to hold the discussion rather than having a hallway conversation.  Remember, it's necessary to prepare the compensation benchmark and performance documents before negotiating.

The tone to set during the meeting is one of win-win.  This can be achieved by demonstrating your value to the company.  This objective is accomplished by using facts about your compensation relative to the marketplace, and the above-average performance level attained.  During the conversation, use the same phrases as you would during a job interview.  Emphasis should be on first person singular statements such as "I accomplished this objective..." or "I played a critical role in the success of..."

Don't be vague during the meeting and make the mistake of saying something like "I think I deserve a raise."  It's more effective to say something like "I've been doing some research, and based on the information found, the data indicates I'm underpaid."

Unless you have another job offer, it's never a good idea to go into a meeting and put a manager on the spot by making a demand for more money.  The purpose of the meeting is to negotiate, and that's best accomplished by reviewing the facts found, and letting your boss draw his or her own conclusion first.  At that point, you need to be prepared to negotiate.

Closing Tips

We're going to finish up with a quick review of some tips that will help to maximize the chance of successfully asking for, and getting, a raise.

  • Timing:  as mentioned earlier, the best time to ask for a raise is immediately after being praised for a significant accomplishment.  The worst time is right after you've been hired or received an annual increase in pay.  While anything is possible, trying to negotiate a raise during a recession will always be a particularly difficult task.
  • Negotiations:  always negotiate with a win-win outcome in mind.  If you're the only winner in the short term, it's very likely your boss will win over the long haul.
  • Emotions:  when discussing a raise, leave emotions at the door.  Getting emotionally involved in a discussion usually leads to making statements that will be regretted later on.  You also lose the ability to communicate effectively when upset.
  • Backup Plan:  always have a backup plan in case your boss doesn't agree to the raise.  One effective follow-up question after an unsuccessful request is "What do I need to do to convince you I deserve more money?"
  • Personal Finances:  don't bring personal finances into the discussion.  It's not the company's fault that you cannot afford your mortgage; it's always possible to downsize or sell a home.  Stick to the facts about your value to the company, don't play the sympathy card..

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