Asking for a Raise
So you want to make more money. Big deal. That’s not important to your boss. Simply going in and telling her that you want a raise isn’t going to get you one. You have to know how to negotiate. More importantly, you’re going to need to prepare ahead of time to even make negotiation a possibility.
Here’s the essential guide to what you need to know about asking for a raise.
Your Boss Doesn’t Want to Give You One
It’s a harsh reality, but your boss doesn’t want to give you a raise in 99 cases out of a hundred. Part of what keeps her business profitable is keeping overhead low. Often times the biggest overhead cost in a company is labor. That’s a huge hurdle to overcome from the word go.
But hey, there’s some good news. Your boss might not want to give you a raise, but she probably -- hopefully, if you’re asking for more money -- wants to retain you as an employee. That’s where you’re going to find leverage to ask for a raise. It’s not about threatening to walk. That’s never a good bargaining tactic. However, you have to look at asking for a raise less in terms of what you want (more money) than what you can do for your boss (more value).
Never, Ever, Ever Bring Up A Colleague’s Salary
This is the kiss of death. It doesn’t matter what someone else is making and you’re probably not even supposed to know what they’re making. Nothing is going to shoot your request for a raise in the foot quite so fast and suddenly as referencing what other people on your team are making. If you go down this route, don’t be surprised if you get shown the door instead of a fat new paycheck.
Don’t Talk About How You’re Doing The Work of Multiple Employees
Telling your boss you’re doing the work of two, three, or even 10 people isn’t an argument for giving you a raise. It’s an argument for hiring new talent. This is especially true if you work for a company that hasn’t fully recovered from the recession in terms of how many people are on staff. Chances are good that you’re not the only one who feels this way. Simply being “busy” is not a sufficient reason for a raise.
Your Last Raise Is Irrelevant
Don’t bring up the last time you got a raise if you haven’t gotten one in a long time. It’s an irrelevant piece of information and one of the surest ways to start things out on the wrong foot. The overriding theme here is that you have to convince your boss that your current performance merits a raise.
Bringing up how long ago your last raise was can be perceived as whining. That’s not going to get you a bigger paycheck.
So Is the Date
This is a common mistake among younger employees who might be on their first job. Older employees sometimes suffer from this, too. The difference is, Millennials will say “I’ve been here a year now” and Gen Xers will say “I’ve been here for ten years now.” Your boss probably knows about when she hired you and about how long you’ve been with the company. So what?
Loyalty is great, but it’s not an argument for increasing your salary, at least not on its own.
Your Personal Finances Don't Matter
If you’re having trouble paying your bills, that’s unfortunate, but it’s not going to get you a raise. Your boss might care that you’re broke, but it’s not going to make her want to increase your pay. Your personal finances are just that — personal. You’re going to need a much stronger argument if you want to see your pay get bumped up.
So how do you start working on getting a salary increase?
Perform For the Salary You Want, Not the One You Have
You might get a regular salary increase as part of your performance review cycle. If so, that’s what your boss has budgeted for you when you’re not going above and beyond. So if you’re just kind of doing what you’re supposed to be doing, that’s not good enough when it comes to asking for a raise. You have to be one of the top go-getters in the company, and your boss has to know it.
That means you need consistently outstanding performance reviews. It also means you should do more than that. You should take on additional responsibilities almost as if you were angling for a big promotion rather than just an increase in salary. The key here is to be able to point to ways you’re creating more value for your employer. Creating more value is the only solid argument for a raise — not that you haven’t had a raise in a long time, and certainly not that you just need more money.
Let Your Boss Know You’re Performing
Of course you could be doing the best job in the world and it wouldn’t matter if your boss doesn’t know you’re doing it. Communicate what you’re doing — and do it in a way that doesn’t come across like you’re bragging. Otherwise, you could get a reputation as more of a sycophant than a high performer.
The last thing you want to do is bomb your boss with a laundry list of things you’ve done all at once. It’s better to simply inform her of your accomplishments as they make sense to communicate. When are they relevant for her to know? The first opportunity you have to, in the proper context, communicate your accomplishments, tell your boss what you did. Try to keep it objective. “I did such and thus and this is the relevant metric” is how you want to phrase it.
Consider Making Your Own Personnel File
One way to have all of your ducks in a row is having your own private personnel file. This is where you keep all of your accomplishments and achievements on hand. It’s good to get into this practice whenever you start a new job. That way, when the time comes to ask for a raise, you have everything where you need it. This is one of those little moves that high achievers perform to set themselves aside from the rest of the pack.
Don’t just include things that you’re doing on the job, either. Any extra-curricular activities you have that might be relevant to your job should go in here. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn a little. Consider it a sort of “super resume.” You might even be able to use it when you apply for your next position.
Do Your Research
One of the worst things you can say when you walk into your boss’ office to ask for a raise is, “I know the timing is bad.” The timing is perhaps the most important part of this. So before you talk about a raise, investigate the financial health of the company. Maybe the timing is bad. That means you need to wait until the timing is good.
Arming yourself with information about the financial state of the company has benefits beyond simply being able to time your proposal right. It also arms you with important metrics about the company you can use when asking for a raise. Your boss will be impressed that you know as much about the company as you do.
Know How Much to Ask For
Many employees has been caught off guard with the question, “How much were you looking for?” When you research your company, you should also research what people are making in comparable positions at comparably sized companies. You can tailor that up or down depending on experience, but having a solid idea of what you actually want in terms of a raise is going to help you to not flinch and lock up when the boss asks how much you’re looking for.
Prepare Your Case and Practice Your Pitch
Look at asking for a raise like you would at one of the biggest proposals you’ll ever have. You don’t want to go in cold. So prep your case and practice with an objective person who can give you meaningful feedback about what works and what could maybe work a little better. Have all your ducks in a row in your head before you go into your boss’ office and ask for a raise.
And, oh yeah: Don’t just go into your boss’ office and ask for a raise. Instead, schedule a meeting and make your pitch there. If your boss asks why you are scheduling a meeting, tell her that you want to talk about your performance.
Have Your Resume In Order
Here’s the thing: Anytime you ask for a raise, it’s a gamble. Be prepared to walk out or be terminated. It’s not that this will happen in every scenario. It’s just that it wouldn’t be the first time a person lost their job after asking for a raise.
But if you follow these tips and you’re providing value for your employer, that won’t be high on your list of worries. In fact, these tips will significantly increase your chance of getting the raise you’re after. If nothing else, your boss will be impressed with your professionalism and tenacity.