How to ask for a raise

1950s Raise

There is nothing worse than opening your online banking account and realising that you are over-drawn, again. Until you realise that the bank is going to start fining you so that you become deeper in debt, and even when you finally do get paid and clear it, this whole cycle is going to restart three days after payday. It is at those moments you think… do you know what  … I could really do with a raise.. but like most of us, you have probably never been told how to go about getting one?

If your organisation does not have a regular performance and salary review process, or your contract does not include an annual appraisal (or even better, guaranteed increase) then you will have to bite the bullet and ask for a raise – if you don’t ask you won’t get.

Here are some tips to make the process as successful as it can be.

1. Plan in advance.

Unfortunately it’s no good opening your horrendously overdrawn credit card bill one evening, and then marching into the boss’s office the next morning looking for a raise. You need time to plan your strategy, and get yourself prepared.

Start planning six months to a year before having that meeting.

Also give your boss time to prepare – don’t march into their office Friday afternoon when they are trying to get out the door or Monday morning when they are tackling a hundred emails; schedule a time for the meeting that is good for both of you and let them know the topic/agenda in advance.

2. Layout all the reasons why you are a more valuable asset now than you were when you last negotiated your salary.

Have several concrete examples where you either generated income or saved costs for the company. Make sure your contribution is clear, and how, if some else less experienced had been in your role then the outcome would have been different.

3. Prepare for negotiation

At the end of the day, you are basically asking your boss to pay themselves a little less so that they can pay you a little more, expect them to argue against the proposal. Know all the things that went wrong in the past year (there is always something) and think about the things you did to lessen the impact or even make it better.

Even if your boss does not bring up the particular examples you think of, the process of having prepared answers will better prepare you to be able to think on your feet in response to anything that they bring up.

4. Save up your bargaining chips.

If you traipse into your bosses office everyday making a series of financial demands (like you want a new chair cause you don’t like the colour of yours, or a new desk because Jayne in Accounting has a nicer one than you, or a new computer because yours is, like, so last year) then they are less likely to take this demand for a pay increase seriously and are already very used to refusing your demands without consequence. Save up the things you want and make a concise list – prioritise what you need verses what you want, and be prepared to be told that with the cost of the new chair, desk and computer there is simply no budget left to give you a raise.

5. Be specific. Have a figure or percentage in mind.

Do not ask for a general raise – be specific about what you want and have a reason for that figure. Also know that your boss will try to negotiate this down, so go in with a slightly higher figure and know where your bottom line is.

6. Compare yourself to the current market place – know the worth of your skillset.

This will allow you to make a more reasonable proposal, and help you provide a reason for the raise you are requesting. However, be clear on what it is that you are benchmarking yourself against – be sure to read the full job description and not just the job title.

7. Be prepared to give and take.

Your boss might agree to a raise, but it may come with extra responsibilities. Remain open-minded about these, and remember you can always end the conversation without conclusion so you can consider the options on the table and then resume the conversation again a few days later.

8. Have alternatives in mind.

If your boss says no, unfortunately the company cannot afford raises right now, have some alternatives ready that they might be able to consider instead:

  • Could you stay on the same salary but work reduced hours? Possibly get a half day on a Friday, start later or finish earlier? This is a raise, just in a different disguise; and it might make a greater contribution to your quality of life than a bit more cash.
  • Would they pay for you to go on a course or attend a conference? This will not only benefit them because it will improve your skills while you are with their organisation, but it will also benefit you as it prepares you for future roles. Plus some of these can be tax deductible.
  • Would they allow you accompany them to an industry event and introduce you to some of their network or contacts? This allows you to piggy back on their already established network – something that is worth its weight in gold.

9. If they refuse all your proposals, that’s ok, remain calm, all is not lost.

The simple reality is that some organisations allot a certain level of resources to a role, and they cannot assign any more to it. They accept candidates that will grow into the role (rather than being full prepared for the role) because the organisation have the ability to offer a good training or mentoring programme, thereby allowing them to pay that candidate a little less. It is wonderful that you as an employee have now grown and flourished in the role and are now worth more, but they still cannot afford to increase resources in that area.

All is not lost. By opening the conversation you are least opening their eyes to the fact that you have matured in the role that you are in, and that you are looking to progress. You have laid the groundwork for this conversation, and should you have it again, you will not be starting from scratch.

You might also have revealed to yourself that you have outgrown this role in this company, and perhaps it is time for a change, rather than just a raise. By comparing yourself to the market you might have realised that there are actually other jobs out there that you are now eligible for, which you may not have had the experience or skills for last time you looked. You can take all the skills you have learned in this role and bring them to an organisation that is willing to pay for them rather than grow them.

10. Do not ever issue an ultimatum you don’t mean. “If you don’t give me a raise, I will …”

The worst outcome from this conversation is not being refused a raise, it is being forced to resign because you lost your cool, issued an ultimatum, the company called your bluff and you were forced to follow through. Your current salary, no matter how insignificant it is to you now, will look monstrous from the dole queue. Do not get yourself into this situation.

11. Remember the implications of accepting a raise.

Although it is rarely explicitly said, the implication of taking a raise is that the company is buying your loyalty for another six months to a year. Not that there is anything that they can do if you do decide to hand in your notice and leave three months later, but it might leave a very bad taste in this employer’s mouth, which might come back to haunt you if you want to work with them in the future, particularly in a small industry. Bear this in mind as you accept your raise.

12. Regardless of the outcome, leave the meeting on good terms.

Nothing is ever final, there is really no end to any discussion, so even if you are bitterly disappointed and incredibly frustrated, remember to smile and thank the other person for their time at the end of the meeting. This is not a time to throw a temper tantrum or storm off in a huff (not that I really know when the time for those actions is). Not only does it look petty and unprofessional, you still have to work in this office for the foreseeable future, and you do not want to turn that working atmosphere hostile.

So they are our top tips – is there anything that you would add from your experience?

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