18
Aug
11

asking for a raise

Reader H. U. writes:

I have been working for the same company for over a year now, which doesn’t sound like much, but most of my friends tend not to stay longer than six months at any one place, so it feels like a lot. Like most overeducated kids my age, I’m underpaid (and underutilized, but whatever). I’d like to ask my boss for a raise. What do you suggest I do?

Dear H.U.:

I have read so many columns about this exact question. What’s one more?

Having done this several times myself, I can tell you it’s only worked once for me. So here are my tried and true tips for asking (but maybe not actually for getting):

Get all the encouragement you can. Yep, this is exactly why one more column on this subject can’t hurt, in my opinion. You may read the same advice over and over, but you need to get psyched. So do it. Google up, kiddo.

– Make sure you deserve it. If you want an increase in pay, you’re going to have to prove that it’s a good investment for the company, not just because you’re a precious snowflake. Definitely put together a list of all the amazing successes you’ve had in the past year. They should be proof that you increase the value of the company or the company’s product, and if you can prove that the place can’t get on without you, you’re golden.

Don't do this

Wait to do this until you get home. Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Make sure you don’t NOT deserve it. On the flipside, make a list of the mistakes you’ve made, because if your boss has been paying attention, he or she may bring these up to counter your question. Be prepared to say what you’ve learned and how you can assure things will not go sour that way again. You don’t have to bring these lists into the meeting with you, but they may help you keep track of what you’re saying.

Know what you’re worth. Don’t just ask for “a raise”. Do the research. Check the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Salary.com, and anywhere else you can think of to list what the salary range is for your job title, actual work, experience, and education.  A lot of people are underpaid these days, so you’ll probably be pretty grossed out at how bad your pay is for the work you do. Don’t get emotional about it; just be armed with the statistics so you know a good range.

Know what you want. Decide how much of an increase you expect, and how much you would actually accept. While you shouldn’t ask for too much, if you have proof you’re worth a lot more than they pay you, they may give you a compromise that won’t be too shabby.

Don’t be a nuisance. If you wander into her office during a huge campaign and whine about your low pay, you may just get fired. Pretend you have an idea of what’s going on in the company on an emotional and fiscal level, even if you really don’t. Wait until after a big financial success (especially if you caused that success), and make an appointment.

– Ask earlier in the day, when your boss doesn’t have anything else huge on her/his plate. There is such a thing as decision fatigue, and you have a better chance of avoiding that if you ask in the morning than in the evening.

Have another offer waiting in the wings. This sounds like a dick move, but it’s really the only way to let them know you’re serious. “I’ve got an offer from X&X and they’re offering me 15% more” is a lot more powerful than “I’ve been here a year and think I deserve a raise”. (BTW, telling them you’ve got another offer should be your opening line.) This is, however, also the hardest part of job negotiation in the current economy. There aren’t that many jobs out there to begin with, let alone many that will offer you 15% more than the job you make now. But you can still look, and your current company will be faced with a decision about whether they can and will keep you.

Practice. You don’t have to memorize a speech, but you should know what you’re going to say. Go over it in your head a few times, or take a friend out to coffee and have them play the devil’s advocate. You want to go in prepared and relaxed. This may be the most nerve-wracking thing you’ll ever have to do at a job, so the more prepared you can be for it, the better. (You’re trying to prove you deserve it, after all.)

Don’t settle for “no”. Be proactive. If your boss tells you the company can’t give you a raise right now, ask for tips on how to assure they can in the future. Ask for more responsibility. It’s up to you to make the company want to keep you. And remember that company with the raise waiting in the wings? You might need to head that way if you really need the money.

Good luck!

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2 Responses to “asking for a raise”


  1. 1 Tim
    August 19, 2011 at 2:33 am

    … And, never expect more than half of what you’re worth. Even if you single-handedly bring $500000 into your company, remember that has to support the marketing expenses, the admin, accounting, and sales employees (note the serial commas), the building lease, cleaning, infrastructure, and insurance costs., and still leave some profit for the owners/investors.

    If you were paid what you’re worth you’d be of no value to your company.

    Finally, if you’re going to pull the “I’ve been offered X at another company” line, make sure it’s a real and firm offer, because you should be prepared to make the move, and you might have to.

  2. August 19, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Underutilization runs amok these days, doesn’t it?

    Seems like most employers I’ve worked for are afraid to let anyone make a mistake. It’s called complacency, folks. And it’s the demise of the American dream. Fat, dumb, and happy. Why? Because the government’s there to aid in our rescue.

    If employers dedicated themselves to a credo whereby proven folks were allowed to apologize instead of ask for permission – we’d once again be innovative. . .


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