Sunday, October 4, 2009

How To Ask For a Raise

One of the greatest skills you can obtain is the skill of negotiation. Understanding how to present your position and persuading others to your way of thinking serves you well in both your professional and personal life.

Working in HR, I was always surprised when candidates for a job accepted our first offer. I was also surprised when we promoted someone and they didn't negotiate a higher salary. I have also been surprised when companies would say "no raises this year" and employees wouldn't question their own pay. But the greatest surprise of all? When people would ask for a raise in a way that demonstrated they had no idea how to position themselves to get the answer they wanted.

Now, this is not to say that you will always get a higher starting salary, more money when you get promoted, an increase when the company says there's no money, and a raise when you ask. But, I do believe you must always ASK. And more importantly, you must ask RIGHT.

I was talking to a friend last week and she shared that she was told that she was up for a promotion. My response? "Great, with a heads up, it gives you time to prepare your salary negotiation." You would have thought I grew wings. She had no idea that promotions were "negotiable." Well, I'm here to tell you - everything is negotiable.

So, here are my tips for asking for a raise:

1. Make Sure You Deserve One.
Tenure is not a reason for getting a raise. Doing your job well is not a reason for getting a raise (you already get something for that - it's called a paycheck). Take the time to write out, specifically, what you have done that deserves an increase. What additional projects have you taken on? Have you taken over duties from someone who is no longer there? Has your job expanded beyond its current responsibilities? Are you now managing more people? If you can't articulate why you deserve a raise, then maybe you don't.

2. Know the Market.
What is your job worth? Notice, I didn't say what are YOU worth. Just because you are the best receptionist the company has ever had doesn't mean they will pay you $100k to answer their phones.

Research salary surveys and find out what the market is paying for your job. There are industry surveys, non-profit surveys, and surveys by location. You can even hire someone to do a market study on your position - this is especially helpful when your job is Director, VP or C-level. Once you have the survey data, you can add to that number based on your past performance and future contribution. By doing this, when you give them your number, you'll be able to back it up.

3. Timing is Everything
Patience is definitely a virtue in business. You have to know the "vibe" of your boss to know when to talk money. Make sure that you'll have uninterrupted time to discuss it. Nothing is worse that making your pitch and having your boss distracted by email, phone calls, or having to go to another meeting.

4. Be Professional and Methodical
Lay all of your cards on the table. Be bold, courageous, professional and methodical. This is not the time to let emotions get the best of you.

I like to open with something like "I'm her to talk to you about a raise." Then, begin with why you deserve one (refer to #1) and be specific. Then, move to your research. You could start with "Based on market data for this industry and location, salaries for my position are...). You can even suggest ways the budget could cover your raise (reducing spending in certain areas). Finally, end with what you want (5%, 10%, $10,000, $15,000).

Then, SHUT UP!

Wait for a response. No matter how long it takes, do not say another word. Let the next words that fill the air belong to your boss. It might just be "okay".

4. Don't Leave Unless You Have an Answer Other Than No.
If you don't get an "okay", don't take "no" for an answer. The reality is, very few bosses can make that decision on the spot (and even if they can, they won't). Ask for a time frame for an answer. Ask what the process is for getting an answer. Then, thank them and reiterate your commitment to the organization.

When the times comes for your boss to get back to you and if you don't hear anything, don't get mad, take the initiative to ask for another meeting. Be ready - you may have to negotiate again.
Possible outcomes:

  • You get what you want! (Yea!)
  • You get less than you want, but more than if you had never asked. (Not bad!)
  • You get a delayed yes - you agree to revisit it in 30, 60, 90 days. (Follow up)
  • You get a "no" - which means you are no worse off than you were before you asked. (Revisit at review time)
5. Continue to Be a Star
No matter what the answer, no matter how long the process takes, work hard and continue to give your best. Don't let your pay dictate your contribution. You can stay at your job, you can look for another, but you should never do less than your best.

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Doreen Rainey is a Life Coach and Speaker who helps her clients Get RADICAL!
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  1. Of course the key to getting a successful result from requesting a raise is having leverage. You get leverage by doing more than what you're paid for. Then, you can stroll into the office with confidence and ask for more.

  2. Good point Dion! I also think the point that Doreen made about asking for a raise simply because you do your job well is not a good enough reason. Doing your job well is what the company expects you to do and the reason that you still are on the payroll. Good post!

  3. Dion and Tawana, you both make great points! I can't tell you how many times I've heard "But I work really hard." Well, uh, yea...that's what we expect you to do.

  4. YAH!!!!!!! Thanks for putting salary negotiation in perspective!!! I absolutely love your step-by-step plan of action. I plan to use it and will let you know how it turns out.

  5. Teleshia,

    Glad that these tips were helpful - good luck! Remember, it's all in the execution!! Be persuasive!