How to Ask and Get a Pay Raise at Work

How to Ask and Get a Pay Raise at Work

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You want to make more money.  And the easiest way to earn extra money without exchanging more of your time for a paycheck is getting a raise at work. In You Only Live Once, I wrote that we all want to make more money and the best way to start is to get paid more for the work we currently do.

I can bet (and I’m not a betting man) that you’re probably overdue for a raise, but if you don’t know how to properly ask for one, then chances are you’ll never get the much-deserved pay raise.

You have a few choices to make: do nothing, find a new job, or ask for a raise. I suggest asking.

Recently, a friend shared his failed attempt asking for a pay raise. He learned of a new coworker’s salary and went straight to his manager’s office to demand a raise.

My friend believed he deserved a raise. And I’m sure he did. However, my friend had a hard time articulating the reasons or sharing details to back up his demand.

What do you think happened?

Nothing!

Asking for a raise requires some finesse and preparation.

I’ve been on both sides of the management table. I’ve been the employee asking for a raise and the manager receiving the request. Having these dual roles, I’ve learned the best way to ask for a raise. It includes research, preparation, and timing. These three things make a difference.

With a well thought out request, you can properly ask your boss for a pay raise and get it.

Fix your mindset to get a pay raise

Take the emotion out of the request. Your boss needs to make a business decision. Sure, your boss may show favoritism towards you or another employee, but in the end, he needs to make the numbers work. Additionally, working for a larger employer requires more corporate layers to approve a pay raise. Your boss will need to know all the facts and details to approve a raise that may need upper management or human resource approval too.

Sometimes we assume a raise is due by virtue of the time we’ve been at the job or how well we think we’ve done in our position. That may be true. However, to successfully ask for a pay raise, I suggest the following 8 tactics to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

1. Ask yourself, “Do I really deserve a pay raise?”

I’m sure your answer is a resounding, “yes.” Now the goal is to get your boss to say yes too. You’ll need a very convincing argument to share with your boss.

Asking yourself this very question leads to another important question, “Why do you deserve a raise?” If you can answer the question with facts, examples, and details, you’re improving your chances. Your goal is to prove to your manager that you’ve been due a pay raise. This can also help your manager defend your pay raise with upper management.

2. Read your current job description

When was the last time you read your job description? Most employees haven’t looked at their job descriptions since they were hired. It’s most likely the job has not changed (or it may have) and you were grandfathered into the old description. Some new employees earn more with the same job title because the position encompasses more responsibilities or requires new skills.

Know the scope of your current job. What are the skills and certifications needed if you were looking to apply for the position as an outsider? Know your strengths. Reviewing your job description gives you leverage to explain how you satisfy work expectations and how you go above-and-beyond. You might learn you’ve outgrown your current job and may qualify for a higher level or another position.

3.  Get reliable market data

Don’t make the mistake of printing salary market data and telling your boss you’re not paid enough. You do need this information to determine the going rate for similar jobs. This is helpful to determine the potential for a raise. Go to salary.com for wage comparisons, but make sure you adjust data to reflect the industry, the size of your company, employees, annual revenues, and location.

Use this as a benchmark to request your pay raise amount. Do keep into account your company’s unique cultural and financial position. A mistake I see often is an employee sharing pay data from incompatible industries or salaries from companies 4x the size of their current employer.

4. List all your major accomplishments

When I managed a team of people, I’ve asked employees who requested a raise to provide me a list of reasons. I only ever had one employee list all their accomplishments.

If you cannot list your successes and contributions to the business, then you’re request is going to be much more difficult to defend. You above anyone else should know what you’ve accomplished at work. Often, I’ve heard employees state their bosses should know what they’ve done. I’ve even heard an employee tell me, ” It’s their manager’s job and not theirs to track performance.” That is not the case. Your manager has a list of duties themselves and also reports to someone else.

Make it easier on yourself and create a running list on a document or spreadsheet. A list will help you quantify the reasons you deserve a pay raise.

Write down your work highlights, projects, awards, and training you’ve received. Got a glowing email from your boss, coworker, or external person (other departments, vendors, clients)? Write them down. Were you given new tasks or got an expanded role? Jot down the information on the document. Did any of your work lead to increase revenues, save the department money, or innovate a process? Make sure these are on your list. And while you’re at it, add this information on your resume too!

5. Choose the right time

Find the right time to ask for a raise. The chances are your manager’s thoughts are preoccupied with time-sensitive deliverables. Don’t ask your manager to make time or make a financial decision when department and company deadlines are approaching. Be mindful of monthly, quarterly, and annual deadlines. Also, avoid asking a few days before your boss goes on vacation or during the holidays.

You want your manager’s attention when there are no major agendas that are competing for her time. When you’re prepared with salary data, an updated resume, and a list of accomplishments, it’ll show you’ve devoted time to this request.

Ask for a pay raise when you’re at your best. Don’t ask for a raise when your work performance has been less than stellar. It’s harder to negotiate a raise when you’re having difficulty coming into work on time, completing projects, or meeting deadlines. Create a plan to fix your performance before having the pay raise discussion with your boss.

6. Know the financials of your company

Do you know how your company is performing? If your company is going through layoffs or reporting losses, then it’s not the time to ask for a raise. Before asking, understand your department’s budget and your company’s financial standing. Is it profitable or in the red? Is your department achieving its goals? A profitable company or a high performing department can have additional resources to increase pay for top performers.

It’s a great process to have meetings with your manager about the performance of the department and the company as a whole. Knowing how your work contributes to department goals and overall company profitability will improve your chances. Plus, having this open dialogue about department budgets and company financials has opened the door for you to be more open about your salary goals.

7. Leave out coworker’s salary or performance

When negotiating with your boss, don’t talk about another coworker’s salary or work performance. Your raise has nothing to do with your coworkers. Instead, focus on how to excel in your position and how to improve your skills. Leave your manager to deal with your coworker’s performance.

Chances are your coworkers don’t know the additional work you do. And that can also mean you don’t know the additional responsibilities they have either.

Focus on you when discussing pay raises and salary. Keep the conversation on your work performance and no one else’s.

8. Don’t talk about your financial troubles

The reason you may want a pay raise is to help with financial issues. Don’t share your financial issues with your manager. Telling your boss you need to earn more because bill collectors are calling detracts away from your accomplishments at work. Your pay raise has nothing to do with your ability to manage money. It has all to do with your performance at work.

I’ve found managers empathize with their employees when financial issues arise but that is never enough to approve a raise. You can share your financial goals in separate meetings, but to increase the chance of a raise, focus the discussion on your work performance and contributions.

Remember, you’ll get the raise because of your performance, not because your bills are due.

One last thing, I know you deserve the raise, but don’t angry with your boss if the outcome isn’t favorable. Whether you get the raise or not (this time around), keep updating your list, take advantage of workshops, join projects, and volunteer some time.

There is always another opportunity to have a sit down to discuss the earlier objections your boss had. In any case, if your employer cannot pay you what you believe you deserve, you now have an updated resume and a list of accomplishments to take with you on your next interview.

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