In today’s uncertain economy, raises are getting ever smaller and ever harder to come by. The annual across–the-board increase based on years with the company, is becoming a thing of the past. The trend is toward fewer raises based solely on performance. Why have employers become tight fisted? Because takeover threats and foreign competition have placed a premium on productivity. And that means holding down labor costs. To win a raise you must be a topnotch performer and you have to make your case known. Yet when it comes to asking for an increase, few of us know how to ask without sounding like a beggar. Here are five steps to help you make an effective case:
Change your attitude. The most common roadblock to higher earnings is what I call the “good student” attitude. Think back to the eighth grade, when your job was merely to pass. The requirements were clearly spelled out. At the end of year, every student who had done an adequate job was automatically promoted.
Work is different; you can’t expect the system to take care of you. You must take Care of it. Too many of us forget this.
When there’s a lull in the workload, for example, we sit around waiting for them to tell us what to do. If profits sink, we blame them for decisions that we knew to be bad, forgetting that we never tried to influence those decisions.
You need to make your relationship with your boss as important as doing your job well. Since you can not assume your boss with notice your good work, you must tell him what you’re doing. Ask his opinion. Demonstrate that you can care about your department’s performance. But don’t talk business exclusively. Ask your boss about his hobby, his latest trip, his thoughts on his morning’s news. Treat him like someone who interests you personally and in time he’ll do the same to you.
Give more of yourself. Just doing your job well will not get you a raise. That’s exactly what you were hired for in the first place. To fatten your paycheck, you need to do something extra.
Many of us already work beyond the boundaries of our jobs without realizing it. Try this: at the end every workday, ask yourself. What have I done that wasn’t called for in my job? “Write it on your calendar. When your next performance appraisal comes around, you’ll have a record of achievement that you could never reconstruct from memory.
Plan your presentation. How big a raise do you want? Discreetly ask colleagues in your company and others how your salary stacks up. If you belong to a professional organization, ask fellow members about salaries in your industry. Or ask at your at your library for reference works that report salaries in various fields. In determining your figure, allow for experience, company size and location, and your job responsibilities.
Outline your case on paper. List what you’ve accomplished that has particular value to your boss, your department and your company. Cite how you have made or saved money or time, which new clients or services you brought in, any new systems you have created or modified. If possible, calculate what these mean to the company in dollars.
Now decide what kind of presentation is best. Is your boss impressed with charts or graphs, or does she prefer informal talk? Will she need a written summary of your proposition? Whatever the answers, remember: plan on doing it her way, not years.
Arrange your points in dramatic order. Take a minute or two for friendly conversation, then bring up your raise: “I asked for this meeting to talk about my salary.”
Briefly review your current duties-you’d be surprised how fuzzy these are in some bosses’ minds. Then describe your accomplishment, saving the most impressive for last. Try not to name your target figure until the end-after she’s heard all the evidence.
It is tempting to cite personal reasons for a raise. You may need the money to qualify for a mortgage or to send junior to college. But don’t mention these unless asked. Emphasize what you’ve done for the company, not what it can do for you.
Practice your presentation out loud. Tape record yourself, or use friends as sounding boards. But don’t memorize your pitch. You’ll be more convincing if you let your exact words be determined by the moment.
Prepare to negotiate. You should neither plead nor demand, but hold a discussion aimed at making both sides feel they’ve won something. Ask for more than you can fairly expect, and let your boss trim it. That way, he’ll continue to feel in control.
Your boss may want something in return for a raise, so be prepared. Is there a project you’ve considered but haven’t yet announced? An extra duty that your boss needs someone to assume? “I’d like to take on these responsibilities, “you might say, “but I honestly can’t justify them at my current salary. “Along this line, you might ask for a promotion or a reclassification and let the raise come with it.
What is the best tone for your discussion? Calm and factual. Don’t make inflated claims for yourself. “I’m the best worker in the department” is only bragging. “I beat my quota by 23 percent” is starting a verifiable fact.
Anticipate objection. Let’s say you give your pitch and the boss rejects it. Don’t despair! It happens to the best. Stay calm and ask him to explain his reaction.
He may confront you with mistakes you’ve made. Don’t excuse them. Just explain what they’ve taught you and how they’ve helped your performance since.
After all, the only way to avoid mistakes is never to try.
If you turned down on your performance generally, ask for detail. Find out what you must do, and by what date, to earn a raise. Then restate your boss’s reply in a memo of understanding, and keep a copy. Reschedule an appointment as soon as you have met the requirements.
What if your boss says the company can’t afford the raise right now? Ask when it can. If you’re asking for a large raise, it may violate company guidelines. Keep in mind that in most companies these are not sacred. Good managers know that if they want to keep someone of exceptional worth, they occasionally must go to bat for him.
Should you threaten to quit if you don’t get what you want? Ordinarily, no. Your boss will already know he’s in danger of losing you. Better to leave what is obvious unsaid.
Now it’s time to make that phone call. Don’t be nervous. Remember, even if you don’t get the raise, you’ll learn a great deal from the asking. Give yourself an autosuggestion that “I didn’t fail, I know how to get it next time.