How to Ask For and Get a Raise

The four most common reasons that people don’t get a raise are: You Don’t Know the Going Rate, You Don’t Know Your Value, You Can’t Justify Your Value, and You Never Ask.

The last one is the reason that I have seen the most often. So many great employees, busting their butt, day-in and day-out for years on end, silently wondering “when am I going to get a raise?” Or worse yet, thinking that they aren’t doing as good of a job as they are because if they were “surely I would have gotten a raise by now, right?”

Hello desk directors, cubicle chieftains, open space superintendents, corner office overseers, home den honchos and coffee shop comptrollers. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am… not the Workplace Hero. That’s actually you! You see, the goal of this podcast is to make you into a Workplace Hero. I am merely your virtual assistant on this journey. Think of me as your workplace Jeeves.

To earn a bigger paycheck, you’ll need to do more than just a top-rate job. An effective strategy for obtaining a raise also requires documenting your accomplishments, understanding your boss’s expectations and researching your employer’s financial health.

Over at Monster.com they list four of the most common reasons that people don’t get a raise. They are: You Don’t Know the Going Rate, You Don’t Know Your Value, You Can’t Justify Your Value, and You Never Ask.

The last one is the reason that I have seen the most often. So many great employees, busting their butt, day-in and day-out for years on end silently wondering “when am I going to get a raise?” Or worse yet, thinking that they aren’t doing as good of a job as they are because if they were “surely I would have gotten a raise by now, right?”

Before we go any further, I want to direct you to SkywalkerFitness.ca. That’s the coaching business that I run. Whether you want to run a 10k or a marathon, race in a triathlon, put on some muscle, clean up your diet, or get totally ripped, I will create a plan specifically for you. No cookie cutter one-size-fits-all programs, just 100% tailored programs that fit around your life’s commitments. And for being a Workplace Hero, I will give you a special deal on your first 3 months of coaching. Head over to SkywalkerFitness.ca and send me a note referencing this podcast so I can start building you the perfect program to meet your wellness goals.

Now back to getting that raise you so greatly deserve.

The thing is, if you don’t ask for a raise and instead you wait for your boss or the company to offer you a raise, without ever raising (no pun intended) the issue yourself, you may never get one. Face it, no one has time in their busy day to keep track of exactly how far above and beyond you are going. And If you don’t have a contract that addresses raises and you don’t ask for one when you feel you can justify it, it’s extremely unlikely that your employer will just make an offer.

Of course, business being business, you’re not always going to get the raise you want. When that happens, politely and respectfully ask your boss if you can sit down together and determine what specifically you need to do in order to earn the raise in the future. Try to work out deliverables that are as specific as possible and try to pin down a time frame as well.

Take notes, let your boss see that you’re taking notes, and if possible work up something in writing you can both agree to. Ask for her help in achieving those deliverables. Then report your progress regularly. Once you’ve met those specific goals, it will be very difficult for your boss not to grant your raise or at the very least fight for it.

Next, identify ways your past work has added value to your employer’s bottom line. Continuing keeping track of this information going forward. More and more, raises are becoming tied directly to performance.

Once you’ve established your accomplishments on paper – but before you talk to your boss – find out how your employer is performing. And I mean finically. Many organizations have published data that you can read to gauge their financial health. If your employer is in the red and mass layoffs abound, you should probably put off your request for more money until business begins to stabilize. But if you decide now is a safe time to pursue a raise, go ahead and make your case.

Clearly most companies are not looking for opportunities to hand out money. During the boom era of the late ’90s when talent was scarce and retention was top of mind, nearly the opposite was true. While the corporate landscape is different now, you shouldn’t sit idly by and feel dissatisfied in silence. If you have the evidence that your salary is at sub-market levels, you should speak up.

Your organization has invested time and money in you. Savvy bosses understand that unhappy and underpaid employees are under-performing employees, which helps no one. It’s also a drain on their time to have to re-hire and train a replacement that fits the corporate culture. So if you have a legitimate request, you do have a certain amount of leverage here.

I think it’s always a good idea to ask for a raise, even when employers are not handing them out, but only when that discussion is tied to performance. Employees should keep careful records of how their actions helped the bottom line of their company, or helped other team members improve the bottom line of the company. The fact is that no one is going to hold your hand and remind you of the great things you did all year. So keep track and share them with your manager at the appropriate time.

So on that note, here are even more helpful suggestions that I found over at Forbes.com

1. Know your value. Do the proper research to figure out what you’re worth, even if it means going on interviews or using resources like Getraised.com, Payscale.com, or Glassdoor.com. If you find out you’re underpaid, you can use that to negotiate an increase. Simply present what the field generally pays, and why you believe your performance is at the top of your field.

2. Know the number. Once you do the research, figure out what you think is a fair amount of money to ask for and have that number in your head when you ask for a raise.

3. Schedule a meeting. Find a time that works best for you and your boss and give your boss a head’s up that you want to chat about your career growth so that you both have ample time to prepare. No one wants to talk about this stuff on a whim.

4. Practice salary negotiations. This can be a difficult or awkward conversation so I recommend that you practice with a friend who can be a tough negotiator. Subconsciously when you have the real talk, your brain will fall back on the tactics you prepared.

5. Start on a positive note. Kicking off the conversation with something like, “I really enjoy working here and find my projects very challenging. In the last year, I’ve been feeling that the scope of my work has expanded quite a bit. I believe my roles and responsibilities, and my contributions have risen. I’d like to discuss with you the possibilities of reviewing my compensation.” Or, “I’d like to discuss my career and how I can do my best work.”

6. State your case, and then pause. Listen to what your manager has to say. Depending on the response, gauge how much detail you now need and how much back up support you require. You may be surprised with very little resistance but it’s still best to be prepared for a lot.

7. Be specific. Give your boss a range for the raise you want, and explain why. Be prepared to say, ‘After a lot of research, which I have here, and how I feel I have contributed to the company, I would ask for you to consider an increase of $5,000 to $7,000. It has been X amount of time since my salary was last reviewed. I greatly appreciate your consideration.’

8. Bring your personal kudos file. Bring a list of your key achievements, and focus specifically on the areas of accomplishment that are important to your manager. Bring up your strengths and talents, your accomplishments, your desire to do even more, and your ideas and plans for the future in your role at the organization. If you put enough consideration into this, they can’t help but consider your request.

9. Don’t be aggressive. Be diplomatic, well-prepared and assertive, but not aggressive. Remember that it is the squeaky (not screechy) wheel that gets the grease.

10. For Goodness Sake – Don’t threaten your employer. Whatever you do, don’t threaten to leave if you don’t get the raise. You also shouldn’t threaten your boss with other job offers, interviews, recruiter conversations, etc. If you do this, you run the risk of your boss mistrusting you, or in the worst case, if you’re already on somewhat shaky ground, your boss saying something like ‘well, maybe you should consider those other options.’

11. Ask for endorsements. One of the most powerful ways to demonstrate to your manager that you deserve a raise, or at least some form of recognition for your results, is to have other people endorse the work you have done and how it helped them. The more your manager hears about how your work has contributed to organization goals and results, the stronger you will be positioned to be seen as someone deserving of consideration.

12. Don’t share your sob story. Don’t bring up personal issues. Don’t tell your boss that you can’t afford your rent, or that you need a raise to cover other personal expenses. That just shows that you aren’t great at managing your money or planning ahead. Simply stick to your accomplishments and the value you add to the company and you’ll be more likely to succeed.

13. Be patient. Remember, your manager may need a few days to think it over and get back to you, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get an instant “yes,” There’s also a strong possibility that your boss isn’t the one to make the decision. She might have to go to the higher-ups with your request and that can take some time depending on the amount or red tape your organization has purchased.

Now, here is your homework.

Even if you aren’t looking for a raise at the moment (and who here isn’t… I mean, come on?) start creating a list of your accomplishments as they happen or are completed. For me, I kept a Google spreadsheet of every video project I completed as I completed them so at the drop of a hat, I could send a link to my superiors to digitally brag about how prolific I was. And I gotta say – it worked. I got a significant raise after 8 months of being with the company. The key was being able to share it easily and quickly when the moment presented itself, so using some sort of online service is key. Google docs, Evernote, Office 365 whichever you prefer, fire it up and start by adding in your most recent accomplishments and go forward from there. Much like the “to done list” that we talked about at workplacehero.me/todo this can also be a good place for you to go when you are feeling down and need a boost. Double bonus!

Getting a raise can be surprisingly simple and very often, employees who ask for a raise, get one. Yet many workers are loath to bring up the subject — for fear of rejection, being perceived as pushy or going about it the wrong way. Keep in mind that you may need to ask for a raise more than once. Never take a ‘no’ as the end of the conversation. If you get a ‘no,’ ask what you can do to improve your performance and thus your odds of a future increase. Then ask to check in again in, say, six months and revisit the conversation. If of course you’ve actually improved on those things.

Now, go make this week ‘raise worthy’. And remember – you deserve this.

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Workplace Hero is researched, written, narrated, and recorded by me Brock Armstrong in Vancouver Canada. Logo by Ken Cunningham. Music is courtesy my old band, The Irregular Heartbeats.

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