Asking for a raise is a delicate matter and can be stressful for many employees. You don’t want your company to think you’re putting money above their interests, but if you are due a larger salary, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask.
The keys to successfully asking for a raise are proper planning, data, and delivery. But be careful – there are some pitfalls to be wary of. Here are 10 things that you should NOT do when asking for a raise.
While you may have a close and trusting relationship with your supervisor and are comfortable sharing that you are experiencing issues such as credit card debt, a divorce, or any other personal situation, none of that is the company’s responsibility. Requesting a raise on the basis of a personal issue as opposed to your professional contributions will almost always guarantee a denial.
Many years ago, it was commonplace for employees to expect and receive an annual increase in pay. But, following the Great Recession, wages stagnated (they are only now starting to rebound a bit) and many companies ceased the annual increase practice. Some organizations instead choose to give bonuses, which do not increase their payroll budget. Further, asking for a raise because you haven’t had one in a year demonstrates an entitlement mentality that will reflect very poorly on you.
Knowing when to ask for a raise is just as important as knowing how to ask for a raise. If the company isn’t performing well, layoffs were just conducted, sales performance has tanked, and/or it’s a stressful time for your supervisor, you may want to delay the discussion until a better time. Further, if you’ve missed your goals or made a big mistake, it’s also not a good time.
Consider making your request in positive alignment with your company’s revenue cycle, following an impressive accomplishment (such as closing a big sale, solving a major problem, or identifying significant cost savings for the company), when new funding is coming in, or prior to the start of a new fiscal year when budget planning is in the works – these are all better times to ask for a salary increase.
While it’s fine to schedule a meeting via email (in fact, this is ideal as it’s best not to blindside your supervisor), asking for a raise through email is not a good idea. Conversations about salary are sensitive and should be discussed in person. Doing so will enable you to gauge your supervisor’s reaction to your request.
Consider sending an email letting your supervisor know that you would like to set up a meeting to discuss your position and salary. You might even suggest a lunch meeting which can be a more relaxed venue for such a meeting.
There are several reasons that pay can vary by person; however, pay is generally not based upon tenure, but on the value you bring. Further, even if you know someone is making more money and you believe you deserve an equal salary, you should not use information about colleagues’ salaries as a reason that you should get an increase. It’s unprofessional, and your focus should remain on YOU – your experience, accomplishments, and merits – and not what others are paid.
If you go into the meeting unprepared and ask for a raise simply because you “feel” you deserve one, you will walk away very disappointed. You must be planful and thoughtful about why you deserve a raise. Consider these scenarios:
You have taken on significant additional responsibility: Articulate what you are doing and why. This is a good approach for strong employees. Supervisors generally know what lower-performing employees are doing because they must spend more time managing them. But, because rock stars tend to manage themselves, their supervisors may be in the dark. Make sure you toot your own horn and communicate how you are performing beyond expectations.
One caveat: if your responsibilities have only slightly increased, be careful using this approach. These days, many companies are doing more with less, and everyone must pick up the slack.
You feel that you are underpaid in your position: Make sure that you can provide data (see #7 below) in support of that.
Your achievements have had a substantial impact on the company’s success: Come to the meeting with a list of these wins. It’s always a good idea to keep a running file of your accomplishments for situations just like this! Ultimately, you need to communicate why you are more valuable now and due for an increase in your pay as a result.
Compensation is a data-driven process for most companies, so reconsider your strategy if you plan to go into the meeting with a number based upon your gut and nothing to back it up. You must know the worth of your job, especially if you are asserting that you are underpaid.
Fortunately, salary data is increasingly available these days and you should be able to find a good ballpark figure to target. But, be careful using some well-known salary sites such as Glassdoor, PayScale, Salary.com, and LinkedIn. Often, these sites are general and compensation can be a bit more nuanced, with pay varying by company type, size, location, and industry (for example, non-profit vs. for-profit organizations and 100-person enterprises vs. Fortune 500 companies). It’s important to compare apples to apples.
Other good sources of data include colleagues in your field, recruiters in your network, and even ads for jobs in your industry which may contain salary data. All of these will help you calibrate your sense of market value.
Be sure to bring more than one source of data. Anyone can find one data point to agree with their perspective. Also, ensure that you bring good “comps.” If you bring examples that are not comparable (same title but different requirements and scope, more experience, etc.), your case will not hold water. Remember, your HR department likely has lots of data and uses multiple surveys to ensure fair market pay.
If you are asking for a promotion due to greater responsibility, a 10%–15% increase may be reasonable; however, if you are not being promoted but picked up some additional responsibilities or have been an awesome performer, 2%–5% may be more practical (and often what companies budget for increases).
In addition, some companies have salary structures in place, and compensation is tied to where one’s salary falls in the grade’s range. In these cases, a star performer is likely to receive a larger increase if they are under the midpoint than if they are above it.
Asking for more money is first and foremost a negotiation at which you must be professional and objective. Don’t go into the meeting with the mindset that you “deserve” more money; instead, have the discussion in a non-emotional manner where you clearly state your position of why you should be considered for a raise and the value of your contribution.
Share with your supervisor how much you enjoy your job and the company and that you’re checking in to ensure that your pay is adequate to maintain your motivation. Be careful about framing the request in a way that sounds like a demand or ultimatum (unless you’re willing to leave). And, give your supervisor time to consider your request and talk with HR. Remember that your company wants to retain its top talent and most want to pay fairly and competitively.
Suppose a raise isn’t in the cards this time around. Remember, compensation consists of more than just your base salary. “No” is never the answer you want to hear, but it may be an opportunity to put forth another proposal. Perhaps you might ask if you can work from home one day a week. If you have assumed more responsibility, consider requesting a title change. Is there an industry conference you would like to attend? Do you need a couple more PTO days? These are all elements of compensation to consider.
Asking for a raise can be a nerve-wracking experience for many. But, if you are worth more than you are being paid, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Be confident, follow the advice above, and remember that you are responsible for your career trajectory. Compensation is an important aspect of that equation, so work up the courage to have these vital conversations.