Getting a raise is hard. That’s why a lot of people choose to move companies to get a better job or to make more money instead. But if you are rated as an above average performer and your company is doing well, getting a raise should not be too hard.

If you find yourself in this situation, however, you will still have to make a case for it and convince your boss you really are worth the extra money. On the other hand, if you are struggling on the job, or making mistakes, then think about what you need to do to improve so a raise will be possible in the future. Whatever you do, don’t make the silly mistakes below, which will make you look and sound childish and won’t help you achieve your goal of a raise. Here’s how to get it right in a salary negotiation.

Do Say:

1. “I’ve earned it.” Say this with confidence if it’s true, and then back it up with data. If your company has a good performance management process, you should have all the documentation you need to support your claim for more money. But typically those systems are poorly used or relied upon, even if an annual or semi-annual review has been done. Your job is to keep track of your agreed objectives, and what you have achieved.

To do this, keep a log. Each week, ideally on Friday, write down all that you accomplished that week, in short, point form notes. At the end of the quarter, go back to see what you were supposed to do, and what you still need to do before your next review. Prioritize and get anything you agreed to do done before the next review. If you weren’t awarded a four or five on your last review on a five-point scale, which mean Performing Above Expectations or Exceeding Expectations, a raise is not likely in the cards for you right now. If your last review was a three or less, which is Performing, Somewhat Performing or Needs Improvement, a raise is not going to make sense to your boss, because you clearly have improvements to make.

2. “I am ready for more challenging work.” Only say this if it’s true, of course! And only after you’ve proved you’re doing a great job in your current role. By saying you are ready to take on higher level work, or different work that will stretch you by learning new things, you show renewed commitment to the company and to your boss. That will show you are planning to stay and that a raise will keep you motivated to keep working hard, which is what your boss really wants to know. You might not get a raise right now, but it could lead to a promotion, which typically means more money.

3. “What do I need to do?” If you can’t get a raise right now and it’s not clear why, make sure you ask your boss what they need to see from you so that you will get one next time. Ask them to be very specific. Write down what they say and email it to them. Thank them for reviewing your request for a raise, and outline what they said you must do to be given a raise. Ask them to confirm it and let you know if you missed anything. If they don’t respond, keep asking until they do. That way you”ll know you have their commitment and can get on with the job.

Don’t Say:

1. “I deserve it.” This may be true, but even if it is, you have to prove it. If it isn’t, and you know it, file this one until you can rely on facts.

2. “I work hard.” Everyone works hard, but not everyone will get a raise. In fact, even if you do work really hard and you can show results, there might not be any funds in the budget for your boss to give you a raise. Typically, each manager will have a fixed amount yearly to increase wages for their whole team, and that’s it. So making a good impression all year long is critical to standing out when it’s time for salary raises.

3. “I’ve been here a long time.” This won’t show that you deserve more money, just that you’ve been around a while. In fact, most poor performers have the longest tenure, often because they don’t get fired or have their performance evaluated. While it might seem like longevity should lead to a raise, it won’t in the private sector. Demonstrating value to the company is the only way to get a raise in today’s world.

4. “So and So earns more than me.”
Comparing yourself to others is never a good tactic. Companies frown on people discussing salaries, and showing you know what others are paid can get your manager’s back up. The process of asking for a raise is hard enough, so keeping your boss on side is a better strategy.

If you really feel that you are underpaid for your job, do some research. Show that people in your role, in your industry, on average make more than you are now. It might take some work, as those figures are not always public, but there are lots of salary surveys out there that will let you search by job title, and location. Your boss might not accept this information, but it will show that you are serious and have done your best to make a business case for a raise. Even if you aren’t granted one, your boss will know that they’ll have to contend with this data next time and that you know your worth. If you are a great employee, they might even be worried about you leaving, which could lead to a raise unexpectedly.

5. “I guess I’ll look for another job then.” Saying this will always be a mistake. If you feel you have to move on, look for a job quietly. And when you find one, make sure you explain why you are leaving in a professional letter, which you should provide to your boss and Human Resources.

6. “It’s not fair.” You might be right to say this. You might deserve a raise and have shown it, but still not get one. Don’t debase yourself with this childish remark. You will appear unable to take bad news, which will only make your future salary negotiations with your boss even more difficult.

7. “I quit!” Not getting a raise, especially if you feel you deserve it or you need it, is hard. But quitting is not a good idea if you need your job, which most people do. If your conversation with your boss got you hot under the collar, go cool off and think for a day or two about what was said. Were you turned down due to budget? Was it because the company is in trouble? Was there a blanket freeze so no one got a raise? Not granting a raise is often due to any one of these valid reasons, or else that your boss feels some improvement is needed in your work before a raise is due. If that’s the case, read the points above and follow the tips to be the best you can be at your job.

Featured photo credit: bradleypjohnson via flickr.com

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