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How to Ask for (and Get) a Raise

How to Ask for (and Get) a Raise

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    Asking for a raise can be a fearsome experience. If you’re like most people, you worry that asking for more will make you appear uncommitted. Or that you’ll be talked into settling for what you’ve already got. Or even that you’ll be seen as greedy if you ask to be rewarded well for work you do well.

    “The first thing that people associate negotiation with is buying a car,” says career coach Malcolm Munro,”and so they’re always afraid that they’re going to get screwed.” What’s more, he says, the people that usually are most deserving of a raise are the people that are least comfortable singing their own praise.

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    And singing your own praise is important. In the end, getting a big raise boils down to three simple steps:

    1. Be worth more,
    2. Demonstrate your worth, and
    3. Ask for the raise.

    The clearer you are about your value and accomplishments, the more likely your boss is to give you that raise.

    Be worth more.

    If you’re not already regularly doing more than you were hired to do, start. Take on new responsibilities whenever possible. Build skills outside of work, by taking courses or reading extensively or attending seminars. Make yourself too valuable to lose!

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    Your value to your company is based on how well you do these three things: solve problems, increase profits, or create and cultivate relationships. Make sure that everything you do at work does at least one of these things.

    Demonstrate your worth.

    A raise, especially a big one, is an important business decision; treat it like one. Start planning now for the raise you want six months from now. Munro recommends keeping an “achievement journal” listing all your accomplishments on the job. The biggest mistake an employee can make, he says, is asking for a raise without planning it out. You’re unlikely to be well-prepared on the spur of the moment, and most likely to come off as opportunistic, disloyal, or greedy.

    If you’ve been tracking every way you’ve saved or made your company money, every big client or partnership you’ve created, every inter-office dispute you’ve had a hand in settling — in short every way that you’ve made your company better off — you can make a clear business case why you should be paid more. Employers and managers won’t respond much to your sense of fairness, but show that you are clearly an important asset and you can count on a positive response.

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    Ask for the raise.

    The best time to ask for a raise is during your normal review, says Munro. If your company doesn’t do formal reviews, make an appointment with your direct supervisor to discuss your performance. Bring your records of everything you’ve done to add value, go over your accomplishments, and then bring up a salary increase. “Once they’re in the habit of saying ‘yes’,” advises Munro, “then you ask for the raise.”

    As you approach your review, it can really help to find a “champion”, someone who can sway proceedings in your favor. Bill Adler, author of How to Negotiate Like a Child, suggests you approach someone at or above your immediate boss’ level, mention that you’re planning to ask for a raise, and ask if they have any advice. Once you’ve sold yourself to them, let them sell you to your boss.

    Don’t make threats, even if you’re ready to leave for a better offer. Instead, advises Adler, just lay out your case. “Come in prepared to describe all the things you do”, says Adler, and let them imagine the consequences for themselves. Threatening to leave if you don’t get your raise will not only sour the negotiation, it may well spoil your whole relationship with your company. Extortion is not a winning strategy in the long run: if they give in now, your employers will think, what will happen in six months or a year?

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    In order to thrive, both you and your employer should gain something from your relationship. If you can make a strong business case for a higher salary, most employers will almost certainly work with you. If you follow these tips and think ahead, you’ll be able to approach your boss with confidence and without fear, knowing that you are worth more and that your company will see that.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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