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.
And singing your own praise is important. In the end, getting a big raise boils down to three simple steps:
- Be worth more,
- Demonstrate your worth, and
- 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!
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.
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?
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.