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Ask The Experts: How Do I Ask For A Raise?

Who doesn’t want a raise? Asking your boss for one, however, is rarely an easy conversation. Leadership coach Lolly Daskal is here to help.

Ask The Experts: How Do I Ask For A Raise?
[Photo: Designed by designed by M. La Fosse via Flickr user Keri Omuro]

After you’ve been with the company for a year. No, after you successfully complete a big project: There is a lot of conflicting advice about when you should ask for a raise.

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It’s likely one of the most difficult and important conversations you’ll have with your boss, so it helps to get it right. That’s why we’ve turned to Leadership coach Lolly Daskal for advice.

Hello Fast Co. Experts,

The idea of asking for a raise is kind of intimidating

In all my past jobs, there were benchmarks in place to determine when and if you would receive a raise. But my current employer has a bit of a laissez-faire attitude about when managers provide raises.

Is there a minimum amount of time you need to be with a company before you ask for a raise? Are there certain achievements I need to accomplish before I bring it up? Or should I just wait and see if my manager brings it up himself?

I think I’m a good fit for my role, though I wouldn’t say I’m perfect at everything I do. Do I need to go above and beyond to prove I’m worth the investment? And if so, do I need to call attention to my extra endeavors and successes? How do I quantify my worth to my boss and the company?

Best,

A.C.


Dear A.C.

As a coach I have had this conversation so many times–and I know there are many others in your same situation. So I am happy to address your question and help you devise a plan to move forward.

You will need to have a clear understanding about the best time to discuss an increase, the nature of the increase, and the strategy that will best position you to prove you have earned it.

Let’s look at your questions:

Is there a minimum amount of time you need to be with a company before you ask for a raise?

It may be too early to ask, but it’s never too early to think about how you can better your circumstances when the time is right. This doesn’t mean that you should begin scheming for a raise the second day on the job, but it does mean that you should begin to understand and prepare for the day when you will want to approach your boss to discuss better compensation.

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Know the company policy and whether there are specific times to discuss an increase at times. If not, it’s up to you to determine what kind of case you can make–especially if you believe you have performed above expectations or have recently been given new responsibilities, you may want to broach the subject with your boss.

Are there certain achievements I need to accomplish before I bring it up?

When one or more of the following has happened:

  • Your job description has changed and your responsibilities have grown.
  • You’re frequently praised for a job well done.
  • You’ve nailed down a big accomplishment or innovation.
  • You can demonstrate that you’ve made a specific positive contribution above just doing your job.
  • You can point to a track record of consistent performance.

Do I need to call attention to my extra endeavors and successes?

Doing so definitely helps your odds of success, and lets you be seen as a thinking professional who knows how to make a case.

To prepare, keep a private log of your achievements. Quantify your work by recording what you do and your most important accomplishments. Every week, spend five minutes jotting down the most important tasks and results you achieved during the week.

Remember, your manager may be unaware of your performance and results until you let them know.

Do I need to go above and beyond to prove I’m worth the investment?

That depends largely on the culture of your company and the context of expectations under which you work. But in any case, a strategic approach is helpful.

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Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be active and accountable. Send your manager regular updates of your activities and underline major ones.
  • Make yourself visible and responsible. Being seen is just as important as doing great work.
  • Communicate openly. Don’t be shy to let your manager know about your achievements. If you receive a letter or e-mail of praise from a client or someone outside the organization, forward it to your boss.
  • Stay a step ahead. Identify what your boss needs the most, and then let them know you’ve already done it.
  • Priorities Matter. Select the achievements and missions that are most essential to your boss and carry them out in priority.

Should I just wait and see if my manager brings it up himself?

Unless your company policy dictates otherwise, the initiative almost certainly needs to come from you.

The process of asking for a raise:

As the time begins to draw closer, first lay the groundwork:

Step One: Research Your Company’s Pay Practices.
Talk with your HR manager to learn more about compensation policies, increase practices, and salary ranges. Also research average pay in the region for people in your field, using salary calculator tools like Salary.com, or Getraised.com and looking at salary surveys. If you belong to a professional association, see if it has salary information available.

Step Two: Build Your Confidence With Facts.
If you don’t believe that you’re worth more money, you’ll have a hard time convincing your boss. So arm yourself with facts about your responsibilities and accomplishments, as well as appropriate pay comparisons

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Step Three: Prepare For An Interview.
You’re going to be selling yourself, just as you would do if you were trying to get hired. So act like a job-hunter. Make a list of all the things you’ve accomplished for the employer, starting with the most recent accomplishments. Also be prepared to discuss the development of your skills.

Step Four: Have a Number In Mind.
Your suggested increase must be fair and reasonable to your employer and must be able to be justified by your contribution. Asking for an inappropriate amount will not only will cost you the raise, but also show your employer that you your judgment is poor.

Step Five: Schedule A Meeting
When the time is right and you’ve done your homework, schedule the meeting. Pick a time that works best for your boss, even if that’s after regular business hours. Ask for enough time to make your case well; if you feel rushed, you might forget an important point.

Step Six: Focus On Your Contributions
In the meeting, focus on your contributions and your market value. Clearly articulate how you’ve contributed to the organization’s success. Map your skills against what the organization values. Let your manager know that you, like all business-savvy professionals, keep abreast of the market value of your position and you believe you are deserving of a raise.

Establish your contribution by outlining the ways you have excelled at your job and show exactly how you have increased profitability or effectiveness, or decreased loss and errors. Never ask for increased compensation without showing at least six concrete ways you deserve it.

Have A Plan B
Be Prepared if the meeting does not have the outcome you desire. If you are not given a raise (or too small a raise), thank your employer for meeting with you and remain polite. Try to establish what you need to do in the future to ensure you do get the raise you want.

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Outline with your boss the criteria you will be judged on, so you have exact and specific goals and priorities you can work toward. Write down the expectations your boss has of you so that there can be no misunderstanding the next time you meet. Leave the meeting knowing what you can do to become a better employee.

Alternatively Go For Bonus
If salary budgets are an issue, try for a bonus. A one-time payment won’t affect the pay structure, so it might be easier to get.

The Quick List
Don’t:

  • Ask for way too much money
  • Talk about how much money you need
  • Threaten to leave
  • Mention that your coworker makes more money
  • Ask for a raise during a meeting about something else

Do:

  • Make an honest assessment of your performance
  • Gather market data for comparable positions
  • Make sure you time the request right.
  • Focus on selling, not begging
  • Be prepared, considerate, realistic, and confident

Whatever the outcome, end the conversation on a positive note. Always be professional and gracious.

If all goes well you will be working with this person for a very long time, so use this opportunity to strengthen your relationship and to learn to be okay with situations that make you uncomfortable.

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Wishing you the best of luck and much success,

Lolly


If you have a dilemma you’d like our experts to answer, send your questions to AskFC@fastcompany.com or tweet a question using #AskFC.

About the author

Lolly Daskal is a Leadership Development and CEO coach and consultant and founder of Lead From Within. Follow @LollyDaskal.

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