On the surface, asking for a raise during a global pandemic can feel a little tone-deaf. Not all companies are doing well, and some of your colleagues may have been laid off or furloughed. But COVID-19 may not have impacted the results you’re delivering for your employer. Asking for a raise now isn’t a matter of timing; it’s more about strategy, says Karen Coffey, a career adviser and coach who works with executives and employees.
“Don’t assume the company is struggling,” she says. “We’ve seen companies with record sales and revenue at this time. This is not a bad time for all companies, but some will use the crises to ward off employees from expecting or asking for a raise.”
But before you ask for a raise, Coffey suggests taking these steps:
Do a Self-Assessment
“You have to look at yourself first and ask, ‘Do I deserve a raise? Have I met every standard and expectation?'” she says. “This is not the time to arbitrarily go in and ask just because you’ve been with the company for a few years and think it’s the thing to do.”
Do Your Research
Pandemic or no pandemic, you never want to ask for a raise without doing your homework, says Coffey. Before you rush into the boss’s office with a dollar amount in mind, go in and ask some pertinent questions.
“Number one is what is the company looking for?” says Coffey. “Is the company doing okay? The key is knowing how the company is doing and what they need—and then give them what they need.”
For example, if the company needs more sales and you’re in the accounting department, you may think it’s not your job, but Coffey argues that it needs to be.
“Brainstorm ways the company can get more sales,” she says. “If the company needs client retention and you’re an admin, find a way to put systems in place to help the company retain more clients.”
Track Your Results
Once you start delivering things the company needs, track your activities and results over the next 30 to 60 days.
“Send a report once a week with a note that shares what you’ve come up with or done,” says Coffey. “It’s your way of saying, ‘I heard you and I’m letting you know that I’m looking for solutions and taking steps.’ This step is proving your worth.”
If you’re working remotely, sending the report is vital, as your boss won’t be able to observe everything you’re doing, adds Coffey. “It’s even more important now with remote arrangements,” she says. “Send bullet points, not paragraphs, especially if your boss is a busy C-level. If they have questions, they’ll get back to you. Speak in results language.”
Ask for a Meeting
After you’ve got a 30- to 60-day track record and you’ve gotten some traction with what the company needs, ask your boss if they have a minute to discuss something with you.
“Don’t tell them you’re asking for a raise,” says Coffey. “Once you can sit down with them, recap what you’ve done over the past 30 to 60 days. Then quantify what you’ve done, such as saving the company money, retaining a client, bringing in new business, or recruiting a key new employee. Then ‘calc up,’ attaching a dollar figure if possible. If your work has delivered big money, you’re asking a small fraction of what you brought to the company.”
Your boss may say “no,” or they may say that it’s a bad time, but Coffey says you’ll prove your worth. If you’re turned down, she suggests asking for the steps you need to take to get to the next level. “I don’t believe you should go in expecting a raise because of what you’ve done, but you’ve laid the groundwork,” says Coffey.
There’s never a bad time to ask for a raise if you are contributing. “All a CEO, president, owner, or manager wants to know is ‘How are you contributing to the bottom line and by how much,'” she says. “If you do your research and plan ahead, you shouldn’t hold off on asking for a raise if you feel you deserve one.”