Salary negotiations are never the thing most people look forward to. Asking for a raise is clearly not something we love to do – according to one study, around 30% of people feel uncomfortable negotiating a salary and less than half of Americans ask for a raise.

But does this mean you shouldn’t? Have we stopped asking because getting a raise is so difficult in this economic climate? Well, not quite – the same study also found that those who put themselves out there and ask the question, three quarters saw their salaries increased.

So, can you ask for a raise right now? How to know when it’s the right time? In this guide, we’ll provide you with the tips on how to ask for a raise and improve your chances of getting it from proving value to negotiating with a Plan B.

NEVER MAKE IT ABOUT A NEEDS

The best way to find out whether you should ask for a raise yet is by listening to your answer to the simple question. When you are pondering about asking for a raise, are you reasoning it by saying:

I need the extra money.

I think it’s my right to have a raise right now.

If you are, then you won’t be getting it. An increase in your pay is not about what you need or what you think is the ‘right’ thing to do. You won’t receive a raise because you have a wedding coming or because you haven’t gotten one for a year. Sure, you might need the extra money to pay the bills but this isn’t your boss’ problem and your salary isn’t for charity. You don’t ever outright deserve a raise.

You can’t go into salary negotiations with the mindset you’ve earned it because the last time was 10 years ago. Complaining about your situation is not going to help you get anywhere. Furthermore, a raise is not based on an arbitrary number – just because you’ve done what you are supposed to do for a year, doesn’t mean you suddenly deserve more.

You shouldn’t really make your negotiations sound like you are the only one getting something. It’s not a win-lose situation – you should focus on finding a way to present your case in a way that makes your boss understand the company wins with you on board.

If you are just going to make it about your needs and what you deserve, you come off as self-absorbed and unprofessional. Instead, you want to make the negotiations about the mutual benefit – you are adding plenty of value to the company and by appreciating this added value, the company should provide you with a little extra.

ADD MORE VALUE AND DO SOMETHING EXTRA

So, in order to figure out whether you can ask for a raise yet, you should ask yourself, “Am I doing something extra for the employer?” If the answer is ‘no’, then you’ll have an impossible time negotiating a raise. If the answer is ‘yes’, you should continue with your plan to seek a raise.

Remember the simple rule: You will receive MORE money if you are doing MORE than what you’re expected of doing. It’s imperative to understand that you performing your job well isn’t a reason for a raise. You need to add more value than it is expected of you in order to get a raise. Think of it like this: you agreed to perform certain tasks for a certain amount of money when you signed the contract. In order to increase the pay, you can’t just be performing the tasks you are expected to do but provide something additional.

If you want a raise, you need to show the boss you are adding more value to the company than what is expected of you. So, if you are looking to increase your salary, you to better start working hard or find the examples of your exceptional input to the company.

How do you add value and do something extra? There are many ways you could be adding more value to the company. But you should always start by:

  • Do extra work without being asked. If you notice something needs to be done, take the initiative and do it. Don’t wait for people to ask you to do something but be proactive around the office.
  • Have a side project that doesn’t hinder your ability to work with other tasks and which could potentially provide the employer with benefits. This could be researching new software that would boost productivity or cut costs or a portfolio of new clients the company could take under its wings and so on.
  • Take more responsibility by helping colleagues. Ask around and offer your help without sounding offensive (i.e. making it like they need your help because they can’t handle it). If your colleagues are embarking on new projects, ask if you could be involved because you are interested in learning more or you think you could help with a specific issue.
  • Show you’re improving your skills and talents in a way that will boost the company in the future. Take outside work courses and seminars that will increase your talent and prove useful for the employer. Be able to demonstrate the benefits of these specific talents –for example, learn a language where the company is about to expand or learn more about artificial intelligence if you think the industry will soon require you to use it.

MAKE IT ABOUT YOU, NOT YOUR COLLEAGUES

You also need to stop looking around you and make your raise about what your colleagues are or are not doing. Your raise is always about you and not what your colleagues earn. So, don’t even think about negotiating by saying, “Sally makes 10x times more”. It looks unprofessional, petty and it could cause you more problems around the negotiating table.

Your boss is not allowed to discuss the performance of other employees with you. It’s not your job to compare – you might even be setting yourself up for a trap. You never know what the other person might be doing when you’re not looking. What if your boss just tells you that they actually work harder than you? You’d be in trouble.

Don’t start judging or valuing other people’s performance in front of your boss. Even if you do the work of three people in the office, you just shouldn’t talk about it. It isn’t about what the others are or are not doing but how much value you are adding to the company. Don’t make it about how others are not pulling their weight but simply show how hard you are working to help the organisation.

Furthermore, you have to remember politeness and good manners. What would you feel like if your colleagues went to your boss and said they deserve a raise because they work harder than you? It might land you in trouble – your boss might look at you with new eyes and you’d probably be angry with the person who threw you under the bus.

And that’s bad because we never know where to world takes us. One day you might find the person seeking a job from you and you won’t give it because you’re still mad – or vice versa. So, always be respectful towards other people and let them have their own battles. Besides, the boss will probably have a good idea of those who perform and those who don’t.

UNDERSTAND WHAT SIMILAR POSITIONS ARE MAKING

Now, the above point doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what other people are getting paid in similar positions. Indeed, it can help you figure out the kind of money you should be asking by looking around in your industry. It’s helpful for your quest for a salary raise to know what is happening in other organizations.

Understanding what similar positions are making will help you determine if you should ask for a raise and if so, for how much. You might want to get an extra million but that probably isn’t realistic. Furthermore, if you are already paid a lot more than the average person in your position, you might find it hard to justify an increase.

Finding what others are making can seem a bit difficult. Salaries are still a big taboo in society – you don’t go around asking peoples’ salaries. But the good news is there are sources online for looking at industry and position averages. You can visit sites like glassdoor.com or salary.com or for the average salaries for a variety of industries, companies and roles.

Your focus should be on looking what people with your education level, job title, industry and geographical location are making. While this doesn’t reveal the whole story or determine whether you get a salary raise or not, it can help you get an idea whether you should ask for it and for how much.

PROVE YOUR ADDED VALUE

You will need to prove your added value in a tangible way. You can’t just walk to your boss’ office and say you are valuable and deserve a raise. There must be evidence why you are valuable – real examples of the additional value you’ve added.

Before you go to a meeting, you need to gather evidence. It’s not a bad idea to have a portfolio of the things you’ve done and the impact they have had on the company as a whole or your team. Your boss might want to think about the decision so it’s a good idea to have this written down for the boss to look at during and after the meeting.

When you are trying to prove your added value, you must focus on quantitative examples. If you can show in numbers the extra value or positive impact you’ve had, you are building a much stronger case for your salary increase than if you just make claims. You could do this by:

  • Show you have been able to increase sales/client numbers/projects by a certain percentage/number.
  • Highlight how you’ve been able to reduce times/costs by a certain percentage/number.
  • Outline your plans for the role and how they will help improve the company’s bottom line/performance/profits. Include predictions and figures to your plan.

Now, this might mean you need to gather data from different sources. But you can often get certain performance numbers from your manager or even the accounting team. You should also consider keeping your own statistics – mark down things like sales, client numbers and productivity hours. You can then see how you’re improving the company bottom line much better and have tangible evidence to show your value.

Furthermore, when you are using figures, make sure you understand how they come about. For instance, don’t say “I increased sales by 23% last month” if the figure is actually for the whole team. You would be better of making a statement such as, “As you know, our team improved sales by 23% last month and I contributed by negotiating 5 of the new deals, each worth $30k”.

Finally, it is possible to get clients or colleagues on your side too. In certain situations, a positive email from a client, outlining the excellent work you’ve been doing can help show how valuable you are to the team. If you aren’t afraid of asking, you might even get your colleagues write a good word for you.

SET UP THE MEETING THE RIGHT WAY

It’s also important to sort out the where and when of asking for a raise. The situation can have a big impact on whether you end up getting more or not. The rules and tips to keep in mind are:

Always ask the question face-to-face. A salary increase is not a topic you want to discuss over the phone or in an email. It is such an important question that you want to set up a meeting with your boss. So, ask for a suitable time and place for the meeting. Don’t surprise your boss with the subject of the meeting either. You don’t need to state it’s about salary directly but you should say something like, “I would like to talk with you about my performance and contribution.”

Know who to talk to. Aside from meeting face-to-face, you should make sure you are talking to the right person. Check with the HR department or the company policy handbook about who decides these things. You want everyone who has a say to be in the room – there’s no point in just talking to your manager if they aren’t going to be able to influence the decision at all.

Pick the ‘right time’ carefully. You must also pay attention to when you ask the question. You don’t want to hinder your chances just because you didn’t do your research on the most suitable time of the year to ask. So, what you need to know about the timing? You need to:

  • Know the company’s review policy – do they have a performance review every six months or every year? Asking after this time might be a good idea because the boss would have a sense of the value you add to the company. Some companies might have policies in place to prevent individuals from asking for a salary increase outside of a specific review time. Therefore, you might be wasting everyone’s time by asking the question. Check out what the policies in place are so you are able to look professional and in tune with the company culture and policies.
  • Understand the company’s financial trajectory – getting a raise isn’t just about the deservedness. You might be working extremely hard but the company might not have the finances to give you a raise. Therefore, it is important to do some research on how to company is doing financially. If they are struggling, you might want to wait until the situation gets better. If the company has just lain off people or made a big loss, you will just look unprofessional if you walk into the meeting to talk about salary increases. Furthermore, you should also time your questions near the start of the fiscal year or when the company is about to receive funding, as this is when the company might have more money and be willing to increase the salary of a top talent.
  • Be aware of the overall work situation – you need to be smart and consider the current mood and situation at work. If it’s super hectic and a big project is ending, your boss probably doesn’t have time to think about salaries. You don’t want to add to your boss’ tasks and stresses but consider waiting after the situation calms down at work. In fact, you can use a busy period as leverage and show your importance by helping the team out by doing extra work. Then when the situation is over, you have a strong case to show the added value you provide.

PRESENT YOUR CASE CALMLY AND WAIT FOR THE RESPONSE

You will definitely want to practice asking for a raise before the meeting. It’s a good idea to write down what you are going to say and have the conversation with a friend or a family member. This will provide you with extra confidence since you know what you are going to say and how. It will also help you stay calm – you can have a bullet point list in front of you at the meeting to always know what to say.

Remember to believe in what you are saying. You wouldn’t buy a car from someone who tells you the car is alright, and they think it might suit you but they aren’t sure. You want the salesperson to tell you the car saves money and the environment and that it would perfectly suit your busy lifestyle. In short, know your worth and show confidence.

Now, you also want to dress up for the occasion. If your office attire is relaxed, you still want to put a bit more effort. It shows confidence and professionalism. There’s a saying that you should not dress for the job you have but for the job you want. It’s a rather fitting statement for this occasion too.

Remember to stay calm and leave your emotions at the door. This is about business and you can’t start shouting or crying when you’re doing business. Remember this is not about need but value. If you want, a quick meditation before the meeting might be a good idea.

When you enter the meeting, be polite and present your case. Go through your case point by point and in the end, allow the boss to respond. Don’t be afraid of silence – you should let them ponder the decisions and always let them ask questions. You need to listen to the answer and then respond appropriately – more on that below.

 

BE PREPARED FOR A ‘NO’

Finally, you shouldn’t ever ask for a raise if you aren’t prepared for the ‘no’. It’s important to prepare your mind for this for two reasons. First, you need to make a decision on what a rejection means to you – are you uncomfortable working in the organization if you receive a no and how far are you prepared to push your case? The other reason is to prepare for the aftermath – how will you move things forward from the rejection?

It’s important to remember your boss might have a variety of reasons for rejecting your request. As mentioned above, it could simply be the company can’t afford it no matter how much your boss would love to give it to you. Therefore, you shouldn’t automatically feel annoyed or betrayed by your employer if the decision doesn’t go your way. In fact, you shouldn’t add emotions to it but be prepared for the rejection and have a plan to go forward.

So, if you hear a ‘no’, you should do the following things:

Free yourself from the immediate emotional response. Don’t react angrily or be disappointed. Make sure to discuss the reasons behind the decision and be open to listening what your boss says. Ask questions and ensure you get a comprehensive reasoning for the rejection.

Discuss the possible path to a salary increase. If the response is based on the boss not thinking you have contributed enough to earn a raise, ask for the path to a raise. You want to understand what is expected off you and why the boss doesn’t think you have currently added enough extra value. If the rejection is about things like finances or other such organizational reasons, discuss the path forward. You want to know what you can expect from the future.

Consider other benefits that might help you feel like a valued employee. Don’t forget the compensation for added value doesn’t always have to be a salary increase. There might be other ways the employer could help you feel more valued and boost your sense of belonging. For instance, you could:

  • Ask for flexible work hours or the ability to work from home on certain days.
  • Seek out opportunities for the employer to help you attend industry events or conferences and courses that could add to your talents.
  • Ask for a simple bonus or other employee perks such as lunch tickets, movie tickets and so on.

Make your mind up about your options. You should make up your mind eventually about what the rejection means to you. If you truly feel the company doesn’t appreciate your talent and the compensation is too low, you might want to start looking for a new job. However, don’t ever set an ultimatum – you can’t say to your employer that it’s either a raise or you are out.

THE BOTTOM LINE OF ASKING FOR A RAISE

In the end, it all boils down to your contribution. Are you providing value to the company or are you just doing your bit? If you have proof and data to back up your claims of added value, then you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a raise.

You just need to have the data to back up your claims, and you must be mindful and realistic of how much and when you ask. You need to be realistic with what you deserve and you can’t expect the company to bend over backwards for you if they are doing badly financially.

However, remember a salary increase is not the only employee perk to enjoy. Even being able to discuss when a salary increase possible is a positive outcome. So, don’t be afraid to step up and pop the question.

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