There are few more difficult topics to approach your boss with than a request for a pay raise. While the intent is to get compensated for your value if done wrong it can lower your worth in the eyes of your employer and cause lasting stress and discomfort in the workplace.
Before considering the request for a raise it is important for you to honestly reflect if you deserve it. Key questions to consider are-
- Has your pay been stagnant for more than 18 months?
- Have other people gotten raises in that time period?
- Has your work actually warranted a raise?
- If it is the same quality and value for years and a declining economy is it reasonable to ask for a raise?
- Is your work worth more someplace else? If you are being paid market value for your position what are you basing your request on?
- Can you document your value to the company in hard numbers?
The most difficult of these is truly assessing your own value to the company. If the sole justification is because you have worked there for a long time at the same rate then the best you can realistically ask for is a very minor cost of living adjustment. Be honest with yourself about the quality of your work. If you have to admit you could perform at a higher level it may be best to do that for a couple months prior to asking for a raise with the promise to do more.
The saying “timing is everything” definitely applies. Consideration to climate that would most likely produce a “yes” is obviously important but not in a manner that looks like blackmail to your employer. Asking for a raise immediately after a couple people quit and your boss is in a bind may produce a yes- but it will come with a lot of hard feelings with it. In that situation an offer to assume more work even if it means extra hours makes you a potential solution instead of another problem.
Businesses like to see numbers and facts. If when you sit down to this discussion you have printed facts verifying your value and the quality of your work it will always help. Things like being a “good team player” and “always ready to help others” sound good on an evaluation or resume but do not give financial motivation to give a pay raise as well as “increased team output by $12,000 last month and $30,000 last quarter.”
Remember your audience when asking for a raise. Does your boss or manager have the authority to give you the raise you are requesting? If not then you should be asking for meeting with the person that has the authority and simply giving a few facts for your boss to use as reason to set up the meeting. Laying all of your cards on the table to the wrong person puts you at a disadvantage in negotiations.
All raises are a negotiation. To make it easier for them to justify the raise then let them “win” some. Ask high, not outlandish but high so they can tell their boss or themselves they saved money on the end agreed upon number that is lower than you asked. At some point you will have to give a number. Simply saying “more” will nearly always yield a unsatisfying result.
Things that should never come up in any pay negotiation are your financial difficulties. Aside from it being quickly swept aside with a “these are tough times economically for everybody” it is not a factor in the consideration. Your divorce, child’s braces, or rent costs are not your company’s problems. All that will do is get you on the radar as likely looking to leave so no need to extend more resources on you. You will get a pay raise by demonstrating greater value to the company, not greater need in your personal life.
A request for a pay raise should never be accompanied by a threat of leaving or lower work output. If you have properly presented your value to the company and your market value of greater than current salary it does not need to be stated. If asked directly if you will leave a simple straight forward answer of “My first preference and priority is to stay here” is just as effective as saying “yes, I f I do not get a raise” and shows a willingness to work on the problem as opposed to being disgruntled and likely to leave regardless of outcome.
Evaluations of your true market value are best conducted by outside sources. Talent management and human resources companies such a Corner Stone on Demand are professionals in determining both your market value and ways for you to improve it.