Last Updated: November 1, 2008
There are plenty of obstacles on the way to getting a raise from the boss — a lackluster economy, your possible discomfort talking about money, and of course, the fact that everyone else in the office probably wants one too.
But as any workplace guru will tell you, the day to ask for a raise isn't when you're fed up, or when the boss seems to be in an unusually good mood. It's when you have the right argument and the information to argue for the wages and benefits you believe you deserve. To get there, it might take several weeks or months, but it's a process that may yield benefits beyond the money. Here are 10 steps to follow:
- Figure out why you want the raise: Sounds like a dumb question, right? Who doesn't want more money? There's definitely more to the question, though, and it takes some personal investigation. A financial planner can work with you to set particular financial goals ranging from retirement to building a family and set a plan for how you'll use that money wisely when the boss says yes. It's one thing to want the money — it's another to know exactly where that money will work best for you.
- Do your research: Try and look at your job as an outsider and then do some research to determine your value — both inside and outside the company. Be realistic. Internet job Web sites may not be the definitive source of salary information, but it's a good start. If you don't think it would damage your case in any way, talk to someone in your company's human resources department and see if you can get pay scales for jobs that are similar to yours inside or outside the company. And within ethical boundaries, see if you can learn precisely what other team members in similar jobs to yours might be getting so you have a valid reference point for asking for the number you've targeted.
- Shoot for what you deserve, not what you want: Most of us would like raises and perks that would help us better afford the luxuries in our lives, but saying you want a raise just because you want a nicer car or house isn't going to get you anywhere. Employers need to see your request in terms of its value to them — the price of keeping someone.
- Document your contributions: If you have reached any particular work or sales targets that can be quantified, document them and use them as a basis for justifying your request. Show how you've been proactive taking on new projects and assignments, acquired new skills, furthered your education or training, and added new certifications or degrees. Demonstrate how you add value to your team and your employer as a whole.
- Plan and rehearse: You plan ahead for meetings where you're the featured speaker, right? Once you have the information, plan a pitch for the raise that states all your arguments clearly, swiftly and with an understanding of what appeals to your supervisor. Above all, schedule an appointment so you have a solid block of uninterrupted time in which to make your case.
- Demonstrate commitment to your department and organization: Show how you have taken on new projects and assignments, acquired new skills, furthered your education or training, and added new certifications or degrees. Demonstrate how you add value to the department and the organization.
- No ultimatums: Nothing shuts down a meeting about money faster than an ultimatum. It makes it easier for the boss to say no, and if you don't have a Plan B, then it's going to get awfully quiet. Always be prepared with a counteroffer if you can't get the dollar target — see if you can negotiate different hours, more vacation, education benefits or better projects. The idea is not to get mad – it's to get something from them of real value to you. What that final compromise is will tell you whether it's worth staying with this organization or whether it's time to plan for a departure.
- Be realistic about the economy: Most people can tell whether their organizations are legitimately struggling with the economy or other competitive factors. As long as your organization is treating people fairly across the board in light of poor economic factors, it's probably something you're going to have to accept. Also, remember that the way you handle this request might actually position you for a raise — or a better one — when conditions improve.
- Document the meeting: No matter how things turn out, write up your version of events as soon as possible after you meet and share that information with your supervisor. Even if the meeting was disappointing, keep emotion out of the document and stick to the facts. Keep the document handy so you can present it the next time you make a salary pitch.
- Revisit your career plan: Whether you get what you want or you don't, do a post-mortem on this experience and think about whether you want to stick with this job or consider new opportunities. Your financial planner may be a great sounding board in this process, so don't hesitate to use them. Find a financial planner.