You never know until you ask. That's what they say, anyway. But asking for a raise can be a real challenge. It's nerve-wracking and has the potential to be humiliating. If you don't ask, however, you may be cheating yourself out of a bigger paycheck. Even a small raise is better than none. Here are five techniques for asking for a raise and getting one.
Do your homework
The difference between actually getting a raise and being denied one may come down to the preparation you put into your request. Deanne Arnath, president and CEO of CareerWizardsInc., suggests workers be sure to go to their managers prepared. That preparation includes knowing what other workers in similar positions are earning.
"When comparing wages, factor in the company size," said Arnath. "If you work for a small business with 10 employees, your boss won't be able to compensate you the same way a Fortune 500 company could. If you have facts and figures to back up your request, and are paid less than colleagues at other firms, this can help your boss see that it's time for a raise."
"This strategy works because it's not personal, it's based on the position," Arnath said. "You're asking for a raise to compensate you at the current market rate for people with your same title, not on your merit. This makes it difficult to deny your case."
Pick the right time
Timing can also be everything when looking at getting a raise. Workers asking for a raise need to understand that their chances of getting a raise are much improved if the request is made at an appropriate time for the company.
"While you won't know everything that's on your boss's mind, you can get a feel for the office temperature by paying attention to what's coming down the line," Arnath said. "If your boss is overwhelmed or distracted, they may not be fully listening to you. If the company's had a bad quarter, she won't want to spend."
Workers, therefore, must walk a tightrope of trying to do what is best for them at a time that is best for the company as well.
Speak with your boss in advance
Workers also shouldn’t spring out of nowhere to ask for a raise. Instead, they should make the decision to ask only after speaking with their boss first.
"People make a mistake when asking for a raise if they ask based on their own assessment of the value they think they see and offer the company,” said Meredith Haberfeld, executive coach and co-founder of the Institute for Coaching . "The two critical pivot points that will generally lead to a person getting a raise is if they are bringing value to the company and if are they are bringing return on investment to the company."
Workers should speak with their bosses in order to know where they stand within an organization and to see if there is an area where they can improve in order to help their chances of getting a raise. This will also help employees know if they are bringing both value and ROI to their company.
"You get clarity about what they are looking for in you when you ask," Haberfeld said. "The problem is that most people get defensive and throw a wall up when they hear professional development areas that their boss has highlighted for them. Most people don't take in that extremely useful information and there couldn't be something more counterproductive to your career path."
Put it on paper
Workers looking for a raise should also be prepared by having an easy to access list of their accomplishments that that they can bring to their boss. Mark Strong, life, career and executive coach at MarkStrongCoaching recommends workers requesting a raise make a simple one-page document that tangibly shows your boss exactly why you deserve a raise.
"Make a list of all the measurable ways you've gone above and beyond before you do anything," said Strong. "Plant the seed with your boss that you'd like to be considered for a raise and that you'll be coming with a document which justifies your request. Doing this greases the skids and prepares your boss for the conversation."
As for what should be included, Strong recommends workers focus on the things that they believe will help them get a raise.
"List the significant and positive results you've created, beyond what's normally expected," Strong said. "Make sure there's enough on that list to justify a raise. An important point is that doing your job well no longer means a raise. There are limited funds and only the best and brightest get the money."
Workers shouldn’t go into their boss asking for a raise without first practicing what they will say. To help, experts recommend workers conduct a practice run in order to prepare themselves for what they should expect in their request.
“Before you ask for that raise, practice your pitch,” Arnath said. ”This works because it helps you hone your speech and become comfortable with talking up your accomplishments and making your case. Consider asking a friend to role-play with you, taking the boss role. Advocating your case can make you more prepared — and confident — for the real day, boosting your chances to net that raise."
Understand the decision either way
Unfortunately, even after following all these tips, you may not get the raise you are looking for. While it may seem to be a devastating blow if that were to happen, experts recommend you do not get too high or low based on the decision of your boss.
"Be committed to getting the answer that you want, but free about whatever outcome may come," Haberfeld said. "You have to know that if you don't get the outcome you want, that doesn't mean you won't get the raise three months down the line or won't find another great role within your business. One pitfall people get themselves into is they work themselves into a frenzy before they go in. Workers then feel that if they don’t get their way they think they have to leave their job or they think they are not valued, and that is almost universally not true."
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