This is half of a two-part series. Read the companion story, How To Ask For A Raise: Not Like This.
The problem with asking for a raise is that there are only a few ways it could go right, and so many ways it could go wrong.
The best outcome would be getting more money than you imagined, but you’d also be happy with getting exactly what you wanted, and if not that, to at least see a bump, even if it’s smaller than what you hoped for.
But in the pick-a-path book of life, it seems many more paths lead to being denied, with the worst paths leading to alienating your superiors, later being passed over for a promotion, and worst of all, having to take a counteroffer from a firm for which you don’t really want to work and burning a bridge in the process. (Read what happened when I received a raise request from someone who made nearly every mistake in the book.)
One of the biggest problems is that
That’s why it’s so important to carefully compose your request. Hitting the right notes will mean “you’re more likely to get what you want and if you don’t get what you want, you’re more likely to maintain conditions that will help you get want down the road,” says Rob Hellmann, senior career coach at the career counseling network, Five O’Clock Club.
So if you want that extra income, avoid the following blunders:
1. Don’t obliviously make your request during budget cuts.
“What it comes down to is putting yourself in the place of your boss,” says Hellmann. “Just go through that mental exercise before you ask. If your boss has lots of budget cuts that they’re facing, that’s going to be an issue.”
However, Hellmann says you could still broach the topic if you have evidence that you’re being underpaid both in the company and in the industry. “You can still bring it up, but bring it up in a way that doesn’t make your boss think you’re clueless. Say, ‘I’m aware of the budget cuts, but I’m also aware I’m being underpaid in terms of what’s going on in the company as well as externally. I’m not sure how you feel about the timing of this. If not, I’d like to revisit this in six months.’” He says he has seen instances in which companies cut other positions in order to make room in the budget for promotions and raises for truly valuable workers.
2. Don’t ask when you haven’t been performing at your best or exceeding expectations.
“What you’re trying to demonstrate to your boss is that your worth is $X in the marketplace -- higher than what they are paying you. You can’t make that case if you just screwed up on something,” says Hellmann. “Time it right so your performance is perceived as top-notch and worthy of the raise you’re looking for.”
3. Don’t ask when your boss has an overloaded plate.
If your manager is already stressed out, your request is more likely to be perceived as an added headache she has to deal with instead of a task she’d be happy to take on. Look for a time when her load is light and her mood good and then make sure to schedule an appointment so she doesn’t feel like you’re springing your request on her. While all these factors may seem small, they amount to a head start that costs you nothing.
4. Don’t complain or whine.
Don’t bring up how long it’s been since your last raise or how much work you have or whatever else you’re aggrieved about. “When you’re getting a raise, research is your best friend. You want it to be factual. It’s not about ‘Me, me, me.’ It’s, ‘Here’s the situation.’ It’s not personal,” says Hellmann.
Your argument should be about what you've accomplished and what salary would be appropriate based on your performance. Find out the salary ranges for your position posted on sites like Glassdoor.com, Salary.com and Payscale.com, and also ask others in your city in your industry at your level. If you’re not comfortable asking people directly what they make, ask others in the field for the salary range of someone with your experience in this position and who, for instance, exceeds expectations.
5. Don’t bring up your personal life.
If one of the motivations for your request is, say, that you’re about to have a child or that you want to save for a down payment on a house or that you don’t have enough money left over for travel, leave it out.
6. Don’t act entitled to the raise.
You won’t get a raise for simply punching in for a year, nor will you get one for doing all your job duties. That’s the bare minimum required of you and does not merit a raise. (Read more on the dangers of acting entitled.)
Log your accomplishments from the last few months or previous year, so you can make your argument based on how you’ve exceeded expectations or taken on a workload greater than typical for someone at your level — and quantify your rationale. Maybe you were projected to bring in a $1 million in sales by July but you hit the target in April and are on track to blow past your year-end goal in September.
7. Don’t become adversarial.
Don’t act resentful that you’re not earning what you think you deserve and then cross your arms and say, “What can you do about this?” Show your performance numbers, what the marketplace says you should earn and, “What can we do about this?” Also, definitely don’t threaten to leave if you don’t get more money. That will pretty much bring your chances of getting the raise down to zero.
Then, frame your request as a win-win. Maybe you suggest that having a higher title will give you more clout with clients, thereby helping the company. Or maybe you agree to take on additional duties in line with the company’s goals in order to further incentivize your boss to give you a boost.
8. Don’t throw out your target number.
Many negotiators counsel you not to be first to state a number, partially because if you do so, you’ve just stated the absolute max raise you could possibly receive and most likely fated yourself to receive something lower than that. So it is best to punt when asked how much you want by saying that you’d like to see what the company can do for you.
However, if your manager keeps asking you, then make sure to throw out a number higher than what you actually want, but not so much higher that you’ll appear out of touch. If your research shows that you’re being paid below average and you’ve been performing at a much higher level than just average, reaching for the upper end of the salary ranges is not unreasonable, even if it’s a big percentage leap. As long as you can back up your reasoning, go for it.
9. Don’t use a counteroffer when you’re not actually prepared to leave.
Counteroffers are the wild card of raise negotiations. Some superiors see counteroffers as the equivalent of someone holding a gun to their head. If your manager is one of those people, he could be offended, upset that you went behind his back, question your loyalty, decide he doesn’t want to work with you anymore or all the above. For that reason, never use a counteroffer unless you really wouldn’t mind leaving the company. On the other hand, if you have a good relationship with your boss, a counteroffer can be an extremely effective way of demonstrating your value in the marketplace. It’s a concrete way of saying, This is what I’m worth.
“You have to make sure you’re in a good situation at work where you can do that,” says Hellmann. “They might just say, ‘We can’t match it,’ and then you have to take that other job. They might call your bluff, but I know people who have done it. In fact, I’ve done it, and it’s worked. It’s been the reason I’ve gotten more money.”
10. Not handling rejection well.
If you don’t get what you asked for, don’t become resentful. It will ultimately hurt you. says Hellmann. “It’s always in your interest to keep strong relationships, even if you’re being treated unfairly. If you’re being treated unfairly, take the steps you need to, but don’t burn bridges.”
If you do get a no, you have a few options. Ask what it would take for you to get a promotion (and the raise that would go along with it) and come away with concrete, quantifiable goals you can measure, and then ask if you can revisit the issue in six months. At that time, show that you’ve hit or surpassed each goal, giving you a strong argument for the promotion and raise. Another strategy: Ask if you can be put on a six-month review schedule so you could potentially receive two smaller raises, especially if the budget is an issue.
The bottom line is, throughout your negotiation, you want to keep things positive. Your negotiation should be an un-hyped, more professional version of this: “I love this company! Look at the awesome work I’m doing! I can prove it with numbers! The marketplace thinks I’m worth more! It will be good for the company to give me more! Thank you for my raise! Now I’ll do even better work for you! We all win! Yay!”
Don't miss the companion story: How To Ask For A Raise: Not Like This.
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