A tightfisted economy is a strange place to find yourself if you are one of the lucky ones still gainfully employed. A downsized workforce and increasing competition could very well mean that you are shouldering the responsibilities of two or more employees — and expected to do all of them on time and to perfection.
You’ve been working long hours. You’ve taken work home. You’ve missed your kids’ school recitals and baseball games as well as many a family dinner because of your job. You are wrung out, frustrated, and testy because you assume that your boss should have had the common decency to offer you a raise. She hasn’t, so you’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and approach her yourself to request a higher salary. Before taking this step, consider carefully and rationally the following issues.
1.) Do you truly merit the raise? If so, be prepared to support your request with documentation that illustrates what you have contributed. This does not mean a record of unpaid hours spent burning the midnight oil. This means hard, verifiable data; i.e., costs reduced, risk minimized, productivity increased, new accounts brought on board. You must give the employer a valid reason to elevate your salary. He or she may have to negotiate your raise with a higher level of management, so come well prepared.
2.) Are you being realistic? Disassociate yourself from the emotional-slash-egotistical aspects of desiring a raise and ask yourself what is the general state of your industry. What change or changes has your company undergone during this lengthening recession? If business has been status quo or if it’s declined, you are probably not going to see a raise at this time, and those are justifiable reasons for not seeing one.
3.) Are you asking for a specific amount or just going in blindly and hoping for the best? It’s to your benefit to do your research before hitting the boss up. Don’t even think of asking your colleagues to reveal what they are making; this road is paved with trouble. In addition to the likelihood of initiating hard feelings and discontent among the work force, you’ll tip your coworkers off and have them running to the boss as well (thereby shrinking the already small pool from which your raise must flow). None of this is conducive to accommodating your salary increase.
Be smart and visit PayScale.com. This site will provide you with salary structures in terms of job title, level of experience, and the geographic area in which you are located. You will know what you are actually worth once you’ve explored this information.
4.) What if you are denied a raise? Are you prepared for the consequences? Will you be angry, unproductive, or even vindictive with your employer if he is unable to increase your salary right now? Or are you willing to negotiate?
In lieu of a raise, you might ask for a bonus, which may be more feasible. As a one-time fee for the employer, a bonus usually represents a lower cost to the employer than a salary increase. Barring a bonus, you might ask to be given a specific title that denotes career progression and reflects your skills and accomplishments. Or, you might ask for a larger office. If any of this sounds like scenarios out of situation comedies, rest assured that many such negotiations take place and are successfully concluded within Corporate America.
If all else fails, you might try negotiating for a future date on which you can approach your boss for a raise; i.e., three months from the date of your first request. Ninety days will go by quickly and will give your manager a little breathing room to try to find and justify the funds within the departmental budget.
5.) Assuming that raises are based upon past performance, what are you planning to contribute in the near future? With the coffers so tight and the competition fierce, don’t expect to achieve a raise based solely upon your prior accomplishments. You work at your company; you know what its problems entail. What are your plans for mitigating these issues, through application of your knowledge and professional talents?
Once you’ve drawn up your plans, don’t wait for your employer to ask you to reveal them. After you’ve stated your case for the raise, continue on with your ideas for improving competitiveness, efficiency, and profitability. Show your boss a positive and proactive attitude; give him a reason to give you the raise!