Should you ask for a raise or promotion during the Coronavirus pandemic?

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If you were working your butt off, putting in long hours, getting great results, and storing up the confidence to ask for a raise right before the Coronavirus sent the world into chaos, you are not alone.

We’re in uncharted territory, which means that no one really knows the rules, so Ladders spoke to an expert to find out if it’s acceptable to ask for a raise or promotion during this global pandemic.

Can you ask for a raise or promotion during a pandemic?

Well, of course, you can, but should you? According to Addie Swartz, CEO of reacHIRE, no you should not.

“We’re in a world of uncertainty and in a world of uncertainty you have to be thoughtful about the steps that you take,” Swartz said.

It’s very unfortunate timing for those who have done a lot of great work and feel that they have earned a promotion or raise at this time. Chances are, this is probably the last thing on your manager’s mind given that job security is a more pressing issue due to the state of the financial markets and economy. 

According to Swartz, between the Coronavirus outbreak, remote work, and difficult economic times, this is not a time to be thinking about what you deserve, but instead to be considering how you can be of service to your company.

“There’s that famous quote by JFK…’ Let’s not ask what our country can do for us, but what can we do for our country?’ That’s the way we all need to be,” Swartz said. “We need to be grateful for the jobs we have, the work we have, our colleagues, and ask, ‘how can we make ourselves stronger, better and accomplish more together?'”

What should you do instead of asking for a raise or promotion?

According to Swartz, instead of raising the question about what you will receive, you should raise the question of an area or issue that needs extra attention and volunteer to be that person that tackles it.

If you’re right on the cusp of a raise or promotion, it’s no doubt that this is unfortunate timing, but you should use this as an opportunity to take on another project, preferably one that is highly visible, that will show you have what it takes to move to the next level.

“Do whatever you can to support the organization and your team in an effective and value-added way and it will be remembered and noted when we get through this,” Swartz said.

Proving you are a team-oriented person who takes charge during tough, unprecedented situations, will strengthen your case for receiving a raise or promotion when the time comes.

“Raise your hand if you see there’s something no one has taken charge of, even if it’s in an area you know nothing about or don’t know who is running it and there’s not a lot of resources,” Swartz said. “Dive in. Be helpful. Volunteer. Be supportive.”

If there are not obvious projects that need attention, Swartz recommends taking action and asking your managers how you can be of extra service during this time.

In addition to taking on new projects, Swartz emphasizes that employees should take extra time to interact with their coworkers and check in on their mental health.

“Show empathy and concern. Do it authentically,” Swartz said. “In this world of virtual work that we are living in, you have to be a better listener.”

When work returns to its normal state, you will have stories, results, and concrete examples of how you stepped up, which will strengthen your argument for a raise or promotion.

“Once we live through this, those that have been of service, that have been helpful, that have gone beyond their guard rails to raise their hand to do an extra project or that helps another colleague or employee out because they have children at home…those kinds of stories are going to go a long way for helping people with their career,” Swartz said.

Use this time to make yourself stand out

“You are building your career on your reputation, on your integrity, on what you stand for and the person that you are,” Swartz said. “If you can continue to authentically contribute, in good times people will say, ‘Oh yea, this person should have gotten a raise 6 months ago, let’s back date it and promote her.'”

Swartz has already seen examples of this type of behavior at her own organization.

“We had someone start in our company this week on Monday, and this morning she sent a message out that said ‘Hey, I know many of you are parents with young children at home managing how to work and be at home, I want to give you a bunch of tips that I put together because at one point in my life I was a nanny. I don’t have any children, but I have all these groups that I belong to and all these ideas and maybe this can be helpful,” Swartz said.

“That’s the kind of approach that, in this financial uncertainty, having that positive attitude will go a long way and people remember that,” Swartz said. “I’m never going to forget that on day four, not even being a parent herself, she took the time to write an email and let them know that there were ideas and resources that can be of help to them. That’s what this is all about. It’s all about supporting each other. We’re all on this journey together.”

As an employee, consider your unique expertise or skills and share them with your team. Even if it is as simple as sharing an article that you found useful, your coworkers will appreciate the thoughtfulness.

Other ideas include suggesting ideas to make work feel as close to normal as possible.

“Somebody in our company came up with the idea to create an extra email account and set up a virtual watercooler,” Swartz said. “It’s listed on the calendar across the board at the top, and anybody can go on that at any time and see if they find somebody on it to create community.”

When will it be acceptable to ask for a raise or promotion?

“We have to get over the virus itself and the sickness and the self-quarantine world we are living in,” Swartz said. “I wish I could tell you, but I’m not an expert and I have no idea.”

When the pandemic is over, when we are able to return to work, and get back to business as usual, then it is will be acceptable to bring up the possibility of a raise or promotion.

Who can young professionals turn to for answers to these questions?

Swartz points out that the question of whether or not it is acceptable to ask for a raise is the exact type of question a young professional can ask on Aurora, reacHIRE’s new online platform that helps women early in their career navigate these issues.

“It helps know when to ask for things, know when to hold and when to fold,” Swartz said. “There may be an issue you think, it’s burning and I need to deal with it now.”

The platform matches up young professional women in teams of 10 with an expert professional guide who is a female executive that’s been through the issue in their career and can provide that guidance.