Illustration: Ashley Siebels
For so many of us, there are few things more awkward and nerve-racking than asking for a boost in compensation at work. But, it’s also a necessary part of ensuring that your work is valued and you feel comfortable at the place where you spend so much of your time.
Why is it so difficult? Because most of us are afraid of the “No” answer. Or, we feel like asking for a raise means we’re being greedy or unreasonable.
And, asking our boss for a raise also means we’re selling ourselves, and many of us feel uncomfortable during that process. If we lack confidence, we’re probably poor salespeople.
Here’s the good news. There are ways to negotiate a boost in compensation where you feel confident and in control, and without coming across entitled, greedy or unreasonable. And believe it or not, virtually any of us can do it.
I worked for many years as both a staff engineer and the Director of Information Technology, so I’ve seen both the good as well as the bad when it comes to asking for a raise.
Here is how to successfully ask for your next boost.
How To Negotiate A Boost In Compensation
When you walk into your boss’s office, you need to feel confident and comfortable in what you’re about to say. The more that you prepare beforehand, the more confident that you will feel.
Use these three negotiating techniques to boost your compensation.
Technique #1: Know Your Numbers
Be prepared. In fact, don’t even ask your boss for a meeting before making sure that you are, indeed, underpaid. Believe it or not, I’ve had to pull myself back from asking for a raise because after clicking around online, comparing average salaries and reading through similar job opportunities in my area, I discovered that I was already at the top of the pay scale.
Oops! It was humbling to say the least.
This isn’t always an easy process. Average salaries in your field may not tell the whole story. But, here is a pro tip: find similar job opportunities in your geographic area and pay close attention to the salary range being offered. If your salary is on the lower end, this provides you with the data you need when you talk to your boss.
Remember that companies very often base their salaries on the market and what other businesses are offering their staff, so doing a little due diligence yourself is a great way to determine how underpaid you truly are.
Bring those numbers with you to your meeting as evidence. Remember that you’re not threatening to quit by showing your boss other jobs. Rather, you’re demonstrating that you’ve done research and are serious and reasonable in your request.
Technique #2: Focus On Your Accomplishments
Why do you deserve a raise? Never talk about financial struggles or the mortgage payment to justify an increase in your compensation. Keep the discussion strictly focused on your value and accomplishments in your role, as this is a much more effective negotiating technique.
Your boss wants to hear how you are providing additional value to the business, and emphasizing the value you provide is your best chance at justifying a boost in pay.
Your accomplishments might include:
- Consistently finishing impossible projects on-time,
- Closing lucrative deals or sales
- Taking on more responsibility
- Saving the company money through clever efficiencies
Ideally, you’ll have several of these accomplishments under your belt, not just one.
Remember that just working overtime a few times a month might not be enough to justify a raise. The more accomplishments that are under your belt – especially those that boosted revenue, decreased costs or improved the organization in some way, the more solid your argument will be.
Be prepared to talk about each accomplishment and how it impacted the organization. Be as specific as possible. You’ve added value beyond what you were hired for, and you are asking your company to honor those accomplishments by increasing your compensation.
You don’t need a raise. You deserve a raise.
Technique #3: What If The Answer Isn’t “Yes”?
If you don’t get an immediate “Yes”, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the answer is no. Many times, your boss won’t have the authority to give you a raise on the spot. Instead, they will need to argue your case to their boss – and, this is where focusing on your accomplishments is especially crucial. Your boss’s boss needs to be sold on the idea, too.
Or, maybe your boss needs to consider your argument first before even approaching their superiors or authorizing the raise. Remember that at their level, they deal with problems that you’re probably not privy to. Resist the temptation to push for the “Yes” immediately.
But, be sure to know the next steps if the answer isn’t a “Yes”. If they need time to think about it, mention that you’ll follow up in a week. Or if something needs to happen before a boost in compensation can be authorized, make sure you know what that is. Do not leave the meeting open-ended. At the very least, ask when you can follow up with your boss.
If the answer is a flat “No”, don’t despair. Instead, ask a simple follow-up:
“Is there anything that I can do to earn a raise in the next couple of months?”
If you are already at the top of the range for your position, then you may need to switch your focus to a promotion into a higher salary level instead. Or, your boss might give you more direct feedback about being a team player, better attention to detail or simply working longer hours.
Five More Tips To Score Your Next Raise
Use those three techniques to improve your chances of boosting your compensation. You will feel much more confident and in control when using salary numbers and concrete accomplishments to argue for your raise.
But, there are a few other tips to keep in mind too.
Tip #1: Practice. Practice your pitch enough so you don’t need to look at notecards or stumble as you talk about your accomplishments. Use a spouse or a friend as a sounding board as they might help improve your delivery or ask questions that you may not have thought of.
Tip #2: Focus on the future. Talking about your future with the organization shows your boss that you intend on sticking around and continuing to do good work. Most managers LOVE it when staff members proactively think about their future with the business.
Tip #3: Act “clever” before your meeting. If you know that you’re going to talk to your boss next Friday, don’t leave early that week. Make sure that your boss is extremely happy with you and your work right before you talk with him or her. Be as happy and productive as possible.
Tip #4: Time it well. Remember that your manager isn’t a robot. Don’t ask your boss for a raise when work is hectic or things are stressful because they might be less inclined to hear your argument. Or if your company just started a round of layoffs, it’s probably not the best time to ask for more money. Be smart about your timing to ensure your boss is in a good mood and your company is prepared to entertain your request.
Tip #5: Talk to coworkers or former employees. You’ll get valuable insight just by speaking with your present and past coworkers, but you may need to be clever in how you ask your questions. Instead of asking how much they are paid (which isn’t appropriate), ask them what their expectations are for similar jobs in your field. You might be surprised at how much information they will volunteer!
Asking for a boost in compensation isn’t always easy, but with these three negotiation techniques, you’ll be prepared to argue your best case.
Do your due diligence before asking for a meeting to make sure you’re actually underpaid. In the meeting, focus on why you deserve a raise rather than why you may need one. And, be prepared and know your response if the answer isn’t an immediate “Yes”.