While skill and experience are commendable traits, persistence is often what sets apart those who succeed and those who fall behind. Or in other terms: Those who earn a promotion and those who remain in the same tax bracket. When you’re denied a raise, it can be difficult to approach the topic again with your manager — but being diligent about your performance and your upward mobility is part of your job responsibility.
As career expert Jennifer Schwab says, no one is going to give you a raise just because you call yourself a hard worker. Instead, you have to always be your greatest advocate.
If you’re unsure of how to approach this anxiety-inducing conversation, remember there are always dollars left on the table. And if you don’t ask for ’em — someone else will. To earn them, you have to be willing to set up your defense case and stand by it with confidence. Here, experts shed their best advice on revisiting the topic of a raise:
Always ask ‘why?’
If you recently thought you were a shoo-in for some extra zeros on your paystub, but your manager didn’t deliver, workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D., suggests never leaving their office without getting a reason. This isn’t the time for arguing, she says, but for understanding: “Don’t try to negotiate if the answer is ‘no.’ Rather, ask why it is a ‘no’ so that you may make necessary adjustments to your work style or product and have a higher likelihood of receiving a ‘yes’ the next time,” she shares.
If the moment has already passed, consider booking a one-on-one with your boss to open the discussion again. This not only shows you’re proactive but that you care about your work and you want to always live up to your highest potential.
Emails from happy clients? Kudos from cross-functional teams? How about words of praise from your manager? Or impressive numbers that directly illustrate your progress? Schwab has three very important words for you: write it down.
All of these provide the proof of your professional pudding and make it easier for your to negotiate when it’s time to talk about your salary again. “Get in the habit of documenting your achievements so that when it comes time to ask for a raise, you’re prepared with specifics and numbers. If you’ve increased organic website traffic by 30 percent, for example, those are stats you want to present to your boss,” she explains.
This information puts favor in your corner, but it also speaks to the future. When you bring these figures and tokens of admiration, the higher-ups will want to know how you will continue this momentum, so be prepared to explain your goals. “Come up with a plan moving forward and how you want to grow the company. Remember: People don’t just get paid for what they did, they also get paid for what they’re going to do,” Schwab adds.
Express your commitment.
Though your parents might have worked at the same company for decades, the millennial generation is more commitment-phobe than previous gaggles of workers. This makes businesses sometimes wary about increasing salaries since they don’t want you to fly the coop after they make an investment in you. Schwab says reassuring your boss of your commitment not only to your own upward progression but of that of the company is important. “Regardless of how long you’ve already been with a company, employers appreciate when you express your commitment to growing the business with them,” she explains. “So as you’re negotiating, it won’t hurt to let your boss know you don’t plan on working for the competition any time soon.”
Practice, practice, practice
Sure it’s not like the weeks before your dance recitals, but isn’t it arguably more important? Career expert and author Mary Camuto says it is worth the extra time to map out your speech and run through it a few times. As you iron out what you’ll say, how you’ll say it and why it matters, this will build your courage, and keep your self-talk and mindset positive. Like you would prepare for any other event or stressful time, being sure of yourself before you walk into your manager’s office will help to ease your nerves. “You are in charge of your career and revisiting the raise conversation is part of managing your career,” she says.
An at-home dress rehearsal with a partner, friend or roommate will also help you prepare for any interactions. After all, it is a conversation — not a monologue delivery. “You want to be confident — not arrogant, non-defensive, a listener, and you want to know when to fall back, rather than to start arguing spontaneously,” she notes. “You can present a strong case for your raise in a professional, strategic and assertive manner. Don’t weaken your case by becoming reactive, defensive, threatening or defeated! Keep your own emotions in check.”
Be mindful of timing
After you’re initially turned down for the raise you want, Hakim suggests giving it three to six months before you go back to bat. This gives you ample time to collect your ‘evidence’, make the changes your manager thought needed attention and strengthen your esteem. And of course—never talk about money matters in the middle of a super-busy week or month, but after a big achievement or during downtime.
Camuto also says this duration gives you the opportunity to study your manager and better understand the ideal way to approach him or her. “You will need and want their focused attention rather than a rushed multi-tasking interaction. Plan not only your case but also your communication. Is the person you are talking with a ‘get to the point’ person or ‘I need all the detail right now’ person? What words might be negative or positive triggers for them?’,” she explains.
After all, the better you know your audience, the more likely you’ll reap the outcome you hope for—and deserve.
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