Up until a few years ago, pay raises in nearly any industry were almost automatic. At a minimum, they were considered to be a recognition of the increase in the cost of living, an adjustment necessary to keep employees at least even with what they’d been paid in the past.
With many businesses and institutions now struggling to survive, the automatic pay raise has become a thing of the past for many employees. You may deserve a raise, but asking for one—that can sometimes get complicated.
If you feel you deserve a raise, there are a few steps you can take that will increase the chances of a favorable outcome.
Check your salary against the competition
The first step—before you even bring up the subject with your employer—is to determine your market value. That’s how much people in similar positions are earning at competing employers. There are recognized sources you can verify this with, including:
Other potential sources include job postings on job boards or in your local classified ads, and of course that would include any ads that disclose salary range. Print off the information you find in your salary survey, along with any job ads and have them ready.
Don’t pull them out as soon as you meet with your boss, but hold them in case you meet resistance and need to support your position with solid evidence.
Make sure your employer is in a position to give you a raise
If your employer is struggling financially, asking for a raise would be bad timing. Even worse, it could be an indication that you aren’t on board with what’s going on in the business, or that you don’t really care.
Similarly, if your department is experiencing layoffs, or if they’re being implemented company wide, asking for a raise would be ill-advised. Better to wait a few months until the dust has settled, and then you might be able to use the higher workload (due to fewer employees) as an additional justification for a raise.
On the other hand, if company profits are on the rise, now is the perfect time to press for a raise. In fact, better to do it as soon as possible—a bad quarter or two could change the whole dynamic.
Document your accomplishments
This step is critical, especially if you think you might meet resistance. You can document qualitative accomplishments, such as leadership qualities, or skills as a trouble shooter, but accomplishments that can be measured usually work better.
Look at you production numbers—do they show a steady increase? Are you showing a pattern of fewer errors? If you’re in sales, are your sales numbers up? Are sales increasing in your department—be ready to document your contribution if you aren’t in a direct sales position.
Be prepared to be flexible
If your employer denies your request for a raise, but agrees that you deserve it, take advantage of the opportunity to introduce an increase in non-monetary compensation.
Additional paid time off is one example, pitching for a generous flex-time arrangement is another. You may even consider this an opportunity to introduce a full or partial work at home arrangement that would lower your commuter costs. That would be the equivalent of a raise, but it will cost your employer nothing.
Be prepared to make a move
This is especially true if your research indicates clearly that you’re underpaid compared to what others in similar positions are earning at competing companies.
Understand that your employer may be unable or unwilling to give you a raise for any number of reasons:
- Your employer may be in worse financial condition than its competitors
- You may not be in your company’s or your department’s “inner circle”
- The job you do with your employer may not be considered as valuable as it is in other companies
- Your performance may be sub par, in which case you might want to go elsewhere before a firing confirms the fact
- Your boss may be a weak link—if you’re boss is unable to fight for you your future at your company will be limited
- Your boss may not like you—we shouldn’t think this way, but sometimes it’s true
Leaving your job to find a better paying one should be a last resort, especially in the current job market. But if any of the above are true, you could be looking at a stagnant income situation for a very long time.
What techniques have you used to get a raise?