What To Do If You’re Owed A Raise

Since the coronavirus lockdown started, those of us lucky enough to retain our jobs have been putting a lot of time and energy into work. We’ve been learning new skills, including the art of meeting by Zoom; we’ve also been helping our companies stay productive during a time of heightened uncertainty and anxiety.

Is it time to ask our boss for a raise? Is that even possible—or appropriate—during a pandemic?

This question becomes even more important if you missed your annual performance review due to the lockdown. If you were supposed to discuss a salary increase with your supervisor but didn’t get the chance, you might be asking yourself whether there’s a good way of starting the conversation.

I reached out to Ask a Manager’s Alison Green to get her perspective on whether it’s the right time to ask for a raise, and she confirmed what many of us already know in our hearts: It’s not.

“I’d say that right now, in most industries, there’s so much uncertainty and worry that this isn’t a good time for most people to ask for a raise,” Green told me. “Employers are trying to figure out how to keep people and where they might need to cut and what their finances will look like in two months. There’s a high risk of coming across as tone-deaf to that context.”

Green offered one exception to this scenario. If your employer has been relatively unharmed by the coronavirus pandemic and the associated economic uncertainty, and if your company is not making any cuts or facing any financial risk, it might be ok to bring up the topic of salary increases. There are certain industries that are doing exceptionally well at the moment, and workers in those industries might have increased their workload accordingly—which means it could, possibly, maybe be appropriate to ask for a raise.

But it might also be a good idea to wait just a little bit longer—because, as Green reminds us, you probably won’t have to wait forever. “This doesn’t mean that we’re entering a years-long period where people can’t ask for raises,” Green explained. “It’s really just about right now while we’re still in the middle of so much uncertainty.”

My advice? Put a note on your calendar to revisit the idea of asking for a raise a bit later in the year. If you know when your organisation creates its annual budget, try to time your request so that it falls before the budget is finalised. If you already have a performance review on the schedule, that’s a good time to bring it up. If you missed your performance review, ask your supervisor when (or whether) they’d like to reschedule it; that’ll give you a lot of information about where your employer is in terms of priorities.

And then keep doing what you’re already doing—completing your work, meeting your deadlines, communicating with your team members and being the kind of employee who deserves the kind of raise you’re going to ask for.

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