The current national unemployment rate is as low as it’s been in 50 years, so depending on your industry, there’s likely never been a better time to ask for a raise in your entire life. The tight labour market has companies desperate to hire and keep talented people, so if you do it right, you can wring cash out of their wallets (or at least make a much better work environment for yourself). But you have to be smart about it. Avoiding these seven deadly sins of asking for a raise is a good place to start.
Focusing on your needs instead of the company’s
It’s obvious that you’re asking for a raise because you want to make more money, but employers like you to pretend that you show up to work for other reasons, like your passion for accounts payable or how much you love making profits for those who own your company. It’s weird, but you have to do the tap dance anyway. Instead of focusing on what your needs are in a salary negotiation, focus on what you offer the company and how your unique skills and contributions make the company money. It’s a half-truth, but it’s how the game is played.
Not being prepared for “No”
Asking for a raise comes with a level of risk, so you have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario: Being laughed out of the room and offered nothing. It’s best to have something else on backup, because if you’re denied what you feel you’re worth and offered nothing else — and there isn’t a solid reason why — you have to make moves to find another job. You don’t want to tie yourself to a place like that for longer than you have to.
Only negotiating your salary
Some employers are very tight with money because they’re arseholes, but some employers have legitimate reasons they might turn you down for a raise — budgets that are set in stone at a corporate level, company-wide wage freezes, and so on. If your employer is in that situation, consider the second prizes you can negotiate for: A more flexible schedule, a raise at some (specific) future date, a change of responsibilities, or more (or less) authority. There are many options on the table and won’t cost them anything. If you do it right, you can be as ecstatic as the woman in the stock photo above.
Not being professional enough (or being too professional)
The labour you provide is valuable to a company, and salary negotiations should be a discussion of the amount of that value — nothing more, nothing less. It’s not about your worth as a person, and it shouldn’t be about how your boss feels about you, but let’s face it — sometimes it is. Your work is not a family, so in most professional situations, it’s best to approach salary discussions professionally. Of course, employers are people too, and some like to pretend it’s not about money, so it’s sometimes best to pretend back. Act like you like your boss and can’t wait to listen to their stories about their lake house (if you can stomach it).
Not being prepared
Before you ask for a raise, play the scenario out in your head and try to see it from your employer’s perspective. They’re likely to know the “going rate” for your job and how valuable you are as an employee, so you should too. Ask yourself if you would give you a raise. Consider whether the reasoning some employees give for wanting raises would be compelling if you were hiring. “I want more money because I’ve been here for two years,” is way less compelling than “I want more money because I have another offer, and I’ll bail if you don’t meet their salary.”
Asking at the wrong time
The current drum-tight labour market makes this a good time to ask for a raise or make other career moves, but only in macro sense. Your specific company might be going through lean times or be in an otherwise shaky situation. If that’s the case, it might be a bad time to ask for a raise. But if your company is doing well, ask for a salary negotiation in December so it can be figured into the budget at the beginning of the fiscal year in January.
Not asking for the raise
Many people just don’t ask for raises because they’re waiting for someone to notice they’re awesome and offer them more money. This doesn’t happen often. It’s fine to keep your head down and quietly outperform other people, but your company is likely to either not notice, or figure that you’re happy with your current situation (because if you weren’t, you’d say something). So you have to blow your own horn, at least a little.
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