One of the most common career scenarios is feeling like you’re performing well and not being paid enough for it. Maybe you put in extra hours, volunteered for committees, or helped train others. Perhaps you shared new ideas that were implemented, making your company more efficient. It’s natural to think, “I deserve a raise for all this.”
But do you, really? This is where many people get tripped up when it comes to salary conversations: They go to their boss with a list of accomplishments and say something like, “I believe I should be compensated more. Look at everything I’m doing.” The problem is that many managers, HR departments, or finance offices will look at that list of accomplishments and think that’s simply what productive employee performance looks like.
Having a list of accomplishments is excellent proof that you’re doing your job well, but quantifying your work with numbers is a more compelling argument that spotlights your worth. There are other important factors, too, like timing and being a professional if your request is turned down.
3 ways to improve your chances of getting a raise
Be able to prove that you are underpaid
Sites like Glassdoor have salary tools to help you figure out an average pay range based on your job title, years of experience, location, and industry. Salary.com has a similar tool called ‘What am I worth?’ that also factors in education, level in the organisation, and number of direct reports (if you’re a manager). Sites like these may want your email address, so if you don’t want to share your information, you can rely on job postings that include pay ranges of similar jobs in your area.
If you learn that you’re being underpaid, document what you found and include links or attachments. Present your information and where you found it to your supervisor. They’ll likely check your research, so be sure to include the search criteria you used so that they come up with the same results. The strategy is to not only lead your employer to see what you’re worth, but also show them what others believe you’re worth. Any boss who values you will realise you are giving them a list of jobs for which you could leave the company.
But if you learn that you are, in fact, being paid fairly — maybe even more than the market average — you can still ask for a raise. Just be as objective as you can. Decision-makers want quantifiable criteria to justify why one fairly-paid employee is getting a raise instead of another.
Find the best time to ask for a raise
Get the timing right when asking for a raise. Nearly every organisation is based on a budget cycle where salary money is planned, approved, and then awarded to employees. Salary changes (like raises or even bonuses) often must follow that cycle, so even if you have data to support that you’re being underpaid, your request can still be denied for falling outside of it.
Find out from your boss when raises are considered, how they’re approved, and what documentation might be useful. Knowing the organizational processes that support salaries is only going to aid in your request for a raise. You can also take it a step further and talk to your boss about your salary expectations. Be transparent about how much money you want to make and whether your expectations are realistic for your current role. If you’re already at the top of the pay range for your position and raises may be hard to get, then it might be time to consider a new job.
Respond well if your request is denied
Even if you have a great case, there’s a real possibility that your raise request is turned down. A variety of factors could be at play, like budget constraints and other circumstances unknown to you. Regardless, responding well in the moment demonstrates your professionalism and either helps set you up for a raise in the future or to leave your job on good terms.
Showing gratitude for your boss’s consideration of your request is key. Avoid arguing or debating the decision, and try not to shut down or withdraw. Continue being a good employee.
You might say, “I’m disappointed, but thanks for considering my request.” Then shift the conversation to discussing a plan you and your boss could put into place to help you reach your salary goals. What timeline is reasonable to expect for a raise? Six months? A year? What kind of performance might they need to see? Demonstrating your professionalism will only help you get a raise approved in the future.
One of the most important career lessons to learn is that just because you do a good job at work doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a raise. You should know what pay is fair for your job, time your request right, and respond well if you get denied. That’s the path to getting a raise now or in the future.
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