The first time I asked for a raise, I was twelve and asked my parents to increase my allowance. Of course, I didn’t actually deserve a raise; I just really wanted to buy a new stereo. So I used the politician tactic of making empty promises like taking on more responsibilities around the house. But mom and dad weren’t buying it. They knew there wasn’t much of a track record to justify a raise based on anything but parental sympathy.
Needless to say, my negotiations did not go favorably. I felt like I deserved a raise just like many employees “feel” like they deserve one too. Unfortunately, I have learned from being an employer that your feelings have little to do with it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t actually deserve more money. So when you ask for a raise, keep your employer’s perspective in mind and remember these three things:
You are expected to do your job, so any justification for a raise has to be an example of exceeding expectations and going above and beyond your normal duties. It is easy to assume that because you do your job well, you deserve a raise. But this generality will be completely lost on your boss. Identify three key examples of things you have done that go beyond what is normally expected of you. Be specific with each example and describe exactly what contribution you made. Be sure to give yourself proper credit through each example, but do not embellish or exaggerate. Obviously, that is dishonest, but your boss will also know.
Reframe Your Perspective
When you give your three specific examples, make sure each one illustrates one of the following: how you made the company more money, how you made your boss’s life easier, or how you made your boss look good. This concept may seem obvious, but many times your ‘hard work’ may not seem so raise-worthy from your boss’s perspective.
For example, I had a recent discussion with a lawyer who works in a satellite office and has to deal with frequent walk-ins who seldom convert to paying clients. She felt underappreciated for this constant annoyance, which her boss never sees and never has to deal with, so she asked for a raise. From her perspective, she is doing more work than she gets credit for, and that may be true, but from her boss’s perspective, she has essentially admitted to wasting time and giving free legal advice.
However, if she could explain to her boss how she has streamlined a process for screening prospective clients, allowing her to spend more time working on paying clients and bring in new business, that would paint a completely different picture. Now she is a hero trying to make the firm more money. It’s the same situation; she just needs to reframe her argument to make it more persuasive.
Know an Amount
If you want your employer to go to the trouble of quantifying your efforts, you should have already done so yourself. Come up with an amount that you think is fair. Don’t name an outlandish figure, but if you really believe that you have made valuable contributions to the company, don’t be afraid to express that value in reference to your compensation.
They may completely disagree with you, but that is ok. It’s a negotiation. At the very least, they know what you have in mind. It will also be a reference point for future raise discussions. For instance, if you ask for a $10k raise this year, but they only give you $5k because of budget constraints, the next year they will know that you probably still want the additional $5k.
Be specific about what you have done and how it has helped the company or your boss. Know beforehand how much you want and clearly articulate how that amount corresponds to your efforts. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask for more money if you are providing true value to your organization. But you should also be realistic and self-aware enough to understand that you may not get as much as you want.
Josh Norris is an Investment Advisory Representative of LeFleur Financial. Josh can be reached at josh@LeFleurFinancial.com.