5 Key Steps When Asking for a Raise
Life + Money

5 Key Steps When Asking for a Raise


Too many of us in today’s workforce commit some very common mistakes when asking for a raise – mistakes that put us at a disadvantage and make managers far less likely to grant our requests, no matter how well deserved they may be. 

Executive coach Michele Woodward, of Washington, D.C., says too many people personalize the raise request rather than treat it as a vital business proposition. 

“Nobody really cares that you just moved into a new apartment and can’t afford the rent,” Woodward said during a webcast convened by The Wall Street Journal on Monday. “That’s your own personal choice and not your boss’s problem.” 

Related: One Terrible Boss, 10 Great Workplace Tips 

Woodward adds, “Your boss can care about you and can like you. But I’ve had people say they’d like to move, they’d like to buy a new car, they’d like to take a cruise, and that’s the reason they need a raise. That’s just not the way to approach it.”   

Over-personalize the raise conversation and you might as well kiss that raise goodbye. 

When the economy changed a few years ago, “it really became an employer’s market,” said Woodward. “People looking for a raise today have to go in and make the business case. They have to say how they affected the bottom line. They have to talk about their salary and increase in terms of what they actually contributed.” Specifics count.   

Here are some other key tips when having the raise conversation with a manager: 

  • Quantify your contributions whenever possible. If you’ve saved your company $900,000 because you retooled a system, fixed a problem, eliminated a boatload of wasteful spending – say so. “That’s fertile ground for asking for a raise, and maybe a bonus, and maybe even a week off,” says Woodward.

  • If you can’t quantify your contributions, then articulate in clear, decisive terms what you did successfully to deserve the raise. Maybe you ran an internship program without a hitch. Maybe you organized a team outing that led to a productive new brainstorm session for your business. Maybe you simplified an irritating work process that saved everyone valuable time. If so, say so. “Those successes are critical,” Woodward said in an interview.

  • If you’ve gone above and beyond your job description, say that – but you must explain how. To do so, you need context; examples; specifics; data. Vague, puffy statements carry no weight.
  • Strip emotion from the encounter – and remember your manager or boss’s goal is to produce profits for the company, as is yours. There’s no point in saying how many hours you’ve put in; how hard you’ve been working; or how much you like playing poker with your coworkers. Sentiment is nice but won’t carry the day when paychecks are involved. 

  • Do your research – and be realistic. Fight the urge to ask for a 15 percent pay raise if your company has never given that amount, for example (although companies have made exceptions for extraordinary above-and-beyond performance). The Society for Human Resource Management says that average base pay increases for 2014 will remain at 3 percent for the second year in a row in the U.S., according to the Compensation Planning Survey by Buck Consultants. If that’s not enough to satisfy your desire to move ahead, either adjust your expectations – or consider seeking job advancement somewhere else.   

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