How to Ask for a Raise: Five Important Steps

how to ask for a raise
Want a raise? Just ask!
I’m strolling through the grocery store recently with my buddy Wayne. Wayne is looking distraught– dismal even. I ask Wayne what the problem is, with a worried look on my face.

“Oh nothing, I guess. (here it comes) It’s just that I’ve been working at the firm for so many years now, pouring myself into my job, you know? You’d think my employer would have noticed the hard work and offered me a raise, wouldn’t you?”

I could hear the violin music ringing in my ears as we set foot in the frozen fish section. I reached into the ice and grabbed a half-pound hunk of fish and cold-cocked Wayne in the back of the head.

“Ouch!” He exclaimed, while stumbling into some canned goods. “What the heck did you do that for?!” “Well, buddy, so long as you’re dreaming, pretend this fish isn’t real.”

He didn’t know what I was saying. Plainly Wayne’s mental wheel was turning, but his hamster had long ago perished.

“Look. You’ve got two chances of your employer offering you the raise you want– slim and none, and slim is buried up to his neck next to a fire ant colony with sugar smeared on his face.” I inwardly giggled at my own joke. “You’ve got to ask for what you want and negotiate that raise.”

That brings us to the topic of this article– bargaining a raise. Let’s begin with a few key presumptions:

  1. You supply value to your company.
  2. The business is doing fairly well economically.
  3. Re-read expectation #1.

Here are five things that you positively must know before knocking on the office door and asking for that raise:

  • They won’t offer.
  • Know what you want.
  • They aren’t concerned about what you require.
  • Mention contribution, not history.
  • Quantify your worth.

They won’t offer

Once upon a time when I was just a little boy, gluing my Lego blocks together with play-dough, my daddy gave me a sage, although tainted, piece of wisdom. “Son, the more you do, the more the boss will give you to do without raising your salary. Don’t take on too much or you’ll end up an unhappy so and so” he stated as he kicked our dog.

“Goo goo, gahhh!” I replied. I didn’t get it it at the time, but old pop was trying to tell me, in fact anyone who would listen, that the boss never compensates what you do. His solution was to do less than he was capable of. Well that just goes against my Tony Robbins-esque audio training, but the point hammered home. You have to request what you want. Most of the time, the boss does notice what you do, but she’s under tension every day to lower costs and return more to the company bottom line. If you’re able to work for X, management will not offer you X + $ 2,000 (random number here). Don’t fall into the trap that Wayne did. Resolve that you must go to the boss, as formidable as that is to do, and request the increase.

Know what you need

Ever got up the nerve to ask for a raise, and as you stood there squirming, the big guy said, “Sure.” You breathe a sigh of relief. That wasn’t so awful. “Starting next week you’ll see an extra dime an hour in your check, and for you, I’ll make it retroactive to the beginning of the month.” You’re naturally distressed. How dare that guy offer me only a nickel an hour increase! But you take it, even saying thanks, because you shot your bit of bravery just to make the request. You leave humbled, defeated, a broken person. No vacation this year. Grandma’s going to have to wait for that liver transplant.

The complication was you didn’t know what you wanted and didn’t have an idea what you may have been worth. The boss’ solution was to offer you a token to make you go away, and it worked. You need to research what others of your job description are making in other companies. If you make less, you’ve got some ammo. If you make more and think you’re still deserving of an increase, maybe what you really need is a promotion. Whatever your situation is, get a particular figure in mind to negotiate to. I’m not suggesting that you go into the supervisor’ office and start blabbing about the figure you have in mind. Just have that figure ready in case the big guy’s (or gal’s) offer is lower what you expect– and be ready to defend it.

Your needs don’t matter

I’m sorry, but it’s true. Assume that the person in charge doesn’t care about your slipped mortgage payments, or your kid’s need for braces, because she can’t afford to. She’s got a few more other employees crying the same tune. When I convinced Wayne to ask for an offer, he fell into this blunder too. “I guess I should wear my oldest clothes, look really worn-down and depressed, like I really need the cash, right?” he pitifully proclaimed. When I reached for the mackerel again he knew my response.

You have to highlight your value to the company– that’s it. Unless you work for the government, you won’t get anywhere with the raise request based on need, and even that’s not a safe bet anymore. What have you done to save the firm money, or time, or heartache? You’re making a sales pitch here, folks, and the product is you. “But how?” you may be thinking. Read on.

Focus on accomplishments, not dedication

Look, in today’s dog-eat-dog world of escalating business rivalry, you’re value is based directly on what you have contributed, and can contribute in the future to your company. If you’ve worked twenty years for the same job, I praise your loyalty and endurance, but guess what? IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW LONG YOU’VE WORKED THERE! Really it may, not directly, only insofar as it has provided the knowledge and skills necessary for you to chip in more.

Contribution can be determined by accomplishments, particular things that occurred because of you that enhanced your company’s profit position. Multiple-choice test coming up. If you’re the boss and thinking about giving a raise to an employee, which of the following two sentences will sway you more:

a. “I’ve got twenty-two years working in the bindery division.”

b. “My improvement projects in the bindery department have saved the firm over $250,000 in the last five years . Here is the record if you’d like to see it.”

If you said “b”, move to the front of the class. Keep in mind — you are your worth, your contribution, in the mind of your boss. Years on the job don’t mean you ought to have anything.

Evaluate your value

Note something else about the multiple-choice test in the last section. The right answer had at its center a distinct figure of savings. This is crucial for you to have in your armory of business communication on the job. It has to be reasonably accurate too, so you can back it up if urged to. If you don’t chronicle the bottom line improvements you cause for your firm, shame on you. Start right away. This is integral not only to asking for a raise, but for promotions, preventing downsizing, and any other rationale relating to your career path.

Maybe you’re thinking that, hey, some jobs are tough to put a value on because the repayment is indirect. Helping on the company strategic plan comes to mind. Designate a value to your achievement anyway, supported with some logic and circumstantial data, and leave it to your boss to tell you that you’re wrong. At the very least, relate the value of the activity and say something like,” … and we both know how effective that was for the firm.”

What you’ve done is to supply support for your sales pitch and put that support in terms that all management understands– dollars and cents.

If you want a pay raise and you really are worthy of one based on what you have done for the firm, feel free to go ahead and ask. Remember, they’ll hardly ever offer without you making the request, but if you demonstrate your value through specific contributions to the bottom line, you’re in a pretty good position to negotiate. If the unlucky Wayne can do it, what’s keeping you?

About the Author:
Karl WalinskasKarl Walinskas is the CEO of Smart Company Growth, a business development firm that helps small to mid-size professional service firms build competitive advantage in an online world of sameness. He is author of numerous articles and the Smart Blog on leadership, business communication, sales & service, public speaking and virtual business, and Getting Connected Through Exceptional Leadership, available in theSmartShop. Get your FREE LinkedIn Profile Optimization eBook & Video Course, Video Marketing video and course, or Mastermind Groups e-course & video now.