Ben always considered himself pretty responsible when it came to money. He had a good chunk of savings, but with rent being raised again this year, he was beginning to feel the squeeze. Simple things like lunch and coffee seemed to have gone up, and he knew for sure his commute was way higher than it used to be. I really need a raise, he told himself, knowingly. The trouble was, he had no idea how to go about it. I don’t even know how much to ask for!
Let’s face it, we all could use a raise. It doesn’t hurt to have a little extra money coming in, but figuring out how to bring up the topic to your manager, or to negotiate how much of an increase you deserve, is a challenge. I’ve had to do this many times in my career, and wanted to share a few steps that have always worked for me.
5 steps to help get you that pay raise at work
- Figure out your performance rating at work
- Get salary market data on your job within your area
- Determine a dollar number that you’re comfortable asking for
- Schedule a time to discuss with your manager
- Follow-up on any feedback
The first step, figuring out your performance rating at work, can be a little tricky. At the end of the day, it’s your manager’s perception of you, but it’s also important to gauge how you’re viewed within the organization as a whole. If you’ve networked well, then hopefully you have a reputation as being someone who brings value to the company. If, for some reason, your rating is low (i.e. your manager doesn’t believe you’re a high-performer), then you’re going to need to change that perception before proceeding. Knowing where you stand is very important because, as a general rule (there are exceptions, see the next two point), only someone who is perceived to be a high-performer should be asking for a raise.
Salary market data is basically knowing what other people in your field are making. If you’re lucky, you can find out this information from others within your company, but if that information is not available, then finding it out within your city, state, or even country is helpful too. A few websites you can use to help you are: Glassdoor, Comparably, or The Ladders. Once you have this information, you can determine if you’re making below, above, or at the average; this will give you the knowledge to try to figure out what you’ll be asking for. Note: if you’re making way below the market or company average, you have additional leverage even if you’re not a top-performer, so long as your manager still values you.
Determining how much to ask for can be a slippery slope. If you go too high, you risk sounding out of touch and just greedy. If you go too low, you’ll end up still being unsatisfied with your raise. So how do you choose the right amount? Well, combine your performance rating, financial situation, and the market data to see what is really realistic and what you believe you deserve. If you’re paid severely less than the average but perform above average, then you have leverage to request more. If you’re being paid at the top-tier already, then there may be little room to move up without working towards a promotion. An important rule of thumb: so long as your manager wouldn’t outright laugh at your proposal, it probably isn’t too high. Aim high without being unrealistically greedy; the worst that will happen is your manager will come in at a lower rate.
Now comes the hardest part: scheduling time with your manager to discuss raising your salary. I’ve seen this step prevent so many people from ever making the request—don’t let that happen to you! You now know where you stand in terms of performance, you know what you’re worth, and you know what the market would pay you. You have everything you need, so don’t be timid! I’ll save specific ways to talk to your manager for another post, but use the data you have to explain your case. Don’t be afraid to get personal, it’s not wrong to mention that you’re struggling to pay your bills because the cost of living is higher, you started a family, enrolled in classes, or basically anything else! Think about it this way, your manager is just like you and has probably had to ask for a raise once in his or her life too.
So now you’ve popped the question and you either got a yes, a no, or an “okay, I’ll see what I can do.” This is where you need to follow-up with your manager, because it isn’t over yet. If you’ve received a yes, make sure you understand the how long it will take to get approval and how much you’ll end up getting; there are usually no guarantees so have an open discussion about the process. If you’ve received a no, you need to find out why and find out if there is anything you can do to work towards getting one in the future. If it’s because of low performance—even if you think otherwise—you need to work on the perception that your manager has of you. If it’s because of company finances, figure out if there’s another route, such as a promotion, moving to another department, or providing some other cost-savings for the company.
Fred had asked a few co-workers what he should do about his raise. One of them gave him advice saying, “my philosophy is that raises come from hard work alone, so you’ll be recognized eventually, just wait.” Fred waited, and waited, and waited, but nothing happened. He became so frustrated one morning that he scheduled time with his manager to talk about his financial situation. “Why didn’t you bring this up to me before, Fred?” asked his manager in surprise. “Let me see what I can do, next time don’t wait so long.”
Your manager may not be like Fred’s, but if they’re at all an effective manager, they care about you. So follow these steps, get over your fear, and start making a little more money next month!
Credit: Feature image by Freepik