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Asking For a Pay Raise


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Asking for a pay raise might not be easy for you, just as it isn't for most. Even if you eventually muster the courage, there are no step-by-step instructions, sure ways of asking or "magic pills" that guarantee your success. However, following the guidelines below might at least increase your chances.

Asking for a Pay Raise Guidelines

  • Before asking for a pay raise, it's important to know that many companies don't grant pay raises to most employees except during employee-review cycles. Additionally, many companies pay competitive, industry-standard wages, which they periodically adjust for cost of living. If you work for one of these companies and you ask for an "out-of-cycle" pay raise or more than the industry standard for your position, your chances for success are likely to be slim.

  • Check your employee policy manual (or similar document) for information related to asking for a pay raise. For example, if a policy states how to go about it, then follow it to the letter. But if a policy unconditionally states that your employer will not grant an out-of-cycle pay raise, it might be a good idea to stick it out until your next review and request a better-than-usual pay raise. Asking for such a pay raise will probably go over better than trying to buck the system.

  • It's not a good idea to justify asking for a pay raise by simply stating, "I need the money." It's a much better idea to prove that you deserve a pay raise, by emphasizing your value to the company. Documenting your accomplishments is a good way to do that. For example, you might include your accomplishments in a "presentation" to show your boss, a "cheat sheet" to refer to while negotiating your pay raise, or a letter asking for an appointment to discuss it. Be specific, use examples, and include impressive things like:
    • Revenue you've earned
    • Money you've saved
    • Customer satisfaction you've achieved
    • Tight deadlines you've met or beat
    • Solutions you've implemented
    • Products or services you've improved
    • Initiative you've demonstrated
    • Extra hours you've worked voluntarily

  • Consider asking for more responsibilities to justify your pay raise. That'll go over better than simply asking for more money, especially if your current responsibilities don't require you to do much above the call of duty and your employer thinks that you're adequately paid.

  • Command a pay raise, don't demand it. For example, you might tell your boss that you'd like to know what you can do to increase your salary or hourly wage in the near future, instead of insisting on a pay raise for your past accomplishments.

  • Think twice about threatening to quit if you don't get a pay raise. It rarely works. No matter how valuable you think you are to the company, don't make the mistake of thinking that you're indispensable. Eager beavers willing to learn your job for less pay are almost always waiting in the wings. If you do quit later for lack of a raise, be careful what you say in your resignation letter so it doesn't bite you down the road.

  • Have a reasonable figure in mind (e.g., from salary surveys) and prepare to negotiate. Be nice but firm when negotiating, and don't get emotional. (Remember, it's business, not personal.) If your employer doesn't grant you a satisfactory pay raise, try negotiating concessions such as performance-based bonuses, or extra paid time off, perks or benefits. Whatever you succeed at negotiating, ask for it in writing with authorizing signatures.

  • Follow the chain of command when asking for a pay raise. For example, if your immediate boss is a supervisor, don't go over your boss's head to the department manager. Instead, approach your immediate boss first and let him or her tell you the next step.

  • A meeting is likely to be more effective than a letter asking for a pay raise. A letter is an inflexible, one-way communication, making it easier for your boss to say no. A meeting is a flexible, two-way communication, that will allow you to present your case as required and overcome objections on the spot. However, a letter will allow you to organize your thoughts, accomplishments and such before presenting them. So, you might consider some combination of the two, such as a letter that highlights your accomplishments to justify your request in the same letter for a pay-raise meeting.

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