Want a Raise? 6 Steps for Starting the Conversation

Saving on expenses is one way to get ahead, but making more is even better. Here are some tips that might help you start the year with a fatter paycheck.

Want a Raise? 6 Steps for Starting the Conversation Photo (cc) by 401(K) 2013

In a bumpy economy, it’s easy to feel lucky just to have a job. Few of us press the issue by asking for a raise and when we do, we seldom develop a clear strategy for success.

If it’s been more than 12 months since your last pay increase or if your role has changed significantly, it might be time to assert yourself and have a frank conversation with your manager about compensation.

Let’s start with this video from Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson. Check it out, then read on.

Here are six steps to making sure the discussion goes well and results in a bigger paycheck:

1. Prepare for the conversation

You’ve decided that you deserve a raise, so spend some time getting specific about it.

What dollar figure or annual percentage increase are you looking for? How have your duties expanded since you were first hired? How have your efforts resulted in business and revenue wins for the company? What new qualifications, education, or accomplishments do you bring to the table?

Knowing what you want and being able to support it with facts will give you a much better chance of success.

2. Time it right

It’s true — timing is everything.

If your company or organization has regular salary reviews, plan on initiating your raise discussion 90 days before the review cycle begins. This gives upper management time to consider and integrate your increase into the broader compensation budget. If you start too early, you’ll need to have an awkward reminder conversation later; start too late and you’ve just given management the perfect reason to say “not now.”

3. Do a little digging

This is where doing your homework matters. Current and clear market data can help support the salary increase you’re asking for. Use sites like Salary.com or PayScale.com to research salary averages for your position, keeping in mind that company size, geographical location, industry, experience, and educational level are important variables in compensation rates.

4. Strike the right tone

In our digital world, it’s easy to forget that striking the right tone is an essential part of conversation. Remember, you’re a professional who brings valuable skills to your job; outline your contributions and present your case confidently, directly, and respectfully.

Make your conversation truly conversational; the last thing you want to do is ask for your raise in the first five minutes, get a negative answer, and have nowhere else to take the discussion. Also, avoid uptalking, the pervasive speech pattern where everything a person says sounds like a question. Uptalking implies that the speaker is unsure of the validity of what he’s saying and is open to altering his viewpoint if presented with a differing opinion.

5. Expect pushback and have a Plan B

Simply put, you should anticipate objections. While managers are trained to bring out the very best in their employees, they’re also keenly focused on costs. No doubt your supervisor is adept in the art of laying out a set of rational reasons why it’s not possible to increase your salary (budget restrictions, market conditions, etc.). Employees who are successful in getting what they ask for anticipate specific objections and are prepared with well thought-out rebuttals.

Before your meeting, put yourself in your manager’s shoes. How might you try to avoid or delay a pay increase request from one of your employees? Once you know the potential roadblocks, you can better navigate any detours the conversation may take.

Being flexible is a big advantage when negotiating. That’s why it’s also important to have a clear Plan B when broaching the topic of compensation. Nothing fails faster than getting stuck on a single, ideal request and when it can’t be met, having no other creative options in your back pocket.

If your manager can’t increase your salary by 5 percent and all rebuttals have fallen flat, what other potential solutions might get you closer to where you want to be? Consider asking for a 2.5 percent raise now and revisiting the topic in six months. Explore adding levels of responsibility that might justify a pay increase, or suggest formalizing a flexible work arrangement one or two days a week or adding other perks.

6. Follow up

Sometimes there are timing issues or larger company dynamics that we don’t know about and can’t predict. If your raise request is denied, try to keep the topic alive. As mentioned above, ask to revisit the subject in a follow-up meeting next quarter or in six months. Economic factors are cyclic and keeping your request open and top-of-mind can help later. Learn more about the things you can do right now to increase your chances of getting that raise next year.

No matter how the conversation goes, try to wrap things up on a positive note. Remember, your discussion is also a chance to build a rapport with your manager and every one-on-one interaction is an opportunity to make an impact. Presenting your case thoroughly and professionally and accepting success or failure with the same amount of grace can go a long way professionally.

Have you recently asked for a raise and gotten it? What strategies helped? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page


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