How to ask for a raise?
October 23, 2013 2:25 PM   Subscribe

I've been in my (professional, middle management) job for nearly 6 years, and I've never had a raise. I would really like one. In fact, I've decided that if I don't get a salary increase this year, I'm going to have to start looking around, despite the fact that there are a lot of things about my job I really like and I'm generally pretty happy in it. So I call on the massed wisdom of MeFi to help me ask for a raise.

A few bits of possibly relevant information:

- I have a good working relationship with my boss and feel I can talk to him quite openly. Neither of us has a confrontational style. I'm not afraid of talking to him about this, but I've probably only got one shot at it, so I need to make it count.
- I feel I am performing more than well and can give examples to back this up.
- I work for a fairly small company, and our performance review process is lax compared to other places I've worked. For example, no one has specific objectives set by their line manager, so I can't make a case based on giving evidence of having met/exceeded set objectives.
- I am female
- I am in the UK

I am sorely tempted to just sit down and politely but firmly say that I can't stay in my job without a pay increase. Is this appropriate, or does it sound too much like a threat? What should my strategy be?
posted by meronym to Work & Money (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Is the company financially sound and has it been growing for six years? If not, that might be a reason no raise was offered. But it might also be because you never asked for one. My sense is that the way you proposed asking is indeed too much of a threat, too negative. You could instead say something like "How come the company hasn't been giving pay raises?" With that question you achieve several things, including probing whether indeed that's been the company-wide situation or whether it's just you, determining what the chances are for getting one this year, letting it be known that this matters to you and you feel you deserve a raise (maybe even a retroactive one that provides some catch-up), etc.
posted by Dansaman at 2:33 PM on October 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Definitely come armed with "data" - how you've contributed, how your performance reviews have gone, etc.
posted by radioamy at 2:39 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could instead say something like "How come the company hasn't been giving pay raises?" With that question you achieve several things

This is smart advice IMHO.
posted by Drexen at 2:44 PM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

The case for asking for a raise is that you've contributed at a level that goes beyond your current salary level (not taking into account cost of living updates, etc). So make sure that the conversation isn't about why you need a raise, but what you've done that means a raise should be a given.

If you come in and make it about what you're getting or not getting or what you'll do if you don't get a raise, that's not going to set you up for success. Instead, make the conversation all about what you've given and why you've been an amazing asset to the organization, one that deserves to be valued at a higher rate of pay.

Then, if they don't respond the way you'd like, go looking. Never threaten leaving as it will just make you look like not a long-term prospect.
posted by missjenny at 2:45 PM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

On the comments of "why hasn't the company been giving pay raises?": I wouldn't ask that. You don't know they haven't been giving out pay raises. You only know they haven't been giving them to you.
posted by missjenny at 2:46 PM on October 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

missjenny: "On the comments of "why hasn't the company been giving pay raises?": I wouldn't ask that. You don't know they haven't been giving out pay raises. You only know they haven't been giving them to you."

That's the point! If that's the case, to both find it out and point it out. If it isn't the case and no-one's getting raises, the subject turns to the company's situation rather than your own. YMMV, of course.
posted by Drexen at 2:50 PM on October 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Seconding that numbers help. "Since I started, I've gone from managing X projects to X+20 projects." Or whatever.

If you're being underpaid when compared against the field, pointing that out would be as close as I would get to suggesting that I'm considering leaving if I don't get the raise.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:52 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's the point! If that's the case, to both find it out and point it out. If it isn't the case and no-one's getting raises, the subject turns to the company's situation rather than your own. YMMV, of course.

Even then, don't take the company response as gospel here. I've been on the other side of this, where I did receive a raise while the company line was that there were no raises for anyone in the budget. There are always exceptions and blanket statements saying otherwise are very useful to a company.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:54 PM on October 23, 2013

It doesn't really matter what the employer's financial situation is, nor does it matter if the employer has not been giving raises at all or just not to the OP.

From an employer's perspective, the ideal employee salary is the lower of the following two numbers:
  1. The cost of a replacement employee (including the costs associated with rehiring/retraining a new employee).
  2. The cost of retaining the existing employee.
Note that the employer's finances have nothing to do with that - salary expenses are a cost of doing business, not a fringe benefit. If you feel that the cost of 1) is more than your existing salary, then you simply need to demand a higher salary. If you feel the cost of 1) is less than your existing salary, then it doesn't matter what your performance is or what the company's finances are - you won't get a raise regardless.

Don't overthink your position or the company's position. This is strictly business. Tell your employer what you need to continue to work there. There's no reason to second guess yourself or to make this any bigger of a deal than it needs to be.

Consider that for whatever it is that your company "makes" (labor services, widgets, advertisements, etc), the company doesn't justify price changes - they simply make them. You have a price to working for your company. Tell the company what that price is. Don't expect them to find that price without your input - it's counterintuitive, and your employer has no incentive to pay more than they need to unless you force the issue.
posted by saeculorum at 2:59 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

To expand on what jason_steakums and others are saying above, it may well be that the company's financial situation has prevented them from giving raises for *six years*, but that doesn't have to be your problem if you're a worth more than that on the market. So don't take "we can't afford it" as a final answer. You can't afford to work for substantially less than your market value.
posted by chrchr at 3:01 PM on October 23, 2013

Here's what to NOT do:
-Say "I can't stay in my job without a pay increase" - this focuses the conversation on what will happen if you don't get one (negative frame) and definitely will be seen as a threat.
-Say "How come the company hasn't been giving pay raises?" - may not be accurate and, more importantly, begins the conversation by giving them the opportunity to explain why they can't give raises (things have been slow, business plans don't allow for it, etc.). You are giving them an easy out if you say this.
-Say "Why haven't I gotten a raise in six years?" Again, beginning with a negative frame, and in this case asking them to tell you why you don't deserve a rasie.

Here's what TO say:

Begin the conversation as simply and factually as possible: I'd like to talk about a raise.
Here are some lines that should come in your statement after that:
-"Since I started here six years ago, I've gone from doing X to XYYYY"
-"My contributions have allowed..." XY to happen
-Feedback you've gotten from your boss or other important stakeholders
-Based on these contributions, I'd like a raise of X amount

Resist all of the following:
-Over-explaining (have three or four basic bullet points you want to hit, that's it)
-Talking over silence (keeping talking because you don't want to face silence)
-Mentioning the pay of anyone else in your company
-Threatening to leave if they say no (you may want to at least stay until you get another job, and if you leave you don't want to burn the bridge)

And last tips:
-Be confident (maybe have a friend or partner give you a pep talk before you go in)
-Predict questions or responses you boss might have, and figure out how you'll counter them
-Be prepared to negotiate a bit
posted by leitmotif at 3:33 PM on October 23, 2013 [27 favorites]

I'd suggest that you read "Women Don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation" by Linda Babcock.

Have you not been getting even cost of living raises?
posted by Candleman at 3:58 PM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's irrelevant whether you are giving the company an easy "out" because it doesn't matter if the "out" is easy or hard, all that matters is if the company is out or in. It's easy to transition from an "out" answer to "Well I need a raise in order to stay so let's talk about whether you think you can make that happen".

What I don't like about the "I'd like to talk about a raise" approach is that although asking for a raise is a good self-centered thing to do, bringing it up in that way may come across as too self-centered and too unconcerned or unaware about overall circumstances ("um, haven't you noticed we've been losing money for six years?") in a small organization that is not as rigid in its processes as a large organization (witness the lack of performance reviews). Asking about raises at the company in general expresses a sense of teamwork and company concern that could be very positively received.

If the company has a reason or excuse for not giving raises, of course you don't have to accept that, you are free to walk.

Yes you should ask for a raise. But there are various ways to do it, and in some organizations a more nuanced approach that involves some finesse may go over better, and even be more effective, than a more blunt approach.
posted by Dansaman at 4:23 PM on October 23, 2013

You also need to come to any meeting prepared with some information about what the current salary range is for your job in the city that you work in. There are lots of different websites where you can research that. Also look at what job listings say.

That will help you determine whether or not you are being under paid for the work you're doing and make an appropriate proposal.

Lot's of good advice already especially coming prepared with specific examples for how you've significantly contributed to the company and any increases in responsibilities you've taken on.

You should think about what you might accept instead of a raise (more flexibility, more time off) and a reasonable time frame (if they can't give you a raise right now, would you accept one in 3 months, 6 months?).

Do you expect a promotion with this raise?
posted by brookeb at 4:45 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cripes! I wouldn't bother asking. I'd get a new job with more money and leave.

In fact, I just did that very thing. I start a week from Monday.

As cordial as your work environment is, they don't value you enough to reward your good work.

You work for money. It's great if you can enjoy your co-workers and boss, but the rubber meets the road with your paycheck.

So make a move and get A LOT more money!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:08 PM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding having data on your job class and how much it pays. That's the objective info.

Also have an amount set.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:24 PM on October 23, 2013

I was successful doing this by putting together a proposal, printed out, to take to my meeting with my boss. I covered how long I'd been with the company, what benefit I was bringing, and then an overview of comparable salaries for my position. I framed it as (forgive this) a "win-win" situation. Ie you get a top notch employee, dedicated; I get mo' money. I implied, but never stated that if these higher salaries were out there, I could be looking. Great suggestions above to incorporate.

The great thing about the printed proposal was it kept me on script and made it easier to ask for $. It also came off as very businessy/professional. My boss was able to give it her boss, making the whole thing flow.

Good luck!
posted by ecorrocio at 5:55 PM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with the advice that says:

Be brief.

Ask explicitly for a specific number.

Bring something on paper.

Do not threaten to leave.

Your ability to leave and go elsewhere is implicitly understood by your employer. The fact that you are asking for a raise invites that possibility into the room wihout you having to name it. Ask for the raise that you think is appropriate. If you do not get it, look for other work. If you are offered something else, but still prefer your current job, at that point you can go to your manager and say,

"I was offered something else. I'd prefer to stay here, but I can't do so unless I am compensated appropriately. Would you be willing to go up to X?"

Good luck!
posted by latkes at 7:42 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your strategy should be to tactfully and firmly ask for a raise, and provide a number of reasons why you deserve one (hired to do X, now also doing Y and Z etc... training new staff, etc). If you've been a good employee and they haven't given you a raise in 6 years (any cost of living increase in that time??) they should feel pretty frickin bad about it and look to remedy the situation immediately- maybe even make it retroactive for a few months as a show of good faith.
If they offer you less that what you're satisfied with (I'd be looking for a minimum of 10% salary increase, maybe ask for 20? look into industry standards for your position in your geographical area) it's time to find a new job.
posted by emd3737 at 3:50 AM on October 24, 2013

I'll echo what others have said: it is imperative that you have data to back your claim that you have done something to demonstrate your value to the company, above and beyond your current duties.

Frankly, if you've simply been performing your job to task - that is not enough in itself to justify a raise. However, if you've gone above and beyond, committed in a way that shows you take ownership of your work/projects/the company's goals, etc. then there is always room for discussion.

I've gone through this with several employees over the years. Many of them, quite frankly, over-estimate their value and think that just because they're fulfilling the responsibilities asked of them that they deserve the raise. That's not to say one isn't always warranted for someone who really is dedicated and whom we want to retain, but on the aggregate that isn't the case.

The other part of this equation, however, is recognizing what kind of organization you are in: is it one that values extraordinary work and will reward that work to keep you there and help you advance yourself and your career, or are they simply going to recognize your position as a cost structure that is capped and once exceeded, need to replace you with less expensive staff? This distinction makes a big difference in your room for negotiation.

I have a friend who once worked for a company that was run strictly "by the numbers" - and regardless the quality or caliber of an employee, if the company hit a rough spot or if the employee became too costly...they were out and replaced with less expensive talent, regardless capabilities. That's a frustrating environment, IMO, and one I wouldn't be comfortable in unless I liked punching a clock, coming in and doing my job and going home.
posted by tgrundke at 6:48 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

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