How do I negotiate asking for this raise?
June 6, 2015 6:15 PM   Subscribe

I recently completed a certification course (on my own initiative, with my own money) that benefits me at work. I'd planned to ask for a raise once I was done, but I suspect they are getting ready to offer to reimburse me for the course. If that happens, how do I tactfully ask for a raise instead? More details below.

I work as a commercial real estate credit analyst for a largish bank, and I recently completed a local, well-respected 9 month program in commercial real estate with a large local university. I really like my job, but since I was a history major in college, I don't have the educational foundation that many of my coworkers do, so I decided to take this program. I paid for it myself; I suspected the bank would pay if I asked, but after discussing it with a colleague (used to be my boss, very well trusted and respected in the bank), I thought I'd do better paying for it myself and negotiating a raise afterward.

I am already very close to the top of the salary range for what I do and how many years of experience I have; if I left the bank for the same job elsewhere, I probably wouldn't be able to make more than $3-5K/year more than I'm making now. And I have no intention of leaving; I really like my work, my customers, and my co-workers, and the job has some great benefits (good healthcare, 401k contributions [not matches, just straight-up contributions]). The program cost about $3,600 and I'm planning to ask for another $4K a year.

In the past two weeks, my boss (who previously has not paid a whole lot of attention to the fact that I'm in school) has started making a really big deal out of the fact that I'm graduating soon. He talked me into going to the graduation ceremony in a couple weeks, and is taking my husband and I out for a fancy celebratory dinner next week (possibly with my boss's boss as well). He also apparently made a big deal of it at a recent meeting of my department's loan officers (I am not an officer so I wasn't there), telling them what an impressive accomplishment it is and telling them my story of how I started at the branch, worked my way up, etc. He's also asked me more than once how much the program cost, how long it lasted, and other questions. I suspect that he's arguing for the bank to reimburse me for it (for example, he specifically asked if the cost I told him included textbooks, and if not, how much did those cost?) and that he's potentially planning to tell me at dinner next week.

But I don't want reimbursement, I want a raise. I've worked really hard to get where I am; aside from the certification program, I've gone out of my way in the last 6 months to work on property types and deals that I wasn't familiar with, and I've gotten nothing but praise from the loan officers, and have been singled out as well for some praise from the Credit department regarding loan requests I have written up. I now have a wider range of abilities (that is, what types of properties/projects I can work on) than any of our other analysts. I feel like I have a good argument for getting a raise; I just wasn't expecting to possibly have to argue for it in lieu of tuition reimbursement. If that is indeed offered to me, how do I tactfully negotiate my counter-offer? Especially if it's in the middle of a fancy dinner that my boss is paying for. Thanks!
posted by skycrashesdown to Work & Money (5 answers total)
Could you schedule a meeting with your boss in which you preemptively make your request for a raise before this celebratory dinner?
posted by aniola at 6:27 PM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am already very close to the top of the salary range for what I do and how many years of experience I have; if I left the bank for the same job elsewhere, I probably wouldn't be able to make more than $3-5K/year more than I'm making now.

Is the 4k raise you want within your range? Do you have an argument for more responsibility or a promotion? A promotion would be a natural result of completing a degree program, and then the responsibility comes along with it. If you're already at the top of your range, then my concern would be that the degree doesn't appreciably add to the qualifications for your current job. (Though you can naturally always go higher towards the top of the range.) As you describe his reaction, it seems just as likely to me he could be grooming you for promotion-- publicising your degree completion could be part of the anchoring process.

As a manager, if he really is going to offer to pay for the course, he probably went to at least some effort to get the tuition reimbursement approved post facto, so be mindful of that effort. Managers are humans too, and he might honestly be hurt if you turn his offer down and try to ask for something else instead. (Plus, it's generally easier to structure a one-off payment instead of a structural salary payment, so you'd not only be turning him down-- you'd be asking for something more difficult.)

I might try this: "Bob, it's great you're so supportive of my education! I really love what I do, and it helps me a lot to feel more qualified. I would like to talk to you, however, because now that the course is complete I feel ready to take on more responsibility. Can we talk about my career and the future here at FriendlyBank?"

Can you talk to the colleague (former boss) who gave you the advice in the first place?
posted by frumiousb at 6:48 PM on June 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

He's talking you up to higher management and taking you out to dinner and such? It sounds like you are heading for a promotion AND a raise.
posted by rockindata at 7:23 PM on June 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

Most big companies that I'm aware of make you jump through many hoops well before signing up for classes in order to get salary reimbursement, so I'd guess it's more likely he'd be about to give a bonus and/or raise rather than offer straight reimbursement.

Even if you can't get a raise now out of it, if he covers your costs for the program, that's about what you want for this year anyway (it won't help with your 401(k), but it's still pretty close to your end goal). Then use it to press for a raise the next time you have a yearly revue, showing how the skills you acquired in school have improved your personal performance and value to the company. Initiative and learning are important, but the biggest factor in arguing for raises is showing how it's improved your work.
posted by Candleman at 8:13 PM on June 6, 2015 [8 favorites]

If you get reimbursement that doesn't actually preclude a raise. I'm getting a Master's degree, paid for by work, and I fully expect it to enhance my career options (at and out of the company).
posted by Lady Li at 1:26 AM on June 7, 2015

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