I need a raise but I don't know how to ask.
May 1, 2008 12:52 PM   Subscribe

I need a raise, but I'm not used to asking for them and I'm really bad at it when I do. Help?

I've been working professionally for 10 years now, but eight years have been with the same company. I've only gotten one raise in that time. The company I work for is small (12 people) and is subject to the whims of the economy, almost a canary-in-the-coal-mine, so nobody here is rich. Doubly so with the recent economic turmoil.

I have gotten bonuses in the past, some of them have been very generous, so I don't believe that my lack of remuneration is based on poor performance. Also, I'm the only employee in a critical position in our workflow and nearly irreplaceable due to the time I've spent in the company.

I really don't know much about how to play at business though. I go to work, sit at my desk, do my job, go home. I don't know how to jockey for position, politick, go for promotions or ask for raises. Consequentially, I rarely get any of those things. I'm used to doing my job until somebody hands me a raise in recognition of my good work but that hasn't happened for a couple of years.

So how do I ask for a raise? How do I ask at a time when everybody is having to tighten their belts?
posted by lekvar to Work & Money (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Eight years with one raise is an incredibly long period of time. My advice would be to request a performance review and, presuming that goes well and they tell you what a great job you're doing, let them know that it has been some time since your pay was increased. They can't really say you don't deserve it but they can say that they can't afford it.

And don't, don't, don't plead with them for a raise. It just comes off badly and will leave both sides feeling cornered, you'll feel like they don't value you and they'll feel like you're whining.

When I negotiated my last raise, I put together some numbers to demonstrate my value to the company, how much money I'd saved the company and more. My boss was a total skinflint and told me to go find another job and then I kept working there for another couple of years and got a HUGE raise the next year (25% increase). Later she stole $5k from me and I walked.

Good luck and go into the negotiations with the mindset that you deserve the raise based on your service and value to the company.
posted by fenriq at 1:15 PM on May 1, 2008

Best answer: As strange as this may sound, I have heard people who study this kind of thing say that coming in with figures, etc. is the least effective way to do it. The best way to get a raise is to humbly and simply -- ask for a raise. Also, we have to keep in mind that all bosses are different, so take this for what its worth.

The lady I saw at a seminar said that something along the lines of, "I am good at a lot of things and work hard at my job - but I'm not particularly good at this; but it's time I get this out. I have worked here for X years and believe it's time for a bump in the paycheck. So, I am asking for a raise and hope you'll consider it based on my performance and the years I have been here. There you go - I told you I wasn't good at this, but I really felt it was time to ask."

At first, she said, that may sound flippant and weak. But actually it is disarming, human, honest and doesn't put the boss in a defensive mode, as they might be when confronted with figures and charts about how much the person means to the company. According to this lady - it works more often than the well prepared and well researched pitch.

Like I said, take it for what its worth, but I thought it an interesting perspective.

Good luck!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 1:46 PM on May 1, 2008

Perhaps your could interview for other jobs to gauge your market value. If your current company knows you are looking around and they value your work, they will jump through hoops to make sure you get market value.

Managers understand that they have you pay competitively to retain talent.

So I'd say the first step is to figure out how much you're worth.
posted by albolin at 2:08 PM on May 1, 2008

If you're any good at what you do, you should be able to ask for, and get, a nominal raise every 12-18 months.

If your company is stingy or doesn't understand this most basic of employee retention practices, you shouldn't be working there unless there is some other major non-financial benefit to you.

End of story. No other excuses. People work for money, and employers understand this. Don't let them make you think you owe them a few years of skipped raises out of some sense of camaraderie or altruism. You don't.

There are two ways to go about getting a raise, in my opinion. Either you just ask, or you find another job, give your notice, and see what you get in response. Be prepared to take the other job if "what you get" is nothing.

Other responses here which outline different words you can say in the process of asking are all very appropriate. What I wanted to add is that you should never feel bad about asking. Employers use that feeling to their advantage, as yours appears to be doing in this case. Asking for a raise is not playing politics or jockeying for position; it's just asking for a raise. It happens all the time.

In the future, when interviewing for jobs, consider asking up front what their policy or timeline for "salary and performance reviews" is. If they don't have one, don't work there.
posted by autojack at 2:28 PM on May 1, 2008

One way to get a "raise" is to get a new job with a higher salary.
posted by mikewas at 2:34 PM on May 1, 2008

I have found that expressing a desire for a raise is more effective than expressing a need for a raise.
posted by bz at 11:44 PM on May 1, 2008

If you're in a critical position, then threaten to quit (and mean it - e.g., get a job offer at higher $). Worked for me. Worked really well.
posted by coffeefilter at 1:31 AM on May 2, 2008

Best answer: nthing this: Don't think of a raise as something you ask for. A raise is where you tell your boss "The amount of money I charge for my services has changed. It went up, because I provide a valuable service."
posted by hAndrew at 1:33 AM on May 2, 2008

If you're in a critical position, then threaten to quit (and mean it - e.g., get a job offer at higher $). Worked for me. Worked really well.

No. Speaking as a manager, this is a terrible "win the battle, lose the war" move. It's essentially blackmail, whether the increase is actually justified or not. If someone in a critical position who worked for me used this tactic as anything but a last resort, I'd give you the raise but quickly move to marginalize and take responsibility away from you until you became expendable.
posted by mkultra at 8:03 AM on May 2, 2008

The best advice is to show how you've become more valuable since the last time your pay was evaluated/adjusted. Tenure should mean nothing as it relates to salary - itemize the things you've learned, additional duties you've taken on, processes you've improved and use those as discussion points.

It's also good to know your value, so ask around of others in similar capacities about what their salary ranges are for similar positions.

DO NOT THREATEN TO QUIT. You can indicate that you enjoy your work, the company, co-workers and anticipate working there for a long time but also expect to be compensated for the value you bring to the company. Threatening to quit makes you look unreasonable and only focused on yourself. They also may take you up on the offer, depending on your employer.
posted by Twicketface at 10:59 AM on May 2, 2008

Response by poster: I used the info in this thread and asked my boss for more money, and he was receptive. Thanks, these are all good answers; I marked the ones I used this time, but all of the answers gave me something to work with.
posted by lekvar at 10:17 AM on May 11, 2008

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