5 Things You Need Before Asking For A Raise
Picture this: you’ve been in the company for a decade now, seeing through its highs and lows. You look back on the contributions you’ve made and the accolades you’ve received from your colleagues. Because of that, you believe you deserve a reward other than applause and praise. What better way than a raise?
Now might be as good of a time as any to negotiate for a higher salary. According to a recent study, the median salary increase budget in the United States has gone up by 3% in 2021, consistent with rates over the past ten years. The increase is also consistent over various types of employees—namely, executive, exempt from overtime, non-exempt hourly, and non-exempt salaried.
All the more that a raise becomes more crucial, as the same study also points out that inflation will reduce real wages. As such, you wouldn’t want a little but a significant salary increase to stay afloat. If you play your cards right, you can see an increase of between 3% and 5%; as unremarkable as it seems, it can build up over time.
Getting approved for a raise requires a bit of preparation on your part. Here’s a detailed list of what you need, tangible and intangible, to help make your case to your superiors:
The courage to ask
The first requirement is arguably the most important but difficult to do—mustering the courage to ask for a raise. Workers are afraid of one of two things: getting their request rejected after asking outright or, worse, realising that they’re way over their head in doing so. But the longer they put it off, the more miserable they grow and more likely to leave for greener pastures.
If you find yourself doubting whether or not you qualify for a raise, keep in mind that seeking a safer lifestyle is human nature. Piling bills, a growing household, cost of goods rising—any of these can put you in danger if not managed with enough finances. The misery brought about by these problems will eventually seep into your work ethic, whether you notice it or not.
The labour market and economy have also transformed significantly over the past century. A middle-aged person making USD$40,000 a year was considered successful during the baby boomer generation. However, inflation and other factors made this figure a starting salary for millennials and gen X-ers in most of today’s industries.
Given how judgmental most people can get today, it becomes all the more important to show courage. If you start hearing gossip about how you’re “only in for the money,” remember that everyone else is no different. You have to make ends meet because you still want to keep living in a cosy home and eat good food—those are just basic human needs.
Also read: 6 Talent Acquisition Strategies For Startups
Your market worth
Even if you’ve mustered enough courage to ask, you can’t just enter your superior’s office and throw a random figure at them. The next necessity will be data—and lots of it. Figures supported by research will make your case appear more legitimate; most employers can’t deny the fact that they’re paying you below the industry standard.
When researching these details, keep in mind that it won’t necessarily result in your new salary aligning with the data. You can find out that an information analyst usually earns USD$100,000 a year, but that’s only under ideal conditions. You’ll be lucky if your employer agrees to a raise amid some significant cost-cutting.
With that said, here are some valuable sources of data:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics website keeps a comprehensive overview of national and state average wage data of over 800 occupations in 400 industries. As they’re averages, these figures alone won’t be enough to make your case.
Online calculators enable users to input their information, like base salary and length of service, to determine their market worth. These tools tend to be more accurate than data tables that only list figures that hardly take real-life factors into account.
Talking with your co-workers about your pay also yields valuable information, but only if the terms of your employment don’t prohibit it. Also, talking about it can be awkward to most, so choose the right time and place to do so.
Asking your immediate superior yields results, but avoid being overly antagonistic about it. Experts advise speaking in a tone that promotes collaboration. Present your data, ask a few questions, and avoid pushing your luck too far.
Also read: Employee Motivation Strategies
A one-year wait
The next step is to ask yourself this question: “When was the last time I asked for a raise?” If it’s been a year since then, it’s okay to raise the issue again.
One year is the default time because a lot can happen over such a period. Aside from changes in average salary data and economic policies, most employers evaluate their workers’ performance every year. A stellar performance record increases the chances of your request for a raise getting the green light.
However, there are exceptions to the one-year rule of thumb. For example, if the manager said to come back in a few months, you naturally need to follow it up. Never ask for a raise more than once a year, as doing so won’t look good on your image. Also, most employers won’t ask if you want a raise; you’ll have to choose the right circumstance carefully.
Also read: 6 Employee Engagement Strategies
A formal letter
With the information gathered so far, you’ll need to formalise your request for a raise through a letter. While negotiating in person should be the way to go (more on this later), sending a letter can work out in various situations.
As mentioned earlier, discussing your salary may or may not be an option for you, depending on the terms of employment. One survey shows that nearly 3 out of 10 workers don’t feel safe about discussing their salaries. In this case, a letter helps keep the request limited to the employer and the employee.
Below is a sample letter (body only):
Since starting five years ago, I have enjoyed working at ABC Company as a senior sales specialist. As such, I’ve made significant contributions to the company by achieving the following goals in the previous sales year:
Increased revenue by 15% by sealing two (2) major deals
Spent a total of 80 work hours training new sales staff
Consistently ranked the best performing sales staff over the year
Given these achievements, I believe I have gone above and beyond the company’s initial expectations. Therefore, I would appreciate an opportunity to discuss the possibility of increasing my pay by 5%, commensurate with my performance and industry standards.
Should you have any further inquiries, please do not hesitate to inform me. Again, I am more than eager to continue helping the company achieve its goals.
Thank you for your time. I eagerly await your favourable response.
The example above is short but straightforward, answering two key questions that concern any request for a raise. The first half outlines what the employee has achieved over the previous year. The second half details the requested rate of increase based on the employee’s performance and current salary data.
You can send the letter in one of two ways—hard copy or email. If sending as a hard copy, don’t forget to include the sender and receiver’s name, address, and contact info. If sending via email, there’s no need to include said details, but make sure to have an appropriate subject line.
The downside of a formal request letter is that your superior doesn’t need to respond right away. If the long wait doesn’t bother you, use the lull to do more research to strengthen your case.
A compelling script
If your superior sets a date and time for a meeting after receiving the letter, be ready to answer the toughest questions. Prepare a script that contains persuasive arguments as to why a raise is the best option moving forward.
Your superior has most likely read your letter, but start your script by detailing the specifics. As much as possible, limit words that can undermine your position (e.g., believe, think, feel, only). You wouldn’t want to appear half hearted when asking for a raise because that would also make your superior just as uncertain.
Include in your script answers to possible follow-up questions. Expect a higher probability of getting a lower rate of increase, if not rejected outright, in saying your piece. In this case, ask your superior how you can achieve your desired salary increase by your next attempt.
No matter how the dialogue went, always end by thanking your superior for going out of their way to at least hear you out.
No one believes asking for a raise will be easy. While it may be beneficial for you, a raise means the company will be spending more to pay you. With the right circumstances and arguments, you can justify your case for an increase and still be on good terms with your employer.
When receiving your pay stubs you may also consider alternative pay stub generators and how they can help you when it comes to your payroll queries.