How to Get a Raise

moneyDear Ann,

I need your advice about how to start the conversation about getting a raise at work. I was recently reassigned, and that has increased my workload and requires way more of my time. I feel like I am doing more work, and I am not being compensated well. Add to that, I personally know that my colleagues (who have less responsibility than I do) get paid more money. Please help, what do I do?

Yolanda L.

Dear Yolanda,

Your situation brings me back! I faced the same situation in my first job after finishing my PhD coursework at New York University, before starting on my dissertation. I took a job as editor of a trade magazine, to start paying off those student loans. I enjoyed the work; it didn’t pay very well, but nothing in journalism ever did. Then one day I found out that the worthless advertising guy, fresh out of college, who spent most of his day gossiping his way from desk to desk, made more money than I! At that very moment, I left work for the day, stopped at the drugstore downstairs to buy a notebook, and went to the research library to begin my dissertation.

But I bet you’d rather get a raise.

First, let me shout, “Hooray!” You know your worth, and you’re not willing to settle for being de-valued, and maybe even exploited. If more women had your chutzpah, we’d be making more than 77 cents on every dollar earned by our male counterparts.

But I bet you’re rather hear how to get that raise.

Okay, so here’s how to build a winning campaign:

1.Take time to wind down your emotions. Give yourself enough time to cycle through whatever anger or frustration you may be feeling. Those emotions are absolutely valid and deserve to be honored (in private!), but they will only get in the way of planning and executing your campaign. Research, strategy, and action require a clear head.

2.Read up. Specifically, take a look at Ask for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, a terrific how-to manual by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. Not only will it provide you with a broader perspective on your situation, it will also give you detailed, concrete advice about how to rehearse your negotiating skills before the “big ask.”

3.Do your research. Gather credible evidence about comparative salaries to your own title: 1. within your organization, 2. at your company’s close competitors, and 3. industry-wide. Anecdotal information from friends and colleagues doesn’t count. You need to be able to unequivocally document for your boss from unimpeachable sources how your salary compares with those of your peers. Also, this will communicate to your boss that you’re serious, and won’t be appeased by sweet talk or vague claims.

4.Quantify your contributions to the organization. This may be the most important, and challenging, step in the process. How can you demonstrate your worth to the organization–in the terms that are meaningful to the organization? In other words, how does your boss measure your contributions to the bottom line of the business? Those are the metrics you need to use. That may mean things such as: number of clients, percentage of sales, reduction in costs, size of projects, completion time, etc. In other words, find a way to measure your value to the company. (And, BTW, from now on you should be calculating these metrics on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. That way, you will be able to articulate your value to the organization on a moment’s notice!)

5.Time it right. How and when are raises and promotions decided at your office? Is there a specific time of the year, and a prescribed process? Or do they happen on a rolling basis? Depending upon that schedule, time your conversation with your boss accordingly. If that time is still six months out, you can still schedule a discussion with your boss, presenting your case and asking what more you need to do in the next six months to meet the criteria for the raise or promotion. Bosses never like to be surprised, so letting her know in advance that you have a goal gives you an advantage.

6.Make your case. Set up a formal meeting with your boss, and let her know ahead of time what’s on your agenda. Once there, state what salary you think is appropriate, and tell her why, in terms of comparative salaries for your title and in terms of your contributions to the organization. Conclude by restating what salary you think accurately reflects your contributions, and ask for her response. Don’t argue, or get defensive. Use questions as a way to probe for more information without appearing “pushy.” Ask for clarifications and specifics. For example: “I understand that there is no money for salary increases right now. When should I check back with you?” Or: “I understand that you want me to improve my skills. Can you tell me specifically which areas I need to improve, and to what level?”) As you leave, make a statement that sums up what you understand as the outcome, and ask if you’ve got it right. An informal followup email reiterating the agreement and any next steps will keep your request in play.

7.Update your resume. If the organization doesn’t respond positively to the case you make, it may be time to leave. Sometimes (and especially for young women) you may need to join a different organization in order to be taken seriously as someone more valuable than the new young thing who landed in the office at the entry level. Their loss.

The more dispassionate you can be, the more confident and powerful your request will be. At best, your boss will apologize for the gross oversight and rectify it immediately. At worst, you’ll be that much better at negotiating your starting salary with your next employer.

Photo by AMagill

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