How to Ask for a Raise at Work: Four Questions to Consider
“In order to G-E-T you have to A-S-K.” This was the one-liner that stuck with me following Brooks Harper’s keynote address at the Vermont Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Workforce and Talent Summit. He has a fascinating life story that helped set him up for a career as an author and one of the most sought-after career speakers in the country. But he makes a point to emphasize that he never got anything along the way without asking. It’s a modern-day spin on the old adage, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” It applies to many facets of our lives and, in this blog, we’re going to focus on A-S-K-ing for a raise at work.
WHY ARE YOU ASKING FOR A RAISE?
Before you A-S-K, it’s important to understand W-H-Y you are asking for a raise in the first place. Of course, many of us would like to make more money at our job or in our career but your request needs to be valid (buzzword: business case) for it to have a reasonable chance of being approved. While you may be faced with personal financial challenges such as meeting basic needs or temporary hardship, those don’t necessarily correlate to or qualify you for the raise you plan to ask for. It’s helpful to understand what is behind this desire for a raise and to then perform a self-evaluation, or audit of sorts so that you can clearly articulate the business case to G-E-T that raise you’re asking for.
WHY DO YOU DESERVE A RAISE?
Before you schedule that meeting with your manager, let’s review some things to consider as you prepare to convey why you deserve the raise you’re asking for.
- Does your employer have a regular rhythm for evaluating salary adjustments/increases?
- Are you eligible for an annual pay increase as part of a review process? If so, how are you evaluated and how is the increase determined?
- Does your employer use a third-party consultant or software to evaluate the appropriate market rate for your position?
Many organizations already have a process in place to review an employee’s compensation at a specific time, often annually as part of a performance review. If this is the approach your employer takes, it may make sense to wait until your next review so you don’t catch your manager off guard. If it’s been some time since your pay was last reviewed or you’ve recently taken on new responsibilities or just completed a large project, you can use this as an opportunity to have that conversation. Other things to consider regarding the timing include your employer’s budget cycle and when the busier or more stressful times of the year are for your organization. Being mindful of your timing can potentially limit added tension for everyone involved.
If you opt to request a raise as part of your annual review, you should understand how your performance is being evaluated and how that impacts any compensation decisions. The more specificity that you can get about how your objectives and goals are measured, the better you can understand if and how you qualify for a pay increase.
Whether your review is approaching, or you choose to have this conversation at another time, you should begin by auditing your job description. Your pay is directly tied to specific responsibilities and value-adds you provide to your employer.
Auditing your job description involves reviewing the stated duties and responsibilities of the position against the work you are actually performing on a daily basis. If there are discrepancies, this is a good time to address those, and you may qualify for additional compensation. Beware of, “Perform additional duties as assigned.” This can sometimes be a catch-all for tasks others don’t want to do or new responsibilities as they come up. It’s important to be a team player and it’s fair to speak up if “additional duties” increase your responsibilities significantly.
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Once you are confident that your job description accurately represents the work you do, you can move on to researching the market rate for a similar position in the broader workforce. There are multiple ways in which pay ranges are benchmarked; two of the more common ways are via paid third-party tools or through web-based tools freely available to the public. VSECU uses a third-party product to identify the appropriate market rate for each of its positions and create competitive, equitable pay ranges based on that information. If your employer uses a similar tool, it is important to understand how your pay ranges are calculated and what is required to advance within the range for your position.
There are a variety of other free, easily accessible tools to help people understand the market for their position. For example, Glassdoor has a Know Your Worth Calculator, Salary.com allows you to research your specific position in its Salary Wizard, and Indeed has its own Salary Calculator.
You’re sure to see variances between any of these products and websites, based on several factors. One of the most significant factors is which of the two types of salary data is used to generate these estimates: data reported by Human Resources (HR) or crowd-sourced data.
Tools using HR-reported data are often considered to be more accurate, as that information is based on verified pay ranges reported by multiple HR departments. Crowd-sourced data can sometimes be less reliable because it lacks any verification process. However, when accurate, it can often be a better reflection of the market because the data is current in comparison to HR-reported data that is often gathered quarterly, annually, or even less frequently.
You’ve performed a self-evaluation, audited your job description, and researched the market data; all that’s left to do is A-S-K for your raise!
HOW DO YOU A-S-K?
One-on-one conversations may not be the most comfortable setting for you, especially when asking for ‘more,’ but this is a conversation best had in person. Have confidence in your reasoning and preparation!”
Sure, you could submit your request by email (that seems awfully formal), or you could schedule a Zoom meeting (I think we’ve all had enough of those). But remember, experts say between 55% and 93% of communication is non-verbal.
Meeting in person will humanize the conversation for both you and your manager, will allow for more free-flowing conversation (preventing, “You’re on mute.”), and you’ll be able to pick up on those non-verbal cues, which can give you a better sense of how your request is received.
WHAT DO YOU DO NEXT?
At the conclusion of your conversation, ask your manager for feedback on your request and insight into their decision-making process. In some cases, such as for annual performance reviews, managers will have already consulted with HR and may have a formal compensation adjustment ready for you on the spot! Chances are, though, your manager will express appreciation for your contributions to the organization and need to consult with their manager(s) or HR further, especially if this conversation falls outside of the traditional compensation review rhythm. When they aren’t able to give you a decision/raise on the spot, it’s reasonable to request scheduling a follow-up meeting which will help keep things within a specific timeline.
If ultimately, your request is denied, there are some additional questions you can ask. Is there disagreement about your job description and/or the work you’re performing? Are there any concrete metrics you can aim for within your job to position yourself for a future raise? Does your employer have any formal career path options that, if you were to upskill, you would be eligible for and thus earn more money?
Depending on the answers to these questions, you may be faced with a difficult decision. Based on your research, preparation, and responsibilities, if you truly feel you are deserving of compensation above and beyond what you are currently receiving, do you stay with your current employer or do you consider alternatives?
So long as you have considered multiple perspectives, done the appropriate research, and prepared for the conversation, you should have no regrets about requesting a raise. After all, “In order to G-E-T, you have to A-S-K!”
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