Asking for a Raise: When is The Right Time
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Many workers can walk across the street to their company’s competition to apply and get a lateral job making ten percent more than their current position. A non-compete contract clause is a likely obstacle, and ignoring it brings consequences. Then again, some companies wouldn’t bother because it’s not worth the trouble with workers leaving in large numbers.
Workers will change jobs because the 10% to 15% increase (without negotiating) is significantly more than what they’ll receive during annual or performance review raises. The savvy and prepared job candidates get more because they’re ready to advocate for themselves. Understanding the market rate and articulating their value sets them apart in getting the most from employers.
The rise in companies conducting “stay interviews” responds to retaining employees and not losing them to “The Great Resignation.” The stay interview is not new, but it’s trending upward with companies using the conversations to find out why an employee would leave or stay. Employees are known to initiate this conversation, often wanting to see if they matter.
When Not To Ask For a Pay Raise
In summer 2021, respondents to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey stated they were given raises as a response to higher turnover from employees leaving. There is information one needs to understand before asking for a raise. You don’t want to sound tone-deaf, so there are a few things to consider:
- The company’s financial condition—from sources at your fingertips—will help determine the best time to ask. Your CEO could announce hardships through the media, board meetings, or financial reports. Your boss could also mention if there were cutbacks because of resignations.
- If there is talk of hardship with increasing workloads, there might be an opportunity to ask for a pay raise.
- If there has been an announcement of recent layoffs, furloughs, hiring freezes, or major cutbacks of services and products of the company’s brand.
- Following a bad performance review is the worst time of all to ask for a raise. Documented performance standards show where you failed and the areas needed to improve. Use the documentation as a roadmap for improvement.
- Unions represent workers to intercede on their behalf. An individual who pays union dues cannot ask for a raise under their agreement. When there is a strike, they are often about compensation, and there’s no room for the union member to advocate for himself.
- You are likely to get a raise in companies that offer raises across the board.
- Don’t ask before you’ve prepared. Gather quantitative data that supports your effort.
There are landmines to look for that could prolong or cancel the ask. A supervisor or employer may say no to any raise request, but an existing bad relationship makes it difficult to even ask. If there are personal reasons for ill feelings, those emotions will become likely catalysts for denial. Since timing is critical, efforts to repair the relationship combined with good work give you a better chance of asking for a raise after things appear smoothed out.
Another landmine to be aware of is when raises are predetermined by company leadership as to who receives the highest percentages. Leadership allocates a higher percentage increase to a few top performers while the remainder of employees on a team may receive a low percentage increase.
Preparing To Ask For a Pay Raise
Once you determine it’s time to ask for a raise, it’s time to be prepared with data. There’s an advantage to knowing the track record of employees who’ve asked for raises with your boss. It wouldn’t hurt if you knew past employees that asked. Otherwise, the support of data and performance will drive your case to earn a raise. Thorough research will include local, regional, and national data for your position. This information may especially be valuable since companies such as Google announced pay cuts for remote workers to match their salary to their local market.
Here are data references to help you design talking points to present to your boss:
- Payscale, Glassdoor, and Salary.com have research resources, including yearly U.S. data.
- The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) publishes an Occupational Outlook Handbook.
- Career One Stop has local research data by state.
- Past performance reviews which show you met and exceeded expectations.
- Talk to people in other companies in your industry by asking what’s the range for their position without asking about their current personal salary.
Best Times To Ask For a Pay Raise
Uncertainty of the economy moves companies to continue managing finances conservatively. Just as there are times when you shouldn’t ask for a raise, there are positive clues to listen for which will indicate opportunities for you to ask for a raise:
- You hear the company’s financial health is good.
- Demonstrate you are saving the company or department time, money, or a created resource.
- You are recognized for an exceptional contribution.
- A glowing performance review where the vibe resonates around the company or throughout the department. There are streams of client recommendations, and internal commendations can provide an opportunity to ride the wave.
- A hiring surge is announced internally or externally or through the media.
You want to create an amicable tone to the meeting, so scheduling it and being clear about your intentions will provide an opportunity for conversation and honesty. You are making a request, not a command, so your tone must be tempered. Your goal is to inform, not to incite.
No Often Means “Not Yet”
Even if your relationship with the company is good and you’re prepared with performance data, you will need more than one conversation. Unless you work for a startup company where the only decision-maker is the founder, expect the process to require approval from other personnel. Preparation must include anticipation of a lengthy process and patience.
There are many reasons your boss may say no. There’s also an opportunity to get a “maybe” if it’s a conversation where the worker and boss agree on the value of the work. All is not lost if a plan or roadmap is established with clear benchmarks and dates to review. The best approach is to make the conversation an ongoing process and where your achievements can remain in front of management.
The other advantage of continuing the conversation past the first no is that you’ll know where your performance stands. The accessibility you provide your boss offers opportunities for immediate feedback so you can respond quickly and correct your actions. You demonstrate a willingness to learn, increase responsiveness, and potentially lift your reputation.
Upgrade Benefits Instead of Wages
Some companies can offer rewards other than salary increases for good performance. A young worker would value receiving mentorship, while an older worker would find value in a flexible schedule and more time off. For many parents, remote work might solve a financial and parental burden by easing daycare concerns. Here are some options to ask for instead of a pay raise:
- Vacation or Personal Time Off (PTO) is a valuable commodity
- Work remotely or hybrid
- Attend industry conferences, workshops, or training
- An apprenticeship, in a department the worker aspires to work
- Fitness memberships
Pay Raises Take Time
It is easy to grow weary when asking for a pay raise because planning and getting proper approvals take time. Not only is it necessary to produce quality work and not get distracted while waiting for the raised approval, but also to not let it affect your attitude toward coworkers and management. Any hint of entitlement or a lack of patience could complicate your chances.
Just as you are looking for any opportunity to increase your chances of a raise, your employer will consider reasons not to offer you one. When your work simply meets expectations instead of exceeds them, you fit in with coworkers instead of standing out.
You can do everything right, from researching to how you handle your request. You may be told “no” due to other factors. Finalizing the conversation makes it harder to get a raise later. Think of your request as a continuing conversation. Even if you’re approved for a raise after the first request, continue the conversation throughout the next six months to a year.