by Anna Kaufman
Asking for a raise can be tough. Even tougher now that the US economy is struggling to rebound after a years-long pandemic and the war in Ukraine which has disrupted the price of everything from grain to fuel. As the job market cools, some employees are asking: Can I still ask for a raise when given more responsibility? How about asking for a raise due to inflation?
The conversation, while sometimes awkward and intimidating, can be a lifeline if you’re feeling undervalued at work, or struggling to make ends meet amid soaring prices.
We asked experts how to approach asking for a raise. Here’s what they had to say.
How to ask for a raise
Follow these simple steps to ensure a professional conversation with your superior about a compensation increase.
1. Do your research.
“Research salary trends, for your position, do a deep dive into the internet, you can find this information.” Paul McDonald, the Senior Executive Director at Robert Half, a human resource consulting firm told USA Today. It’s vital to know ahead of time what your value is on the market today.
This also means understanding the unemployment rate for your specific skillsets McDonald says. “I you do your research; you can find out what your worth is…. then you’re prepared to have a business conversation with your supervisor, ” he explains.
Practice makes perfect. Make sure you’re not making your case for the first time the day of the meeting. “Rehearse with someone that you trust from a professional setting standpoint,” McDonald advises. “A mentor, a peer outside the company, someone that is going to give you feedback and help you practice that conversation.”
3. Acknowledge the fear.
“Understand that most people fear this conversation, from the employee to the employer,” McDonald says. “You’re not alone.” You’re better off acknowledging this fear and understanding that it’s an awkward conversation for all involved, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary or warranted.
4. Initiate the conversation
“Call the meeting and then sit down with the supervisor and say I was just wondering; this has been on my mind.” McDonald says.
5. Be diplomatic.
“Tone of conversation is very important,” McDonald says. “It’s a negotiation so you want to be diplomatic, you want to be empathetic to the other side, because the other side might be going through layoffs.”
If you’ve done your research, you might already know the company is struggling with economic downturn, meaning coming in guns blazing might not be the best approach. It is better instead to acknowledge this diplomatically, and then lay out the data points that still makes a strong case for a wage increase.
“If you’ve done your research to know that you’re in high demand, then you should be confident,” McDonald explains.
6. Draw attention to your work.
If your supervisor oversees a lot of different employees, they may have forgotten your specific successes. Don’t be afraid to highlight them yourself.
“Have your facts about what you’ve done to add value to the organization,” McDonald says. “Quantify that value… and not just by doing your duties fully as expected, but what extra things did you bring?”
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When to ask for a raise
“I always just want to make sure that people understand that it’s never a bad time to ask for a raise, if you know your worth.” McDonald says.
Despite current economic conditions, if you are confident of your value on the market and are aware your salary is not in line with that, you are entitled to open and honest and frank conversation with your boss about compensation.
When the economic suffers, the same general rules apply, with one caveat. McDonald advises that if annual or bi-annual raises were the standard at your company, economic downturn might mean you won’t be awarded the wage increase, but the communication is still owed.
“Regardless of economic times, if you’ve been promised an annual increase and there’s been no communication, then it’s incumbent upon you as an employee to diplomatically ask, ‘may I have that conversation?'” he explains. You might not like the news, but it’s well within your rights to ask.
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How much of a raise should I ask for?
There is no specific, standardized number that can be used across industries and positions.
This is where the research component becomes important. Tools like Glassdoor and Indeed can be used to find the market value of your position in under current economic conditions and that data can then be used to help you decide on an appropriate percentage increase.
It is also not always wise to overshoot, McDonald says. Rather than ask for more than you think is possible and land somewhere more realistic, it is better to ask for what you think is appropriate right off the bat. Chances are your boss has the same research you have, McDonald points out, and if you ask for 20% when you know 10% is closer to market value, they may take offense, and go on the defensive.
“You may anger them,” he explains, “and that’s not a good strategy, I’ve not seen it work well.”
How to ask for a raise due to inflation
Prices are high. It may be that with soaring inflation, you feel your salary has not caught up.
The same rules apply when asking for a raise due to inflation: do your research, rehearse, and be diplomatic.
In line with that ethos, you should feel empowered to ask your boss for a cost-of-living adjustment so that your pay is in line with the current economic state.
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What should you not say when asking for a raise?
McDonald advises that it is always safer not to start off on an antagonistic note. Diplomacy is key. “It’s a negotiation, not a hard demand. It’s not a good strategy going hard demand in these times for anytime,” he explains.
Threatening to leave, especially if you’re not willing to, is also a risky strategy. It might lead a company to believe you already have one foot out the door, McDonald says.
Instead, leading with external facts about the salary trends for your position, and its market worth, as well as internal data points around your specific value to the company can have more efficacy.
“If you go through all that, you have a really strong business case,” he explains.
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