How to Ask for a Raise

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“I need a raise,” my coaching client is telling me. “So, I let my boss know that I needed to make more money. The bills are piling up, and…”

Are you looking for more money at your company? What’s the secret to getting a raise – how do you find the wages you deserve?

When asking for a raise, you have to remember who you are talking to

Asking for a Raise“Know your audience” is perhaps the best rule of thumb for any communication. When it comes to your salary, it’s crucial to understand your audience for this most-critical elevator pitch. According to this jobs report, unemployment is improving steadily and there are recent gains in underemployment as well.

So, perhaps the time is right for you to build your case – and create your pitch – so that you can get that extra salary bump. The economic climate is a huge factor in your ability to improve your wages, but not the only one. No amount of magic can trump weak corporate performance, but if you want to give yourself every opportunity to win, here’s what you need to know before you ask for a raise.

When you are asking for a salary raise, you will find that your boss turns into The Career Restricting Robot

Let me explain:

Bills go up, and your salary doesn’t, and that’s a rough patch. Often it creates an emotionally-charged situation, and those emotions can boil over into your conversation.

When you ask for a raise, that request is always phrased in terms of what you need – more money. It’s a simple equation, but your emotions can complicate things. Especially when you are talking to a Robot.

You open the dialogue with your needs, and the response will be a robotic variation on this theme:

  • “We have a policy against raises, due to the current economy/company performance/the color of the sky/the amount of nitrogen in the atmosphere/you name it, you won’t get it.”
  • “I’d like a raise, too! But that’s just not in the cards right now”
  • “Let me quote you chapter and verse from the employee handbook, or quarterly report, or last week’s sales numbers, to show you that a raise is out of the question.”

One of the key themes of The NEW Elevator Pitch is to create a solution that’s phrased in terms of your listener. If your “I need a raise” conversation is focused only on your needs, the Robot can not respond.

That’s because the robot is only programmed to respond to the needs of the organization.

The organization needs lower costs (not increased salaries). The Robot’s prime directive is profitability. Therefore, the organization needs to minimize your salary, if possible, while still keeping you productive and engaged.

So, how do you pitch your salary needs to the Robot?

You have to focus on what the Robot needs (in other words, what the organization needs – which is greater performance from you, more results, more productivity, and increased efficiency. These are terms that every Robot understands). If you want to get a raise, here are the four things you must convincingly convey to the Robot:

    1. I’ve accomplished a lot in the past, and I believe I can accomplish even more in the future. Credibility is important – if your last performance review was sub-par, you’re in for a difficult conversation because the Robot knows the numbers. Make sure you have some performance results that justify the request you are about to make.
    2. Here’s what I am going to do for you, and for the company. Build your business case in simple terms that a Robot can understand. Outline your new responsibilities, and your new contribution. In the Robot’s mind, more money for the same performance goes against its programming. Fortunately, the Robot understands that greater results can involve greater investment. Unemotional and detached, the Robot doesn’t care about your car payment, wife’s surgery, or kids’ tuition. Your personal stuff is your business, but your contribution to the company is of interest to the Robot. Clearly state how you will improve your contribution, and you improve your chances for a raise.
    3. Let’s work together to create these results. Does the Robot agree that the results are important to the organization? Does the Robot believe you can deliver? If the answers so far are “Yes”, you have arrived at the “Tell me more…” result that you are looking for. Now it’s time to ask for the raise.
    4. Would you be willing to discuss a salary increase of $X, as part of these new deliverables?Be silent and listen carefully. Does the Robot understand fairness? Does the Robot understand your value to the organization? Since Robots deal with facts and figures, you should present a dollar figure for your raise that is clear and in-line with realistic, industry-accepted standards. (Your request for a raise needs to be expressed with a number. If you get agreement on the dollar figure, the next number you need is the date of when the raise becomes effective.) Remember, you are phrasing your needs in terms of what you can do for the organization. That phrasing has to be realistic, achievable, and fair. You can’t throw out a number that is inflated or ridiculous. You might as well ask the Robot for a pony, or a new car, or a massage. Being unrealistic is a non-starter in this elevator pitch. Most Robots understand fairness, and a business equation that looks like this:

      Results for the company = Cost of those results

    If you can phrase your value equation in terms of what you are going to do, in a way that is believable and achievable, you have earned the right to appeal to the Robot’s sense of fairness. That’s the first step in getting closer to the raise you deserve.

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