Well, you asked your boss and the answer was “no.” So you’re not getting a raise after all. And it’s probably not a big secret that many employers would rather not give them at all. Or at least avoid / delay them as much as possible. Even knowing that pay increases are great for morale — and can help motivate people.
Oh, I know there are those special bosses who enjoy seeing your face light up when they tell you you’re getting a raise. But I bet not too many of you have that boss — and if you do, please let me know because I just might want to work there.
But for the rest of you, getting a raise becomes an intricate dance between you and your employer. A dance for which you should begin preparing the moment you start your job. Why start so soon?
What you shouldn’t expect
You can’t expect to just go to your boss and tell them you are worth more money without having a lot to back you up. Of course, some places do have raises built in as a normal part of business. But even them the amount of the raise might be negotiable.
And then there are those bosses who promise you a raise and don’t follow through. When that happens, you will need to have laid the groundwork well in advance to help make your case. Or at least try!
So, although I’m basically a pacifist, here’s some helpful ammunition you can tuck under your belt when you finally do make your move:
Laying groundwork for getting a raise
- Have you taken on more that your expected share of work? Have you done a good job?
- Do you remember to let your boss know you’re doing a good job?
Note: It’s far more effective to express enthusiasm as you tell your boss how things went rather than just saying “I did a good job.” While someone who is really good gets noticed anyway, sometimes it helps to do a little of your own public relations. Just do it sparingly and with as much modesty and subtlety as possible!
- Have you asked to take on special projects — and done well?
- Do you always have a good attitude, or are you a whiner. Or worse yet, a blame freak?
- When you tell your boss about a problem, do you also come with solutions?
- Do you anticipate problems and solve them before they even take root?
- Have you found a way to save the company money?
More things that can help
- Have you thought of a better way of doing things and presented your ideas to your boss? When you make presentations of any sort, do you put them on paper and make them as attractive as possible?
- Do you make an extra effort to make sure whatever you produce looks great? Going the extra mile always a good thing — and helps solidify impressions of your value to the company.
- Are you someone who is pleasant to be around and makes the workday easier for your boss and your coworkers?
- When problems arise, do you roll up your sleeves and pitch in with a good attitude? No one wants a Chicken Little screaming the sky is falling. And no one wants an ostrich hiding his or her head in the ground until the all clear sounds.
Other factors affecting your chances
Now to get back to the issue of raises. There are many contributing factors to getting a raise. Some of which have nothing to do with you. It’s worth taking time to understand all of that. But that said, I’d like to rephrase the thought: “What can YOU do to make your boss want to give you a raise?”
If for whatever reason a raise is not possible right now, ask your boss as directly and with as much good humor and confidence as possible what you can do to earn a raise. Remember to look them right in the eyes.
If possible, ask to set measurable goals with your boss so you can see how you’re doing. And also so you have evidence of your accomplishments. Above all, before approaching your boss to discuss a raise either now or in the future. And make sure you really believe you deserve one. Self-doubt kills a negotiation faster than anything.
Of course, there are situations where you’ve done all you can and still no raise coming, either now or in the future. And if this is not something you can live with, then you might want to start looking around.
Sometimes you have to go elsewhere to get that raise and recognition you deserve. But sometimes, once you start looking around and see what else is out there, you find you don’t have it so bad after all.
[Article updated in 2020]
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.
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