In October last year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gave the following advice to his audience at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise.” Here he was specifically addressing the issue of women asking for a raise, going on to say that women who don’t ask for a raise will collect good karma and the “system” will recognise this and reward them. Putting aside the fact that this approach hasn’t historically worked out that well for women, I think that everybody – male or female – should be prepared to ask for a raise if they believe they’ve earned it. Of course, any good boss will recognise and compensate good work, but they tend to be busy people and often don’t see how hard you’re working until you point it out to them. So screw Mr Nadella and the idea that HR deals in karma. Every now and then you need to just put your hand up and ask for more.
The first step in this process is doing your research. Find an online salary calculator and figure out if you’re being paid the industry average or not. This isn’t the be all and end all of whether or not to ask for a raise (i.e. “I want a raise because I’m being paid below average”), but it’s a useful data point to have when you’re building your case. Next, put together a list of your accomplishments at the company. This can be things like being heavily involved in a project which brought in new business, completing some special training, taking on extra duties or anything you feel is going above and beyond your job description. Think very hard about why you feel you deserve a raise, because this is going to be the first thing your boss will ask and you need to be ready to argue your side.
Once you have this all ready, stop and think about the timing. If the company is doing well financially, you’ll be in a better position to ask. If this isn’t the case, if they’ve recently lost clients or been forced to make people redundant, you’re better off not asking, at the risk of making yourself look entitled or out of touch. Also keep in mind that most people don’t get raises until they’ve been with their employer for a year or so. If you’re planning on asking for a raise at your three or six month review, you will need a very very good reason as to why you deserve it.
So you’ve built up a case for yourself, done your research and decided that now is a good time to ask for a raise. Here are a few things to avoid when your bring this up to your boss:
– Comparing your work to others. While you’re explaining why you deserve a raise, only focus on your own work. Don’t point out how you work so much harder than some other person doing the same job, or how someone else in the company with the same job as you gets paid more. Chances are your boss already knows these things, and even if they don’t, none of it is relevant as to why you should get a raise. You’ll only make yourself look petty and judgemental in bringing it up.
– Ask for too much. Don’t go in there with the misguided concept that you can just high ball your boss, before arguing down to another still inflated figure. Most pay raises are between one and five percent, if you tell your boss you’d like some ridiculously high number you’ll only weaken your argument and come across as not knowing what you’re talking about.
– Give overly personal reasons as to why you need the extra money. Everybody goes through times when they’re struggling financially, but none of these concerns should have any weight regarding your salary. Your boss probably is sympathetic to having to cover car repairs or rent hikes or credit card debt. But he or she is not going to take this stuff in to account when deciding what you should get paid, and it isn’t the best judgement to bring it up in that kind of discussion.
And remember that they could still say no. If you do get turned down, ask them what you could do in the future to earn a raise. Avoid making any threats of quitting unless you really mean it – if you say you’ll quit if you don’t get a raise, and then stay on after getting rejected you’ll pretty much lose any future bargaining power.
Asking for money – whether from your boss or a family member – is the worst. It’s stressful and nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and one of the first lessons I’ve learned since leaving uni and starting work is that the best way to get people to realise how great you are is to just tell them you’re great. Obviously do great work and be lovely to people but at the end of the day, most people at work – upper management in particular – are wrapped up in their own stuff and you need to advocate for yourself.