If your New Year's resolutions involved adding zeros to the end of your pay check, you're in good company. A CareerBuilder survey shows that 57 percent of workers are dissatisfied with their salary. But unfortunately, most of us cringe at the prospect of having "the conversation" with our boss. And understandably so -- asking for a raise is hard.
Many of us have rehearsed asking for a raise in front of the mirror at home. But only a fraction can actually bring ourselves to do it in the office -- and even fewer are successful.
Asking for more money is uncomfortable at best and often downright nauseating. You don’t want to appear pushy, aggressive, egotistical or ungrateful. Plus, we hate asking for things when we assume the answer is going to be a demoralizing no.
So, what happens?
You think you're worth more or you need more, but you don’t ask, so you don't get. This is business. Whether your managers like you or not, they're not just going to give you money, especially not the kind of money you're looking for. Over time, resentment builds up and affects your performance. Now, they definitely won’t give you more money.
The vicious cycle continues until you eventually leave, in search of greener, more lucrative pastures which seem to never materialize. The alternative? You stick around and increasingly grow bitter, counting down to the weekends and being that person in the office. You have to bite the bullet, muster up the courage and ask for a raise.
How? With five practical steps.
1. Time it right.
Most people time "the ask" completely wrong. They request a raise when they are already dissatisfied or on the brink of leaving. Walking in with a resentful "they don't appreciate me" attitude and demanding money will get you nowhere fast. The best time to ask for more money is when you're happy with your job and are demonstrating value to the company.
A recent PayScale salary survey found that when dissatisfied employees asked for a raise, less than 20 percent got it. Encouragingly, that same survey found that when satisfied employees asked for a raise, almost 50 percent got it. The lesson is clear: Ask when things are going well.
It's also wise to consider appropriate timing from a company perspective. Most people ask for a raise during annual evaluations. That's bad timing, because managers are overwhelmed and the budgets have been set. The best time to request a raise is when you're being asked to increase your workload or when you just completed a big assignment. That’s when people are recognizing your value.
2. Know your worth.
You're not going to get a raise because you want it. Everyone wants more money. You need to make a case for it. How? Do your research. How much are you worth in the marketplace? Are you underpaid relative to your peers? Are people with comparable experience and qualifications making more money in similar companies? Come armed with specifics, and you'll make a stronger case.
If that doesn’t help, try demonstrating your unique contributions to the company: Have you saved the company money? Brought in new business? Made the customers happy? Again, you need to think like your boss. What is your value to the company? Many times, even he or she isn't aware of the scope of your contributions. It's your job to increase that clarity.
If those two strategies don’t work, and only use this if it's true, demonstrate your need. If you have bills that are larger than your paycheck, explain that you need to make more so you can take care of your responsibilities and better focus on your job.
Related: How to Get Paid More Today
3. Don’t lose your cool.
Don’t raise your voice or use non-verbal expressions of frustration or anger. Don’t threaten or whine. (But, I've heard crying helps.)
No one is sympathetic to a kvetch. You want to show your boss you're a valuable and committed member of the team -- not a loose cannon. Navigate this conversation without getting heated, and you'll walk away with greater respect from your superiors.
4. Ask for more responsibility.
Every company needs to accomplish certain tasks and pays their employees to get those tasks accomplished. Maybe by taking on more responsibility or widening your role, you can make their lives easier or eliminate the need to hire another person. This way, you effectively free up capital for your raise while saving them money.
Raises and promotions are tied into value. Add measurable value, and you should be entitled to more money.
5. If the answer is no, don’t leave empty handed.
If all strategies fail, ask what you can do to earn it in the future. There may be constraints that you don’t appreciate. Turn this into an opportunity to request advice. Have them help you understand what you need to do in the future to get your raise. Try to create an arrangement where you can expect to renegotiate your salary once you've met certain concrete milestones. This way, you give yourself a goal to work towards.
Asking for a raise isn't easy, but greatness never is. With the proper preparation and courage, you increase your chances of getting what you think you deserve. Don’t push too hard but don't be a pushover. Strike that balance, and make your case. Isn't that what the business world is all about?