Negotiating a fair salary is always tricky, but it can be especially challenging in today’s business climate. While some industries are expanding again, managers are still watching budgets with a close eye.
That said, companies are concerned about retaining top performers as the economy rebounds. In fact, 48 percent of hiring managers surveyed by Robert Half International said that offering raises will be their primary method of keeping their best employees when business conditions improve. This is good news, but in order to be a contender for a raise, you still need to build a strong case. Consider these do’s and don’ts before approaching your boss:
Do determine your worth. Good work is probably not enough to earn a hike in pay; you need to clearly show your value to your company. Ask yourself the following questions:
Have your projects helped generate business or build visibility for your firm?
Have you developed more efficient processes and procedures?
Have you taken on new duties or responsibilities?
If these questions don’t lead to strong supporting evidence that can back up your request for a raise, the reality may be that now isn’t the right time to broach the topic.
Don’t aim too high. While you want to be paid a salary that’s commensurate with your skills, experience and contributions to the company, asking to be paid significantly more than the going rate in your market can leave a bad impression. That’s why it’s vital to know as much as possible about the employment environment and salaries for those with your specific skills and expertise in your area.
Gather as much information as you can from various sources, including the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and online salary calculators, like those offered by Robert Half. It’s also a good idea to talk to recruiters and members of your professional network who know about local compensation trends.
Do time it right. The best time to ask for a raise is not necessarily when you need the money; it’s when you’re most likely to get your request approved. Evaluate your firm’s financial position. If your company has undergone recent budget cuts or layoffs, it may not be the best time to ask for a raise.
Ideally, you want to make the request when your halo is shining — after you’ve just had a major success, such as the completion of a project that was instrumental to your employer. You also want to time the discussion so it coincides with a positive time for your company — after a successful campaign rollout, for example. Finally, don’t catch your manager off guard; schedule an appointment for a typically quiet time that is free of distractions, and let your manager know that you’d like to talk about your compensation.
Don’t fixate on numbers. While it’s important to have a particular figure in mind — say, a 5 percent increase — when entering a salary negotiation, you also want to be open to alternative rewards. Your manager may not be able to increase your pay but could offer perks such as extra vacation or a more flexible work schedule. Enter the meeting with a willingness to listen and consider other options.
Do seek answers. If your boss tells you flatly that he or she doesn’t think you deserve more money, find out why. Your manager may simply think your compensation is in line with your current role. Or you might need to assume a new job level or take on additional responsibilities in order to earn a raise. In these types of situations, you should talk with your supervisor about how you can meet the necessary requirements — you may need additional training or experience before moving up, for instance.
Don’t spoil your future chances. Above all, avoid letting the conversation become emotional or heated. If you’re upset by the outcome, ask for a break and say something like, “This wasn’t the reaction I had anticipated. I’d like to take some time to think things over before we continue.” In any negotiation, it’s better to avoid quick decisions and instead spend time considering your options. You may be able to come up with new ideas that are mutually agreeable. Remember, your reputation is on the line, and it’s worth more than a bump in pay.
Asking for a raise is never easy, but having a thorough understanding of your market value, detailing your contributions to the organization and choosing the best time to approach your manager will make the conversation easier — and increase your chances of earning that coveted raise, even now.