Negotiation Week: The Art of the Question- Asking for the Raise You Want

Part III of Negotiation Week, Getting the Raise You Want  (Click here for Part I)  (Click here for Part II)

Today we'll focus on the Art of the Ask.  One one hand, asking for a raise is easy because you can prepare for it but on the other hand, if done incorrectly- it can backfire big time. 

Now that you've prepared yourself (skill development, social skill honing, and just plain doing a great job) and prepared your workplace (dropping hints, using humor, networking with the advisers of your boss), you're ready to go for it and ask for the raise.  Two key distinctions are needed:

  • When interviewing for a new job: you'll want the employer to put a number on the table.  Listen to Penelope Trunk's interview for the "why" behind this.  There is a bit of dancing that is necessary before the employer will give you a number.  It makes sense to show willingness to interview and chat before throwing down the "salary gauntlet".  I generally aim for ranges rather than a set number.  For example, it's good for the conversation to go like this, "We're looking for someone in the 60-65K range" rather than "We can't go any higher than 60K".

  • When asking for a raise within the job you're in:  this is what we'll address in today's post.  The Art of the Ask is indeed a martial art that should be taken seriously.

Here are the simplest steps that I know of in order to master the Art of the Ask:

  1. Ask your boss for a good time to meet. Avoid early morning or late in the day.  Mondays and Fridays can be tricky.  Give him/her a hint of what you'd like to discuss.  Some helpful lines might be, "May I schedule a meeting to discuss my role in the organization for next year?" or "I'd love to sit down with you sometime in the next week to discuss my role in the company."  This achieves two things: it gives your boss a head's up and gives him/her time to prepare.

  2. Put your achievements on paper. Stay objective, listing your accomplishments in short, bulleted format.  Go over your accomplishments and stress the value that you've added to the company.  Keep your summary to one page and bring extra copies- your boss may want to share a copy with a confidant.

  3. Ask with humility and confidence. Now that you've put your accomplishments on paper and gone over them in a brief but adequate manner, you're ready to ask.  Here are some useful lines, "Pete, I feel that I bring a lot to the organization and I like it here.  I feel that my accomplishments are above what others are doing in my field.  Can you give me a time frame for when a raise will occur?"  Or, "Deborah, this is what I've done in a short period of time.  I want to commit to this company and I like it here.  My financial goals are higher than my current salary and I'm asking for an increase in pay."  You want to convey flexibility to a certain point and commitment to the organization.  If you work for a non-profit or historically 'tight' organization, communicate creativity and help your boss find a unique way of raising pay or adding benefits.

  4. Wait with patience and calm. You've made your case and asked with respect.  Now the ball is in the court of your boss.  Don't expect an on-the-spot raise or pat on the back.  Bosses need time to think, run some numbers and talk with confidants.  Give them the respect they deserve and sit there in silence.  Let your boss respond in a way that is comfortable for them.  A probable outcome will be a follow up meeting within a week's time.

  5. Follow up with courtesy.  A note or email goes a long way as a useful follow up to your initial Ask meeting.  Avoid a phone call or face to face.  Something short and sweet in an email could go like this, "Rene, thanks for your time earlier today.  I'm confident that a win-win is achievable here.  Have a great day."

Resources for the Road
7 No-No's When Asking for a Raise
Do's and Don'ts of Asking for a Raise
5 Things You Must Know Before Asking for a Raise
Wise Geek: What is the Best Way to Ask for a Raise?