Negotiation Week: What if You Don't Get a Raise? / What if You Do?

Part IV of Negotiation Week (Click here for Part I, Part II, Part III)

This week we've covered a lot of ground when it comes to preparing yourself for a raise and preparing your workplace for your raise.  We also examined the Art of the AskJ0402213
and I gave some practical tips for the actual conversation between you and your boss.  Today let's  consider how to follow up the raise you just got OR the stark reality of a boss saying "Sorry, we can't offer you a raise at this time."

So you just got a raise...
This is quite an accomplishment so go ahead and pat yourself on the back!  The largest raise I've ever gotten 'in house' has been about 25% and the largest raise that I've ever gotten 'new job' has been about 50%.   Getting a raise, almost always, is great for you and great for the organization so be happy and go grab a friend to celebrate.  Still, it's important to do a few simple things to follow up:

  • Bring 2-3 key confidants out for dinner.  You don't have to spill your guts and share all of the juicy details of your negotiation but it's always a good idea to celebrate with your inner circle.  Say something like, "Guys, I want to celebrate so that we can build a better organization.  I'm coming back next year and it's great working with you."  A discreet one-liner goes a long way. 

  • Keep doing the things that got you the raise.  Now is NOT the time to get lazy and show up late for work.  Keep arriving early and working hard.

  • Approach one key project with creativity.  If you're on a project already, try a new spin on it.  If you can take on a new project, grab it by the horns and hit it out of the park.  This will add to your already-swelling confidence and show your boss that you're worth the raise that he/she just gave you.

So you didn't get a raise...
This stark reality  happens from time to time.   Look at it as a post-game press conference where you are asked by reporters questions like, "What went wrong coach?"  Here are some crucial issues to examine with objectivity, detaching from the emotional 'hurt' that comes with rejection:

  1. Was your preparation flawed?  Rather than putting a picture of your boss on a dartboard, step back and write down some things that you could have done in the previous six months that you overlooked.  Get your frustration out of your head and onto paper.  Ask your confidants if they can help you see the bigger picture.

  2. Did you network with the right people?  Remember that your boss most likely talked with his/her advisers about your raise proposal.  Did you network with the right people?  To whom could you have reached out?  Were there events that you had skipped but now you see that they were valuable networking moments?

  3. What's your skill status? So you got rejected, ok.  Perhaps there's something in your skills that needs a makeover and you're just not seeing it?  I recently came across a kind gentleman who was told by his boss that he's basically incompetent.  He's hurt and dejected but the key question is, "What's he going to do with that sense of dejection?"  I see two options- go further into depression or face reality and work on your skills.

  4. What feedback does your mentor have?  Share your thoughts, hurts and feelings with someone you can trust.  What's their feedback?  What angle of the situation can they help you better understand?

  5. Was it a "hard no" or a "soft no"?  This is subtle but very important.  I once worked at a school where the standard admin line was, "The money's coming.  We just need some more time to build the endowment."  This, if honest and true, is a soft no.  A harder no would be "There's no room in the budget for a pay increase.  Got to run!"  Ok so I'm exaggerating a bit but we all know from interpersonal dynamics that there is flat-out rejection (and you know it's time for a job change!) and there's wiggle room for future opportunity.  A hard no should cause you to look elsewhere but a soft no is reason for a follow up with your boss.  In that important follow up, ask what you can be doing better and when a raise-window might emerge in the next few months.  Above all, be nice!  Bosses respond well to people who are likable.

  6. Will you stay or leave?  In the Baby Boomer generation, there was plenty of incentive to stay put in one job and stick it out until you retire but that model just doesn't exist any longer.  Gen Xers now stay in jobs for reasons beyond pay.   Quality of life is very important as is a sense of feeling valued.  Most teachers leave education not because of pay but because of other "feeling valued" reasons. 

    • Staying implies that you like the place.  Can you still enjoy work even though you're making what you did last year? 

    • Staying implies that you're committed to mission.  Can you rise above your paycheck and serve the greater good?

    • Leaving can mean that you're putting family over company. I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt- if you're leaving for the sake of your family, more power to you!

    • Leaving can be empowering as it opens up possibilities.  You can work just about wherever you wish as long as you are smart enough and know the right people. 

    • Leaving can green-light others who have wanted to hire you.  Some folks may have seen you as untouchable but now you're a free agent- work the market!  Make some calls and let people know that you are "gettable" within the next few months.

As someone who has worked in three schools within a ten year span, I know about the whole stay/leave dynamic.  It's never easy but remember this: you work for yourself.  You can stay or leave if you like.  Consequences come with this and believe me, people will misunderstand you should you decide to leave.  If you can take the rumor mill and keep your eyes on what you want for your family's future, job switching can take on a whole new meaning.