Posted Feb. 19, 2008 -- Getting the feeling that you're underpaid for the work you do? If cost-of-living increases aren't covering your costs of living, it might be time to muster the courage to ask for a raise. You won't be alone; according to the nonprofit group World At Work, 92 percent of people will be up for raises this year.
But getting your share of the salary budget isn't just a case of 'no guts, no glory.' Instead, there's an art and science to asking for -- and getting -- a better compensation package.
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Show Them Proof
According to Jack Chapman, author of "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute," making a straightforward case of your accomplishments and setting future goals is the best way to get a raise. "Keep a journal or notes of things you've done well, and show them the evidence with a one-page memo of highlights," Chapman said. "Make sure you have a conversation with your boss and that you are in agreement about your accomplishments and future goals."
Bragging about your accomplishments can be a challenge for many raise-seekers. "I repeated my reasons for a raise over and over in my mind," said Jennifer M., a lawyer at a small private college. "When I met with my supervisors, I didn't take it personally, as it was all about business."
"I acted like I was asking for a raise for someone else," Jennifer said. "I didn't apologize for asking for more money and didn't take the discussion personally." Jennifer's approach paid off, with a significant increase.
Says Chapman, "You have to treat it like a game -- go into the meeting with a number in mind. If your boss offers you less than that number, respond with a four-letter word: 'hmmm.'" A noncommittal response puts the burden back on your boss to sweeten the pot.
Not Your Problem
Company downsizing, tight budgets and hiring freezes are ever-present at many companies. And too often, employees believe there's no room for raises.
"Most people are just resigned that raises are out of their control -- the company decides them and there's nothing you can do," says Chapman. "Sometimes the worst times for the company are the best times to ask for a raise." If corporate downsizing has resulted in fewer employees with more responsibilities, you may have a valid argument for gaining additional compensation.
Sometimes, the simple art of doing what your boss wants can pay off when it comes to asking for a raise. Chapman challenges all raise seekers to "do your job the way your boss wants it done for 10 weeks." While it seems straightforward, it's often the most difficult part of the raise process.
No Doesn't (Always) Mean No
Sometimes, a supervisor's hands are truly tied and there's no chance for a raise. But that doesn't mean you can't receive additional perks or a better package. Chapman recommends asking for a one-time bonus, which can be easier to approve than a base pay increase. Or, try to negotiate additional vacation days, flexible schedules or a title change. At the very least, leave the door open for approaching the subject again in six months.