Should You Ask for a Raise?

It’s been three years since you’ve had a raise.  This, despite having saved the company $500,000 in 2011.  You think a raise and a bonus are in order.  How do you structure that discussion with your boss?

Understand the question you’re asking.  It’s not about money.  You’re asking how much your work is valued by the organization.  When you ask for money it is implicit that if you don’t get more you will move on.

Did your boss get a raise last year?  Did anyone you know in the organization get a raise?  If no one did that doesn’t mean you can’t get more money but the increase will be called a “market adjustment” not a raise.  Here’s why.  Companies that don’t give  raises can sometimes be persuaded to adjust someone’s salary to reflect the market rate.  The only way to find out if you’re underpaid is to put your resume out there.  Headhunters can be especially valuable in pricing your job.  Job posts for competitive organizations are helpful.  You’ll need at least ten sources.

Once you’ve gotten the facts prepare a chart showing the range.  Hit the middle of the range.  Meet with your boss and explain that you’d like an adjustment of $15,000 because you are underpaid against the market.  This is a test of whether you are valued by your boss.  If she disputes the facts that’s fine.   What facts does she rely on?  If she says  the company can’t afford to pay you market you know that your work is not valued.  This is painful until you ask yourself how long you can afford to work for less than market.  Imagine going into Neiman Marcus and finding a piece of jewelry for $15,000 and telling the clerk you want it but can’t afford it!  They will call security and escort you out!  They will not reduce the price of the object.

A company that expects people to work for less than market is both in trouble and in fantasy land.  Your boss believes you can be replaced for less money and the new person will produce the same results.  Otherwise, she’d fight for you.  Now that you understand what your boss thinks, look for a new job.  It’s only a matter of months until your performance tanks based on what you now know.

The tail on this tale:  Never ask for more money unless you’re prepared to find out how your boss values you.  Once you know, you must react.

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