By Ryan Ong
So you asked for a pay raise, and your boss asked you to justify it. And then you ripped off your shirt, pounded your chest, and threatened him to sudden-death, five-round mud wrestling. Well the trick is to grease your elbows and…oh wait. This article is for people working in places besides MoneySmart. Well for you unfortunate lot, there are alternate steps to justifying your raise. I wrote 3,700 of them for you, but I can only publish the legal ones. So here’s five:
1. Maintain High Visibility Months Before Asking
First question: When you ask for a raise, will your boss’s response be: “Who the hell are you again?”
When working in a large company, you need a way to differentiate yourself. To stand even a half-decent chance, your boss must know you (i.e. he doesn’t refer to you as “that guy”). To be in this situation, learn to hog the limelight.
Start getting visible two to three months before asking for your raise. This is important, because if you get visible too close to your asking, it’ll look contrived.
Volunteer for speaking roles in meetings and presentations. If none arise, piece together a proposal; it can be anything, from “Let’s implement a new web protocol” to “Fiscal analysis of why I’m forced to eat grass for lunch”. The important thing is the proposal:
a. Gives you an excuse to talk to your boss individually, for at least 30 minutes
b. Makes you known to your boss (or reinforces your presence)
c. Suggests you have lots of initiative, or reveals how busy you are
Just don’t propose something you can’t manage. Or something that would mean overtime for your whole department (and hence your corpse being fed through a shredder).
2. Start Documenting Your Achievements
Not just to show your boss either. The point of documenting your achievements is so you can structure them. Did you redo the budget reports? That’s a plus. Did you close a big contract? That’s a must-say. Did you replenish the Coke in the pantry? Best leave it out, it’d sound pathetic.
When you have everything in writing, you’ll be confident when negotiating. Have everything in a mess, and your argument will be along the lines of: “Hmmm, ah, err…I good.” Of course, your boss might want some proof, so put your documented achievements in a nice folder. Include work samples if you can, and client testimonials.
One thing that plenty of people miss: Print e-mails which thank or congratulate you on work well done. Attach these to the relevant documents, to show you make a difference on the team.
3. Work Out a Deal
Once you’re in the limelight and have your achievements ready, you can start talking about the raise. But don’t charge through the doors and start going on about one. Instead, play with variations of this magic question: “What can I do to justify a raise?”
If your achievements are on par, there may not even be conditions. Your boss might just explain that there’s a budget, or that you’ll have to wait for the opportunity. In which case, you either start looking for work elsewhere, or wait and see.
Otherwise, work with your boss in setting targets. Agree on quantifiable results, such as “increase sales closures by 10 cases a month”. Dodge subjective goals, like “Make kewl websites that crack people up.” You may want to line up some targets of your own, so you’re prepared once the negotiating starts.
4. Gentle Follow-Up
If you agree on goals with your boss, remember to broadcast them as you reach them. It’s not just a gentle reminder; you want to suggest you’re serious about those goals. It makes bosses reluctant to back out; it’d be like slapping a puppy.
If your boss established a date to get back to you, remind him. Contact your boss close to the day (or month) and ask how things look. Don’t ever get whiny or pushy about it, no matter what your instincts demand. Remember, instincts are the same thing that make you scream like a little girl and shame yourself at horror flicks. Don’t listen to them.
If your boss says “no word,” just accept it and ask when you should check again. Believe me, it will nag at them even more. And if this is the third or fourth time they’ve bailed on you, it’s best to start brushing off the resume. Either your work is under-appreciated, or your company sales are the punch-line to recession jokes.
5. Check If You’ve Hit The Limit
Whether or not you get your raise, end the process by checking your salary limit. Understand that every role has a maximum salary cap; the pantry lady will never earn more than the general manager, and the HR consultant will never earn more than the CEO.
The easiest way to assess this is through pay comparison sites. If your current salary is in the 71st percentile or above, you have as much chance of a raise as Bin Laden did with the Nobel Peace Prize. If you’re in this category, accept that you’ve hit your salary limit; nothing short of a major job change will help you.
Otherwise, show your boss you make less than others in your field. Emphasise that you’re not threatening to leave; it’s just that your pay isn’t commensurate with your work. This will compel him to do some research, and you may succeed the next time around.