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How To Get A Raise: Stress Value, Not Need

by Ramon Greenwood

No one likes to ask for a raise. But there are situations when it makes common sense to say to the boss, "I believe I am worth more to this organization than I am being paid. I would appreciate a raise."

The key word is worth, says Ramon Greenwood, Senior Career Counselor, CommonSenseAtWork.Com.

Never try to make a case for a raise on the basis of need. Organizations can stay in business only by paying people what they contribute to the bottom line, not their needs.
You are justified in asking for a raise when one or more of the following conditions exist.

  • You are making a contribution toward your employer's goals above and beyond what is expected from your position. . You have been filling a more demanding position, which usually pays more money, for a considerable time.
  • There is no formal system in place for performance reviews and you haven't had a raise in a reasonable period of time.
  • You have an offer from another employer for more money and you are prepared to make a change if necessary.

Before you rush in to ask for a raise, you should understand that one of three things could happen. One, you may get the extra money. Two, you may find out you are not nearly as valuable as you thought you were, and that your future is limited to your present position. Or, three, you could lose your job when you cause the boss to focus on your performance in terms of hard cash.

Be prepared; be sure of your facts. Remember, you are making a sales presentation for a product (your service to the organization) to a buyer (your boss) who has a limited budget from which to buy answers to a number of highly competitive needs.

Make sure you know how things are going with your boss and the company.

Common sense tells us not to ask for a raise when the company is in the doldrums or when the boss, himself, has just been passed over for a raise. Choose the time and place when your boss is most apt to give you a fair hearing.

Find out how your compensation compares to other jobs in the company and in terms of what other employers are paying for people with similar responsibilities and experience. Know what the fair market value is for your talents.

Get a reading on how your fellow employees and your boss rate your performance. (It had better be a reasonably good report before you ask for more compensation.)

Get directly to the point when you meet with your boss.

Review your contributions, being as specific as possible in such terms as savings, increased productivity, growth in sales.

Underscore your loyalty to the organization. Suggest your potential for even greater contributions based on demonstrated performance.

Present hard data to prove you are not paid up to scale when compared to similar jobs inside the organization and in your employer's business category.

Be prepared to define a range of increase you think is fair, if you are asked to do so. Do not demand. Be ready to discuss the pros and cons of your performance. Keep your cool. It will be a rare boss who will not be a bit annoyed that you have had to ask, either because he has allowed you to lose touch with reality or because he has failed to recognize your worth and frustration. Don't be surprised at some backlash. Accept both praise and criticism with equanimity. Be ready to work out a compromise.

It is unlikely you will get an answer on the spot ... unless it is a resounding negative. Leave the door open for a positive answer or at least further negotiations later.

If the final answer is "yes," express appreciation (but do not go overboard) and work twice as hard to prove your boss made a good decision. Start right then earning the next raise. If it is "no," buckle down, do a better job and prepare for another chance. Or leave for a more rewarding environment.

Ramon Greenwood is Senior Career Counselor for He is a former Senior Vice President at American Express, a published author and syndicated columnist, a professional director and an entrepreneur.

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