Five tips for negotiating a raise

Do you ever feel like you’re not paid enough for the work you do? You’re not alone. According to a 2014 survey from Glassdoor, over a third of American workers (39 percent) feel they aren’t paid fairly.

In a tight, competitive job market that’s bound to be the case. But just because the economy isn’t flawless doesn’t mean you can’t get a raise. If you’re feeling a bit underpaid and are thinking of asking for a raise, consider the following tips.

Be exceptional

In baseball there’s a statistic called “Wins Above Replacement” or WAR. It’s an attempt to measure how many more games a team has won thanks to the contributions of a single player. The higher your WAR, the more valuable you are to the team.

If you want your employer to give you a raise (especially a raise above and beyond your standard merit increase) you need to be worth the money. And it isn’t necessarily enough to work hard – your work needs to have value. Whatever it is that your company does, you need to be an integral part of them doing it even better.

When asking for a raise, you should be able to show clearly how many more wins your “team” has earned as a result of your efforts. Most companies are bottom line-driven. If you can show your individual impact on that bottom line you’ll have a massive advantage when asking for a raise.

Have options

Your employer isn’t going to give you a raise unless they have to. From a management perspective, the goal is to keep employees happy and maximally productive, while also creating the largest possible profit (in most cases). Your raise might have a significant impact on your individual happiness, but it will also have an adverse impact on profit (while productivity may or may not remain unchanged).

When you come to your boss and ask for a raise, the choice is essentially between your happiness and the company’s bottom line. However, if you come to your boss and ask for raise, armed with an offer to work elsewhere, that changes the equation. Now the choice is between the bottom line and the possibility of losing an exceptional worker. They may still say no (just because you’re worth a raise doesn’t mean your employer can afford it), but your chances of success increase dramatically if you have an offer as leverage.

Plant the seed

Giving an employee a raise or promotion ahead of schedule is no simple task for a manager. They have to put a lot of time and energy petitioning their bosses and HR to make something like that happen.

A better tact may be to make it clear that you feel your work warrants a raise or a promotion without actually asking for one. When your work is being recognized, either during an evaluation or at the end of a successful project, accept the praise and ask your boss what needs to be done to get to the next level. Make it known that you want (and maybe even expect) a raise or promotion. If your manager agrees (and the resources are available) this gives them the opportunity to begin plotting out what needs to happen to get you that raise or promotion.

Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Just make it clear that you know you do excellent work and that you expect to be compensated fairly for that work.

Don’t be offended

Sometimes the answer is going to be no. It will be no because they can’t. It will be no because you haven’t earned it. It will be no because the answer was yes for somebody else.

Don’t take it personally, especially if the reason is you. Asking for a raise can be a harsh reality check. You may be good, but not as good as you believe. You may be valuable, but not invaluable. If the answer is no there will probably be an explanation and how you react to that explanation makes all the difference. Look for constructive feedback and use it to get better. Sulking, complaining, or giving up entirely won’t do you favors.

Be prepared to move on

Sometimes there just isn’t any room to grow in your present job. Sometimes your boss will know that you’re worth more, but just isn’t able to compensate you accordingly. If you’re serious about growing your career and your income, you need to be willing to seek and accept offers elsewhere. On average, American workers will stay in a job for about four and half years – and the younger you are, the more that number shrinks.

So it’s in your best interests to be highly adaptable, well-trained, and constantly on the lookout for the next opportunity. And when that opportunity comes, always do your best to leave your old job on the best possible terms. It’s a small world and many industries are a closed circuit, so you never know when yesterday’s old boss will be tomorrow’s new boss.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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