Is now time to ask for a raise?

Are you earning what you deserve? With many of you contemplating your end of year increase, it's time to take stock-and action.

First, let's examine your salary and see how you're doing. Look back at past salary increases and determine what percent increase you received. Salary increases have been falling since 1984, when an average increase was 6.5%. So if your increase in 1986 was around 5.9% (national average) you got a respectable amount. The average in 1987 was 5.4% and just slightly higher in 1988. However, if you are in the fields of computer service/software, consulting/legal/accounting and pharmaceuticals, increases are running higher than the average, according to the November issue of "Resources Journal" published by the American Society for Personnel Administration.

If your company is hiring people at your level for considerably less than what you're getting, you're doing well. If newcomers are being offered your salary or close to it, chances are you couldn't do much better by switching jobs now. On the other hand, if new people are getting more than you, ask for a raise or consider going to the competition, even if it's a lateral move.

Have you changed jobs within the last five years? Staying in the same job for five years or more can put you behind in the income race, since it could take two to five years or more to equal one good job hop. Most job changers can boost their salary by 10 or 20 percent. Early in your career you can get away with more frequent job hops (no sooner than 18 months), however, as your career matures (in your thirties), you're expected to move carefully and eventually settle in.

Have you been promoted within the last five years? Have you expanded your job within the last three years? Short of getting promoted, the best way to increase your salary is to selectively expand your responsibilities on the top end and delegate those on the bottom end. Many jobs have elastic boundaries. It's important to expand upwards first. That way, if your boss resists your delegation later, you can counter with, "I would be glad to do it myself but it conflicts with X (a much more important project).

What's your worth on the open market? This is what another company would pay to hire you. Research your market rate by checking with trade associations, want ads, the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the "American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries" (Avon, 1988). If you're aware of your value you will always be in a better position to negotiate.

Are you irreplaceable? This means that you cannot be removed from your company without serious damage to them. However, the worst thing you can do is throw your weight around. Your company's impulse will be to find a way to make you expendable, probably by hiring a back up assistant. Instead, make it your business to become the most trusted, knowledgeable person in your company. If you do, any reasonable salary request will be considered.

So how do you ask for a raise? Here are some tips:

·        Establish your value to the company and sell it to your boss. What is your bottom-line value? How have you contributed to the profitability of the company, or in some jobs, how have you reduced a loss to your company? Set aside time on a regular basis to record your accomplishments. Think in terms of numbers, dollar figures, percentages, and even compliments from superiors. This information will also come in handy when you update your resume.

·        Choose your time carefully. If you are appraised at year-end, this is the perfect time to approach your boss. If you wait until you're told what the magic number is, it may be too late to negotiate. Other good times are right after you've completed a spectacular project or the company has had
a great year.

·        Base your case on merit not need. Never mention your need for a larger apartment or your need to send your child to college. Your request must be based on contributions, abilities and experience.

·        Mention a specific dollar figure. Asking for a vague raise often elicits a vague response. Decide what you want for a raise and then increase it by 25 to 50 percent. This will give your boss room to negotiate and you room to come down.

·        Don't apologize and definitely do not say, " I know it sounds like a lot of money, but I think I'm worth it." Instead, you should sound something like this, "Since last year, I increased productivity by Y percent or Z dollars. At the same time, operating costs have gone down by...or only increased by...a savings of...Further, I have accomplished such and such and received recognition from...Therefore, I am looking for an increase of $6,000".

·        Put your case in writing. Arrive at your discussion with a memo outlining what you have done to merit the money you are asking for. If you are doing extremely well in your position, make a case for moving up into the top range for your position. If new responsibilities have been added, you have ammunition for changing your range altogether. When the meeting is over, leave your memo with your boss. This will be useful if he needs to take your case to someone above him or her.

·        If you are told "no", ask your boss, "What would I have to do to be rated outstanding?" Write down the points your boss makes and use them as specific guidelines for future moves. Ask for another review in six months at which point you can reevaluate your position.

·        Finally, the best way to get a raise is to move up, expand your current responsibilities, get a new job or even create a new job.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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