It’s Time To Ask For a Raise. Here’s How

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Aug 24, 2020

Aug 24, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

Asking for a raise is outside the comfort zone of many, if not most, employees. The Puritan work ethic that affects a good portion of the American workforce has drilled into the public mind that work itself is such a blessing, such a necessity, that we should simply thank our bosses and managers for the opportunity to be working, and leave it at that. 

Asking for an increase in wages or salary, or more benefits, goes against the grain. For most employees. For some, it’s not a real big problem, and they go ahead with their requests with a gung-ho attitude that can lead to big things for them -- or to the back door in a hurry.

Especially now, with the pandemic still sending its malicious tendrils into every type of business and organization, from government to the private sector to education, asking the boss for a raise when the boss might actually be worrying about keeping his or her own job, may seem very inopportune. The timing is all wrong, isn’t it? Everybody is pulling together to just get through this mess, and so demanding more compensation seems pretty greedy.

And that mindset is exactly what employees need to jettison as quickly as possible. The work you do, blue collar or white collar, is essential -- otherwise you wouldn’t have the job you’re doing right now -- because the pandemic has made every commercial enterprise from mold remediators to law firms to take a much closer look at the bottom line, and to cut every bit of extraneous fat, every redundant and inefficient element, from their business. So if you’re working, you’re needed badly. No one is doing you a favor by giving you a job in today’s career market. You’ve earned it, and you should never feel embarrassed about asking for appropriate recognition and compensation.

So decide right now you have the right, the obligation, to ask for better compensation and/or a promotion. That’s the crucial first step in any negotiation with management -- you are already convinced you deserve what you’re asking for. If you find yourself still feeling way too shy or embarrassed about asking for better compensation then you need to take a look at your own work and decide if maybe what you need to do before asking for a raise is to do your job better so you feel confident you deserve a raise.

The biggest misstep you can make when asking for a raise, according to management mavens across the globe, is to tie your request to your economic stress at home. In other words, asking for a raise so you can feed and clothe your kids better, or so you can buy a better car to get to work in, is never ever going to get you anything but the shake of the head from the boss. Especially now, when the pandemic has cut down nearly everyone’s career and financial expectations, you’ll never find a management group sympathetic to demands for so-called ‘living wages.’ Everyone is struggling, so welcome to the club and stop whining about it. 

What needs to happen prior to your raise request, according to many managers across the board, is that you need to show a sincere desire for management feedback -- and then act on that feedback instead of ignoring it or disagreeing with it. Believe it or not, most managers are not sadistic monsters who take pleasure in tormenting you with endless and meaningless criticism. On the contrary; they are anxious to see you make good in your position, because that will make them look good in their position. So take their feedback seriously. Act on it. And beware complaining about what the boss has told you in private with your co-workers -- one way or another, that kind of stuff always gets back to the boss, usually in a distorted form, and it can spell the death of your future career.

Quite often, when you’ve been critiqued by management, part of the deal is that they expect you to take on more duties and responsibilities. And if your attitude is “Why should I work harder for the same amount of pay?” then you’ll never stand on solid ground. Instead, take on added responsibilities -- in fact, go look for them (without stepping on your coworkers toes of course!) This kind of can-do attitude is what managers are looking for when they are considering promotions, bonuses, and raises. Do it well enough, and you may not even have to ASK for a raise or promotion -- it’ll come to you organically.

Should you toot your own horn?

If you can do it subtly, yes. Despite the common belief that the boss has eyes in the back of his or her head, they don’t know about everything you do, both good and bad. When you’ve achieved something outstanding, it’s smart to let the boss know. But try not to be the one telling the tale of your glory -- see if you can get a coworker to mention it when the boss is around and can’t miss hearing it. 

Then when you get that pat on the back, take a deep breath, and start asking . . .