Business professionals offer advice on asking for a raise

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A three-year study conducted by employment firm Robert Half International found that employees would rather clean their house (36 percent), look for a new job (14 percent), get a root canal (5 percent), or be audited by the IRS (4 percent) than approach their bosses about a pay raise.

Something is wrong here.

While asking for a raise often is ticklish and seldom easy, employees can overcome their trepidation — and often get what they deserve — by having facts at hand and the confidence they bring.

“Asking for a raise can be nerve-wracking because it will put you on your boss’s radar to fully evaluate your work performance,” said Monica Pappas, CEO of Fingerprinting Express. “Employees don’t want to get fired if a higher salary isn’t in the company budget. Asking for a raise can open a can of worms for you, and getting turned down for a raise can be a big hit to your ego.”

Do’s and don’ts

Any communication fraught with potentially incendiary emotion can prove tricky, but there are guidelines to follow. For example, Barbara Carigan, human capital strategic partner for UnitedHealthcare’s Health Plan of Nevada, keeps her own list of do’s and don’ts for employees asking for a raise. Among them:

• Do your homework before meeting with your boss. “Validate market data as specific to your job as much as possible, as well as company salary ranges, if possible,” she said. “Ensure you are following the company’s pay practices and guidelines.”

• Do outline the reasons you deserve an increase and make the reasons specific to your position, such as what you have contributed to the company, specific accomplishments, achievements, money saved, increased profits, past performance, etc.

• If you’ve completed any additional certifications, education, training, etc., during your employment specific to your position, include it.

• Do schedule a meeting with your boss. “Don’t just pop in,” Carigan said. “Present your case in writing and if appropriate, allow your boss to review and think it over.”

• Do thank your boss for the consideration.

• Don’t cite any personal reasons. “Employers do not provide increases because you want a boat, or want a bigger house, or had a baby,” she said. “Positions are salaried specific to the job’s contributions to the company and generally are aligned with similar positions throughout the market or region.”

• Don’t compare your salary with co-workers. “There are too many factors that you may not be aware of that contribute to pay levels in most cases, such as experience, education, performance,” Carigan said. “Focus on your own contributions to the company.”

• Do not get defensive or angry. Listen to the feedback and respond appropriately.

Come armed

Many times, having pertinent facts at one’s fingertips can make the case sufficient to persuade a boss.

“I’ve found the best way to ask for a raise is to be armed with information,” said Jennifer Braster, managing partner at Naylor & Braster, Attorneys at Law. “Do not just go to your boss demanding a raise without having the backup. What is the going rate in your industry and for someone with your experience? When was the last time you received a raise? How does your compensation compare to co-workers of an equal level? As a business owner, I would take an employee much more seriously if they did their homework versus just demanding a number.”

Swen Prior, a labor and employment partner in the Las Vegas office of Snell & Wilmer, agreed that information was key to success when asking for a raise. First and foremost, an employee needs to view his request from the employer’s perspective. Among the factors employers will weigh when presented with a request for a raise are:

• What is the policy? “The first thing an employer may want to do is to examine its own policies to determine if there is a policy relating to pay decisions and increases,” Prior said. “If an employer does not have a policy relating to pay increases, then the employer may want to consider how past requests for increases have been resolved. The employer may want to also determine whether the request is consistent with a regularly scheduled pay raise, or if it is outside the normal course.”

• What is the company culture regarding pay raises? “Regardless of whether there is a written policy regarding pay raises, most employers have a culture and expectations that have been created over time with regard to compensation decisions,” he said. “This attitude and thinking about how pay raises are determined can be important.”

For example, a company’s philosophy may be that it only grants raises based on merit and on a case-by case basis. “Notably, if one employee is given a raise and another is not, the employer may need to show the performance and merit differences,” Prior said.

• What is the value of the job? “This is a business decision, but each employer should be able to determine if the employee is providing value to the bottom line,” he said. “And if the employee is not, then what is the business reason for providing more pay?”

• What is the value of the employee? Another consideration for an employer when considering a raise is to evaluate the value, including the future value, of the employee, Prior said. “Here, employers may want to think strategically by assessing how integral the employee is to the corporate structure and ability for the company or department to function.”

Companies invest significant amounts of money and resources in employees for training and development, and these costs should be part of the analysis. “Prior to granting a pay raise, the company may want to consult with the employee’s supervisors and HR to analyze and discuss both the tangible (hard costs) and intangible (employee morale and optics),” Prior said.

Avoiding a backfire

Unfortunately, asking for even a well-deserved raise can backfire.

“If you don’t ask in a respectful way, your boss may decide you are a complainer and bad for the culture of the company and let you go,” said Chris Wilcox, CPA, tax partner at Eide Bailly LLP in Las Vegas. Employees should not only be respectful, he added, but prepared and sincere. “Being prepared means having to do some homework: Are you taking on additional responsibility? Are you more effective or more efficient today than you were last year? If so, be prepared to demonstrate that in some way.”

The last thing the employee should do is ask for a raise due to personal hardships, said Laura Fucci, chief information officer for the city of Henderson. “Employers do not feel bound to provide for these hardships, and I believe this can totally backfire on the employee,” she said. “The request should be totally focused on the job performance, and not on any personal situation the employee finds himself or herself in.”

“Don’t demand a raise,” Pappas added. “Do not walk in with a big head and tell your boss that you are better than everyone else. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Your skills and dedication will be heavily evaluated when you ask for a raise. Don’t ask for a raise if you have fallen short of expectations. This includes calling in for the day with a flat tire and talking with your co-workers about how hung over you are. Keep in mind that what you say and do at work directly reflect who you are professionally.”

Businesses don’t exist in a vacuum, and so the employee’s fortunes are tied to his employer’s. “If the company is losing money and you just demand a raise, this will surely not give you the desired income,” said Aly Michaels, the principal of Global Results Coaching. “Timing is also extremely important in getting what you want.”

So is having the information in hand to prove you deserve it.