Thirty-nine percent of Americans believe they are underpaid – 42 percent of women versus 33 percent of men, according to a survey this year by the career website Glassdoor.com.
If you are in that group, be aware that there are right and wrong ways to ask for a raise, and the right way begins with good timing. For instance, Hawaii’s unemployment has averaged 4.5 percent for the first seven months of 2014, which makes now a much better time to ask for raise than, say, the summer of 2009, when the state unemployment rate was 7.1 percent.
Timing within a company is also crucial. Judy Bishop, president of the employment and staffing agency Bishop and Co., stresses that you must first pay your dues at an organization. “You better know you have been there enough time to ask for a raise,” she says.
Some companies have specific timing for raises, so find out what the explicit or implicit policy is: Are raises generally granted at year’s end, or after performance reviews are done, or on the anniversaries of employees’ start dates? At some companies it is important to ask for a raise before the annual budget is set in stone.
Bishop says there are three conditions that warrant asking for a raise:
1. You were promised one;
2. You have gone above and beyond your job duties; or
3. You have been given significantly more work or responsibilities.
Lisa Truong Kracher, president of Staffing Solutions of Hawaii, adds three conditions:
1. It has been a long time since your last raise;
2. You have contributed to the company’s growth; and
3. You have received excellent job performance ratings.
Don’t wait until it is time to ask for a raise to compile your case. You should be keeping track of your accomplishments all the time, so you don’t have depend on your or your boss’ memory when you make the case for a raise. Keep copies of emails, memos and written notes that contain compliments; write down times and specific wording when customers praise you; keep a detailed record of achievements, new tasks or responsibilities, as well as your contributions to team successes.
Don’t assume your bosses know what you’ve done; they may be so busy supervising mediocre employees and meeting their own goals that they have taken you for granted. Truong Kracher notes that supervisors’ main goal is to retain their top employees, so she encourages you to maintain good communication year-round with management, let them gently know about your accomplishments and regularly ask what you can do to advance in the organization.
“I feel if the employee works with integrity and passion, then a raise will come naturally,” Truong Kracher says.
Similar to asking for a promotion, Bishop says, it is important to know the company’s expectations of your job and to present clear data that you’ve exceeded those expectations. “Make a difference, show the difference you made, and go in and present it to your boss,” she says. If your job involves subjective data that can’t be measured, Bishop recommends asking customers for feedback and permission to use them as references your boss can contact.
Bishop notes the average pay increase annually is 3 percent, so she recommends going in with a number in mind that is not much bigger than that to avoid the danger of losing the chance for any raise. “But don’t say you want ‘X’ amount of money. Go in and say you think you deserve a raise and leave it to them.” If you don’t like what they offer, then gently negotiate.
Bishop cautions against bringing up any financial struggles you face. “The boss may feel the employee can’t manage money and now they are coming begging to me,” Bishop says.
If your request for a raise is turned down, Truong Kracher says, ask for a follow-up performance review. Ask your manager what you can do to earn a raise in the future, keep lines of communication open and continue doing your best.
If all that fails, you can always look for another company – one that agrees with you on what you are worth. The best workers are always in demand.