Everybody wants to get paid more money, so we can't blame managers for being skeptical when someone says "I need a raise!" Every manager, supervisor and team leader has heard "I need a raise!" a million times.
When you decide to pitch your boss on the idea of giving you a pay increase, you need to have a good reason. Here are five things that might justify an increase in your salary or wages, and five other things that don't.
Make sure your pay-bump argument is as strong as it can be, because if you go down in flames on your first attempt to negotiate a pay bump, you may not get another chance.
Five Signs You Need a Pay Increase
- You deserve a pay increase if you've grown your skills to solve a bigger and more expensive pain point than you solved before. When your work is directly responsible for increasing revenues, launching new products, getting into new markets, selling new customers or saving your employer a lot of money, you deserve a raise.
- You have a great argument for a pay increase if you have taken on a significantly greater level of responsibility than you had when your current pay arrangements were established. If three people left your department and you've taken on their work, then your employer is saving a bundle and some of that savings should come back to you.
- You are a great a candidate for a compensation bump if your skill set is in great demand in the talent marketplace and other employers are paying people like you a lot more than you are getting paid now. You may be a victim of salary compression. Salary compression is what happens to people’s salaries when they stay in the same job and their annual increases are limited by policies that say that no one can get more than a few percentage points in increased salary. Your value in the real talent market outside your employer's walls may be climbing much faster!
- You can make a strong pitch for a pay increase if you are in charge of one of your organization's fundamental processes. If your success or failure on the job has major, strategic impact to your employer in a way that was not the case before, you probably need a pay increase.
- You can argue for a pay bump if your pay has fallen far below the market average pay rate for a person with your background who performs work like the work you perform. This can happen even if your responsibilities stay the same over time, because of salary compression and because a lot of employers don't match their salary levels to external survey data as often as they should.
Five Signs You Don't Need A Pay Increase
- The worst possible reason to ask for a pay raise is that you can't make it financially on your current salary. This is a good argument only if it is coupled with one or more of the five good reasons for a pay raise listed above. Otherwise, when you tell your boss "I can't afford to live on my salary" your boss is going to ask you "Then why did you take the job?" As harsh as it may sound, it is not your employer's headache if you can't afford your rent and other expenses on your current salary. There must be a business reason, not just a personal reason, if your boss is going to argue for a pay increase on your behalf.
- You can't make a strong argument that you need a pay increase just because you've gotten additional training. Unless your new training relates directly to your impact on your employer's business results, the training you received might not have much or any value to your employer.
- You won't get far in your attempt to negotiate a pay increase if your principal argument is that you work as hard as you do. We are expected to work hard, so the argument "I'm a hard worker!" isn't likely to carry the day.
- You may not receive the pay increase you seek using the argument "I'm the only person around here who understands how our systems work." It isn't good leadership to have one person without whom the organization couldn't run. Every system needs redundancy. Your boss might give you a raise, or he or she might say "Let's start cross-training some people on your job right now, and take the pressure off you!"
- You won't prevail in your attempt to boost your pay level if your argument is "If I don't get a raise, I'll leave." Nobody likes to get an ultimatum.
If you want to stay with the company and want to get paid more, your best bet is to break your sales process into steps. First, suggest to your boss that you and they sit down together and talk about the upcoming year or two years, and map out a road map for you to focus on in your work.
You will do a lot of work before your meeting date arrives. You'll put together a plan—with diagrams, if you're skilled at creating them—and present it to your boss. You'll walk through the next year or two years together with your manager and share your ambitious and exciting goals with him or her.
Once your boss has bought in to your plan, you'll say "I'd like to propose a pay increase schedule to go along with this road map. Here's what I'm getting paid now. We have talked before about the fact that my current pay level is under the market for my role. Would you be comfortable with a ten percent increase three months from now after I've achieved these four goals, and another ten percent six months from now after these other five goals are accomplished?"
You need to make your boss your partner in your salary-increase project. Until your direct supervisor is on board, your sales process can't move forward. No one in HR is going to force your manager to pay you more than they pay you right now. If your boss cannot see his or her way clear to approving or pushing for a pay increase for you, then it's time to start a stealth job search.
There is a bad old piece of career advice that says "If you have to ask for a raise, you're doing something wrong." This is terrible advice, because you run your career. You don't sit around waiting for someone else to bestow pay increases on you. Does the plumber wait for the plumber's to clients decide when it's time for the plumber to raise prices? No way!
You decide when it's time for you to get paid more, especially if things have changed at work and those big changes haven't been reflected in your paycheck. It's a muscle-building exercise to negotiate your own salary. Now is a great time to start growing your muscles!