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How to ask for a raise

by HARVEY MACKAY
| March 24, 2024 1:00 AM

Former Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige enjoyed telling a story about how a high-ranking official responded to an employee's request for a raise by saying: "Because of the influctuational predisposition of your position's productive capacity as juxtaposed to government standards, it would be monetarily injudicious to advocate an increment."

Confused, the employee said, "I don't get it."

And the supervisor responded, "That's right."

Asking for a raise can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with the right approach and preparation, you can increase your chances of success. You need a strategy to help you navigate this important conversation.

First, it is crucial to be well-prepared for your annual salary or performance review. This is often the best time to discuss a raise. Do your homework. Make sure you gather facts that highlight your contributions, organize your achievements in a clear and compelling way and practice discussing these points so you can present them confidently.

Before you schedule this meeting, research your value. Understand what the market pays for your role and level of experience. Know your company's financial health. Is it in a position to even offer raises? Keep a log of your successes, kudos from clients or any recognition you have received.

Timing is everything. Growing up, I knew never to ask for the keys to the car when my parents were in a bad mood. Wait until you've had a significant accomplishment or the company is doing well financially. Maybe it's a strategic time of year, such as after annual budgets are approved.

"The most difficult thing in any negotiation, almost, is making sure that you strip it of the emotion and deal with the facts," said former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker.

You need to present your case. Go through your boss's review agenda first, showing respect for the process. Afterward, ask to present your own case. Be clear and concise about your contributions and how they have benefited the company.

Robert Herjavec from ABC's "Shark Tank" said: "You should never come out and say 'I deserve more money.' Nobody cares what you deserve. It's about what you can do for the company. It's never I, I, I — it's always what value you can add."

Prepare yourself for different responses and know what you will do if the answer isn't what you hoped for. If you don't get the raise, ask for feedback and what you can do to reach your salary goals. Request additional responsibilities or opportunities that can increase your value. Inquire about professional development opportunities.

Throughout this process, maintain professionalism. Avoid ultimatums unless you are prepared to follow through. Stay calm, regardless of the outcome. Use the experience as a learning opportunity to build a stronger case in the future.

Remember, the key to asking for a raise is to demonstrate your value to the company and to approach the conversation with a blend of confidence and humility.

At one time I had an employee who was absolutely stellar in her performance. She had done her homework thoroughly, understood her value in the marketplace and had a list of accomplishments that benefited the company significantly. She scheduled a meeting with me, and I could tell she was prepared.

During her performance review, she listened attentively and responded to the feedback I provided. Once we had gone through the standard agenda, she respectfully asked if she could present additional information. She laid out her case with such clarity and professionalism, detailing her contributions, the positive feedback from clients and how her work had directly impacted our bottom line.

She also knew the timing was right. Our company had just landed a few big contracts and morale was high. She didn't come across as entitled; rather she was confident and ready to discuss her future with the company.

I was impressed by her approach. It was evident she wasn't just asking for more money. She was demonstrating her ongoing commitment to our collective success. She made it easy for me to say yes because she showed me the reason. And while not every situation works out so smoothly, her approach is one I recommend to anyone looking to ask for a raise.

Sometimes the best time to ask for a raise is not when you think you need it, but when you know the company can't afford to lose you.

Mackay's Moral: If you want them to show you the money, you better show them the reason.

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Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.