Asking for a raise (TV interview)

Just came back from a short TV interview segment on “tips on asking for a raise”. I think it went pretty well, however of course I am quite biased in that respect. I’m very interested in any feedback and suggestions people want to share with me!

Here is the interview itself :

… and here are my speaking notes and thoughts I pulled together to prep for the interview itself.

Top 5 Tips for Workers who Want to Ask for a Raise

Key themes here are:  timing and affordability; external validation; internal value generation; exploring options

  1. Understand the internal context within which your request will be heard:
    • All organizations have a budget cycle and internal constraints for when and how monies can flow. Managers can have some discretion to operate within their departmental budgets, but often not very much. Finally, organizations often go through lean periods (layoffs, freezes, etc.) and obviously that makes it more difficult to meet these kind of requests. You, as the instigator of this conversation, need to have a clear understanding of what the internal landscape looks like and how these kinds of decisions are made. This will not only provide you a lot of insight into what is actually possible and hence allow you to build a stronger case, it will also serve to inoculate you somewhat against any sort of “brush-off excuse” you might receive.
  1. Clearly demonstrate your (external) market value:
    • Next, you need to have a firm grasp on what your skills are worth on the “open market”. There are a number of resources you can access for salary/role comparables and that is a good place to start. Keep in mind, however, that your company might actively choose to be on the low end of the range of your pay-scale, and you need to take that into account in building your argument.  There is no point in saying “I’m only paid at 75% of my external market value” if the company’s response is going to be: “Good. That’s the ratio we’ve designed for. Seems like you are right on target.”
    • Assuming the organization and/or your manager recognizes you as a highly valued contributor, then the bigger the delta is between your current pay and your “street value” the more weight the organization will put on closing this delta. They will quickly recognize the possibility that you might jump ship and that that action will be a setback to their organization, and hence, much better to quickly address the pain point than lose a value resource. HOWEVER, you don’t want to hit them over the head with this with any kind of threat. Be very factual with this kind of data (“As far as I can make out, the market value of a senior project manager in our industry seems to be between $75,000 and $112,000.”) They will figure out your point pretty quickly…
  1. Be able to articulate your internal value generation:
    • Just because you have now discovered that you are “worth more” on the open market, that doesn’t mean you are worth more to your current organization. To make a strong case for a raise, you need to be able to clearly articulate how you are adding “excess value” in your current role, over and above what is generally expected in that role. The big mistake people make here is focusing on non-value oriented statements like “I work really hard”; “I haven’t had a decent raise for x years”, or “Things are really tight and I need a raise to meet my payments”. Those comments typically end up sounding like griping and complaining and place you in a bad light. Which leads to the next point…
  1. Build your presentation with quantifiable facts, endorsements, and accolades:
    • You need to present, as much as possible, quantifiable facts about your work and its’ positive impact on the business. For example, “In the last 12 months in this role, I’ve worked closely with the Sales Team and helped them close 22% more revenue generation.” Of course, this statement is a lot stronger if you have a matching endorsement from the head of the Sales team acknowledging your incredible contribution and its importance in their performance. Wherever possible, you need to quantify your value in terms that the organization cares about – in a business, that is mostly about revenue and profit generation, cost reduction and management, better collaboration and teamwork, improved customer and/or partner relations, and the like.
  1. Have patience, explore available options, and have a “Plan B” clearly in mind:
    • Even after doing all your homework, practicing your presentation, setting up a session with your boss, and presenting your case in an objective, coherent, evidence-based conversation, recognize that there is a good chance you will have to be patient with your request. Depending on how well you have managed the process to this point, the ball is now with your manager who now has to – most probably – take up your case and support and defend it to other managers and “work the system” to try and extract $$ from the organization. This is going to take some time, so you want to acknowledge to your manager that you recognize this reality.
    • That in turn opens the conversation to other options: for example, Can you negotiate and document a 3 month plan of specific items to be completed that your boss agrees will result in the planned raise? Is there an opportunity to take on  new responsibilities in an “acting capacity” for some time period to reinforce your boss’s case for extra compensation for you? What people, task, or organizational challenges does your boss face and how can you help him/her out, to show “good faith” for him/her going to bat for you?  This endeavour will be most successful if you treat this as a win/win scenario rather than a “me vs. my management/company” orientation.
    • Finally, you need to have a clear “Plan B” in mind so you don’t get overly frustrated if the outcome is not what you want. What happens if the boss says “No way”? Are you really prepared to quit? On the other hand, if you just fade away and go quiet, you reinforce the idea that it wasn’t a “serious requirement” and undercut your ability to negotiate in the future. If you start to complain to others about how “unfair things are”, you start to build a reputation as a complainer and further undercut your value to the organization. So, you really want to think long and hard about what you are prepared to do if you can’t get an outcome that is acceptable to you. And the best time to develop your Plan B is well before you “pull the trigger” and start the conversation with your manager.

4 thoughts on “Asking for a raise (TV interview)

  1. I agree – good interview Tim. Having been on the other side of the desk for several of these types of conversations, there were relatively few cases where I was able deliver on a raise. But none of these employees ended up leaving. They all seemed relieved just to present their case and be listened to.

  2. Thanks for your comment! You make a great point about part of the value is being able to present a case and have a receptive audience to help them sort through the larger context of how their work fits into the bigger picture.

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