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The Dos and Don’ts of Asking for a Raise

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The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you ask for a raise?” is written by Joe Frey, senior director of sales and analytics at Vacasa.

As 2016 draws to an end, you may be thinking about how to have that awkward but important conversation with your manager: asking for a raise. I manage a team of about 60 people, so I’ve been on both sides of the table during compensation discussions. As a result, I’ve developed a good sense of what to do and, just as important, what not to do. Here are my dos and don’ts for successfully landing a raise.

Before you ask…

Do think about value from both sides

Before any conversation around compensation, it’s crucial to weigh not only the value you bring to your company, but also the value your company brings to you. Think about the culture, the people you work with, and the opportunities ahead of you. Balance those nonmonetary factors with your financial goals. If you’re thrilled with the company culture and excited about advancement opportunities, it might make sense to accept less money.

Do give your manager advance notice

Let your manager know ahead of time that you want to discuss your compensation. Don’t spring it on them during a 1:1, and never ask for a raise outside of work, even if you two are pals. Giving your manager advance notice also gives them the opportunity to review your performance, research market rates, and otherwise prepare for the conversation. You’re less likely to hear “I need to think about it” if you’ve already given your manager that time in advance.

Do your homework

You should know going in why you’re entitled to a raise. Are you making below the market rate? Think about where your value exceeds your cost. Just doing your job consistently and not screwing up isn’t enough. What metrics have you exceeded? Where have you shown improvement? Is the job you’re actually doing different from the job you were hired for? These are all excellent reasons to ask for a raise.

Do time it carefully

If you’re in a highly seasonal or cyclical industry, ask for a raise when your company has more cash on hand. A performance review is a natural time to ask, but don’t be afraid to ask ahead of time.

During the conversation…

Do be prepared to educate

Don’t assume that the person deciding on your raise remembers your current compensation or the last time you got a raise, or even exactly what your job entails. Be prepared to educate them about what your role involves and what kind of compensation is appropriate. Remember, what makes up 90% of your week may only be 2% of your manager’s.

Don’t bring up irrelevant details

Keep the focus on your performance. If you graduated from college 10 years ago, don’t bring up your class ranking. Companies hire on resumes, but promote on performance. Just because you’re buying a house or expecting a baby doesn’t mean you deserve a raise.

Don’t bluff

Don’t threaten your manager with an offer from another company unless you’re fully prepared to leave. If you walk in saying, “I’m going to accept an offer from Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company if you don’t give me a raise,” be prepared to hear, “Well, good luck at Dunder-Mifflin.”

 

After you ask…

Don’t be the person constantly asking for more money

If you receive a raise, wait at least a year to ask again. If you’re more junior, in an entry-level job or an internship, you can ask after six months or so. If your boss is bracing themselves for another request every time they sit down with you, you’ll damage your relationship (and sabotage your chances of future raises).

Do make a plan

If your manager says “no,” ask them what they need to see before agreeing to a raise, and then set a timeline. Ask, “Can we talk again in 90 days once I’ve had time to implement what we’ve talked about?” You’ll look proactive and professional, rather than whiny.

Don’t hesitate to make suggestions

Instead of a raise, you can ask for a bonus or a title bump when you hit a certain metric. If you’re told to stop asking for more money, you have two options: Accept the status quo or look for another job. Is your company worth sticking with, or is it time to jump ship?

The good news about compensation conversations is that they’re always ongoing, so if you don’t get the answer you want this time, you can circle back or find a company where you’ll be more highly valued. Focus on your performance, the going rate for someone with your skills and experience, and clear communication with your manager, and you’ll be in excellent shape to maximize your earnings.