What's Keeping You From Asking For A Raise?

After telling people that I am a salary negotiation coach, they often share the things that keep them from asking for more money. I've found that the most common fears fall into the following four categories:

Fear of Negotiating

A recent salary.com survey suggested that many people avoid asking for more money because they lack the skills to negotiate or because they find the process of negotiating uncomfortable.

Just the other day, I saw an article that estimated that people who negotiate their salaries make $1 million more than their peers who don't negotiate over the course of their careers. That's a big difference! What would you do with a million extra dollars?

I always tell clients that performance reviews are a great opportunity to discuss a raise. Compensation and performance are closely linked - so discussing a raise at the same time you're discussing performance makes sense.

Fear of "No"

Anytime you ask for something you want, you run the risk hearing "no". Just because your boss says no the first time you ask, doesn't mean the door is permanently closed. If you hear the "no" from your boss and assume the case is closed, you've missed a great potential opportunity.

“No” creates a problem-solving opportunity, an opportunity to find common interests that will make both parties happy. Invite your bargaining partner to collaborate with you, to figure out how both of you can get as many of your needs met as possible.

For example, let's say your goal is a $10k raise, you can share that goal with your boss, sit down together and create a list of what you need to accomplish in order earn the raise, set a timeframe for revisiting the conversation (I.e. 6 months) and make sure to check-in along the way.

Fear of Losing Your Job

Many people shy away from negotiating because they don't want to make waves - especially in this uncertain economy. People justify not asking for raises by telling themselves that being underpaid is better than not being paid at all. The notion that asking for a raise can get you fired is an urban legend. I've never met one of these mythical people who got fired for asking for more money.

Keep in mind, each time a company has to recruit and train a new person, it costs them $40k. Also, if your job requires a specific skill set, replacing you could cost the company a lot more than it would to give you a raise.

I worked with a client who was preparing to apply to grad school and she wanted a title that reflected the true nature of her job responsibilities. She broached the subject at performance review time and not only had her title elevated but also got a raise and a promotion a short time later!

Fear that You're Not Actually Worth More

We all know have at least one co-worker who struts around the office like he's the company golden child. None of us want to be the person with the inflated sense of importance. These golden children are much less common than the employees who undervalue themselves. Most people don't believe that their contributions are more valuable than those of their colleagues and without the ability to see their worth, they struggle to ask for more money. That's a classic case of imposter syndrome - it's the fear of being exposed as not nearly as talented, intelligent or deserving as others think you are. Those who suffer from it are likely to attribute raises and promotions they receive to good luck or a gesture of their bosses' goodwill.

The Antidote to These Fears....Knowing Your Worth

There are two pieces that determine your worth - market data for the position and your unique skills and contributions.

Sites like Glassdoor and Payscale provide valuable data about how much your peers in similar roles are making. They break the data down based on geography and level of the position. When you view this data, it's important to keep mind that people who entered the field in the past few years, might be making more than you because the economy (in many industries and locations) has improved recently!

The other component that makes up your worth is your unique skills and the contributions you've made to the organization. I always recommend that clients keep a list of their contributions throughout the year. It's always easier to document these achievements as they happen rather than waiting until the end of the year and trying to remember all the good things that you did! It's also a great idea to keep emails from clients thanking or praising you in a file. These testimonials are great evidence to show your boss when broaching the subject of a raise.

I worked with a client whose workload had doubled in the year since she was hired as an HR Coordinator. She had assumed the responsibilities of one of her HR Generalist colleagues who was out on an extended maternity leave. She had also spearheaded the purchase and implementation of a new talent management system. She did research which ended up saving the company tens of thousands of dollars. She had initially hesitated asking her boss for a raise, but after listing all of her contributions to the organization, she realized that she had more than earned it. When she shared her list of accomplishments with her manager, he agreed and was able to get approval to give her a $15k raise the following week.

The secret to successfully asking for a raise is being able to articulate why it makes financial sense for THEM to give you a raise!

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