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Asking for more money is one of the scariest things you can do at work.
There are dozens of guides online that detail tips and tricks to asking for a raise. Listicle after listicle, emblazoned with titles like, “DO THIS AND YOUR BOSS CAN’T SAY NO” or “THE SIX THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW IN ANY SALARY NEGOTIATION,” leave me wondering, “Do any of these tactics actually work?”
Many of the articles I read reference ways in which employees can distinguish themselves—phrases like “go above and beyond” or “take on more responsibilities” often end up somewhere in these types of articles.
In this article, however, I want to focus on ways you can ask for more money that don’t involve you doing more labor than you’re actually being paid for.
Because fuck that—you should be paid for the work you do, not for the work you hope to do but aren’t yet being compensated for.
So here are some of my tips. Nothing is guaranteed; these are mostly tactics to give yourself some peace of mind when walking into a scary meeting with your boss.
Just Ask — This is the most obvious, but if you feel comfortable with your boss, it can’t hurt to ask. The worst that could happen is that they say no. Most bosses, when asked respectfully, won’t bat an eye at a request for more money.
I had a coworker who wanted to leave his job because he wasn’t being paid enough. However, he never asked about a raise. He assumed our boss wouldn’t give him more money since our boss had never offered. I told my coworker to ask—and he immediately got a dollar an hour more.
Ask About Raises Early — In most jobs, there’s an expectation that your hourly rate or salary will go up at some point. Ask about raise early in your onboarding; if you can, ask during the interview process. If your boss says they usually give raises every six months, put a calendar reminder in your phone for six months after your hire date. Establish that this is something you care about.
Ask Around — Information is power. Do a google search on the average wage for your job. If you feel comfortable, ask your colleagues how much they make. Employees are allowed to talk about how much money they make at work—the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 makes it legal for employees to share how much they make with their coworkers. Talking about money can be deeply uncomfortable, but keep wages a secret perpetuates gender and racial wage disparities. Ask your colleagues if they’ve received raises or what their salary story has looked like at work.
Provide Creative Forms of Payment — In a previous job, I was told that there was no money to spare for raises. However, if I could save my company money over three months, I would pocket 30% of whatever money we saved. So I did—and I ended up saving the company $5,000 (literally this money was just lying around waiting to be saved. I in no way did anything revolutionary except be better at my job than the previous manager). I ended up taking home around $1300 after taxes.
Sometimes a raise has to be money. Sometimes it doesn’t. You can decide if travel opportunities, fewer hours of work for the same pay, or professional development are worthwhile forms of payment. I once asked another boss to build me a desk when he mentioned being unable to give me a raise for a few months. Sometimes, the bottom line has to be about money—and that’s perfectly acceptable—but if you have goals that are not being met, consider finding a creative solution.
Tie Your Current, Not Future, Performance to a Raise — Chronicle moments when you did your job well as opposed to promising to do more in the future. Did a customer leave a glowing review of your work? Show it to your boss. Are you always good at answering emails from your bosses and contributing to staff meetings? Mention that. Do you always leave your space sparkling, creating a welcoming scene for your coworkers to walk into? Bring it up. Remind your boss why you’re good at your job.
If Your Boss Passes, All Is Not Lost — If your boss says no to your request, that doesn’t have to be the end of the conversation. In that same discussion, you can create goals to get you to the next wage increase. This solidifies in your boss’ mind that this is a serious request that you’re going to follow up on later. Schedule another time to chat (and again, put it in your calendar) and write down all the goals your boss outlined.
You Have More Leverage Than You Think — For so long, I felt powerless at work. I felt like my fate was always in the hands of folks in leadership, but as an employee, you have more power than you think. When asking for a raise, tap into that power.
Let’s say you ask for a raise and your employer doesn’t give it to you. Be honest with how that affects your future. If not getting a raise means you might have to look for a job elsewhere (and you feel comfortable saying so) tell your employer. If an employer is operating with a mind to finances, they should already know that training a new employee is going to cost them more than giving you a raise. Studies vary in the average cost of turnover, but the low end puts the cost of turnover at about $1,200 with the high end going to about $9,000 for an employee making $8/hour. It’s ok to leverage your worth.
Even if you don’t get a raise, these tips are meant to normalize talking about money. If you’re a leader who truly wants to overhaul their wage system, I’d encourage you to read reading this piece I wrote about implementing a wage transparent policy at work.
It is ok for you to ask for a raise. You don’t have to justify why you need it—for rent or increased cost of living...that doesn’t matter. You don’t need to be a superhero who assumes a ton of extra responsibility just to prove you deserve a few extra bucks.
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