9 Things to Know About Asking for a Raise

Compensation reviews can be unpredictable and unpleasant. There can be an uncertainty about when is the appropriate time to ask for a raise, causing hard feelings on both sides. I’ve been on both sides of the fence when it comes to raises and it’s difficult for all parties involved if the process isn’t handled professionally. Here are my nine top tips for anyone who is considering asking for a raise: 

1) Be scheduled
If compensation/performance reviews are not discussed during your final interview, I recommend addressing them as part of your overall package. By providing all parties involved with a clear time frame, an employee is saved the anxiety of the unknown and for the partner it prevents random requests for compensation at a time that’s usually less than ideal.

Side note for employers: I have heard some less than savvy employers say that they prefer to ‘surprise’ employees with random raises and bonuses, as opposed to providing a set structure like the one I have described above. Although I agree that many employees would be delighted to have a random compensation increase, this should occur in addition to and not in lieu of a real meeting where the employee is able to prepare and present themselves for feedback. It just isn’t fair to keep your employees guessing.

2) Be prepared
Prepare answers to the following: Why do you deserve a raise? What positive impact have you demonstrated? What qualities do you have that will serve the firm in the future (meaning you are worth the investment)? List out the qualities you have now that will benefit your employers in the future and give concrete examples. Refer to hard financial data on your performance, too.

3) Don’t be entitled
Several years ago, an associate in my firm attended her compensation review with only one factor in mind that – apparently, she was due an obligatory one-year salary increase. She had no idea what positive or negative impact she brought to the company, nor did she seem to care. On a side note, this first year associate had taken 17 days of vacation – not including ‘half’ days. Although her raise request was done with a straight face, it was hard to avoid disbelief on mine. The asker should be prepared to demonstrate objectively and subjectively, why they deserve an increase in pay. 

4) Be aware of your company’s financial climate
A successful request for a raise will depend a lot on timing, even if the meeting is scheduled. Look at the circumstances going on at your office: Did your company just lose a big client? Are you hearing about budget cuts? If so, it might be good to delay the meeting for a few weeks.

5) Be conscious of your value
There are many reasons why you might not be an ideal candidate for a raise and the best thing you can do is hear these out, improve upon them and try again. If you’re denied a raise based on some performance issues, commit to your employer that this is going to change and ask for a six-month performance review.

7) Be calm
Appearing hot and defensive when you ask for a raise won’t go well. You have to be an advocate for yourself while remaining level headed – not an easy thing to do. Be in a good place before this discussion by trying to schedule it at a time when you are not rushed, hungry or stressed out. Visualize the success of the meeting on a regular basis as much as possible before it happens and, if you’re into this sort of thing (I am!), mediate beforehand. Calm, cool and collected are three huge assets any employer would want to celebrate.

8) Be creative
Cash flow is a problem in most businesses. If your employer informs you that you deserve a raise but money is too tight, be prepared with a creative solution. An idea from my business (plaintiff’s personal injury and wrongful death), would be asking for commission on business you bring into the company. Other ideas are amenities: gym or club memberships, increased vacation days and a flexible schedule. Try to think about all of the possible ways you can get what you want, without breaking your employer’s bank to get it.

9) Be clear
Ask for what you want, plus a little more. This is a negotiation. You want room to move. If you’re granted your first demand that’s wonderful, but the odds are strongly in favor of a counter, which is less than your wildest dreams. If you build in room to move in your request, you can have real dialogue that also makes you look reasonable.

Lyndsay Markley

Chicago-based attorney, Lyndsay Markley (www.lmarkleylaw.com) has dedicated her legal practice to fighting on behalf of persons who suffered injuries or death as the result of the wrongful or careless conduct of others. Lyndsay set up her own law practice in February 2014 and previous to this, was an equity shareholder at another established Chicago law firm. Her 2015 accolades include 10 Best Under 40 status from the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys, Premier 100 Trial Attorney status from the American Academy of Trial Attorneys and Illinois’ Rising Star status from Super Lawyers. Connect with @LyndsayMarkley on Twitter.

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