Getting a Raise: Secrets from a Manager

Some expert advice on how to boost your compensation.

Before requesting a raise, be sure to ask yourself: Are you worth it? You may have heard of the "Lake Wobegon" effect -- that fictional place where "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average" -- that describes a trait in overestimating one's abilities. Are you really that good? If not, you're just wasting everyone's time.

If you're due for a raise, justify one with a one-page summary. First, list recent results in business terms. An example might show dollars saved from your efforts. Consider any areas of added value or additional responsibilities you took on.

Your personal situation is not grounds for a raise. Similarly, what another employee gets paid is irrelevant.

Once you've sorted out your list, think about an amount. Research what salary someone in your role typically gets paid based on your industry and location. The annual Redmond Salary Survey is a great place to start if you're in the United States.

Resist making an "ambit claim" -- asking for a big number in the hope of agreeing to a compromise. Splitting the difference can seem appealing, but your manager may dismiss the high figure as unrealistic and simply give you nothing.

Also, research any company policies for salary increases. This will give you an idea of what your manager has to work with and potential roadblocks. Keep in mind the company's financial health, which can influence any raise requests.

Take a Meeting
With that, you're ready to schedule a meeting -- 30 minutes is more than enough. A meeting removes the element of "ambushing" your manager, which can put him on the defensive.

Open the discussion and then cover each point in your summary. Only when you've fully made your case -- and your manager has understood it -- should you discuss an amount.

In the meeting, remain the valuable business professional. Don't raise your voice, don't get emotional and don't make threats. You'll need to keep a good relationship with your manager, and even if you resign later you should leave on the best terms.

At the end of the meeting, your manager will discuss what will happen next. Often they will need more time to consider and secure approval through upper management. Be sure to ask when you can discuss the results, and remember to thank your manager.

Beware of Thrown Curve Balls
Managers are taught that more money doesn't make employees happy and motivated, so don't be surprised if you're given other non-salary options. It's up to you whether these options meet your goals.

One trap that some fall into when they've been rejected is to reduce work performance so it's commensurate with current pay. Do this and you'll be less likely to be considered for a future raise.

If you've reached the upper salary ceiling for your job role, maybe it's time to discuss what senior roles you might move into.

I was tempted to end with a "good luck," but luck has nothing to do with getting a raise. The key factors for success are your ongoing value to the company and your preparation for demonstrating that value.

Click here to read the 2008 Redmond Salary Survey.

About the Author

Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to and


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