Professional Development

How to negotiate a raise or promotion

Asking for a raise or promotion at work can be an intimidating process. It can be hard to know when you’re being underpaid, and understand your market value in a culture that still treats talking about salaries as “taboo.”

Self-advocating for your worth can have huge personal and professional benefits, despite potential high stakes. Even if you don’t score exactly what you were hoping monetarily, you can still learn some invaluable skills in the process. The following strategies can help employees increase their value at work and improve their success when negotiating raises and promotions.

Understand your value  

Employees need to understand their value before asking for a raise or promotion. Simply assuming you’re being underpaid is a great way to get shot down. You can start understanding your value to the company in a few ways:

  • Check starting salaries or hourly rates listed in job postings for your job title.
  • Research the average salary for people in your position.
  • Talk with other people who work in your field/have the same training as you.

This can give you a good idea of how much your skills related to your position are worth, and help you measure it against your current salary. Checking the cost of living in your area against your current salary is another good way to judge if you’re being underpaid. If you can’t support yourself solely at a full-time job, then it may be time to start creating a plan for a raise.

It’s important to note that seniority shouldn’t be the defining factor when negotiating your raise. While it can be helpful, you should prove that your time at the company has been valuable, not just lengthy.

Track your achievements

Keeping a record of professional accomplishments, such as valuable projects you helped work on, praise from customers or coworkers, or direct policies you influenced can give you supporting evidence to cite when negotiating a raise. This is where proving that your loyalty has value comes in. If you can cite your merits, alongside the average wage for your position or training, you can create an incredibly compelling raise argument.

Study your company’s pay structure

Studying the pay structure used by your organization can help you calculate a reasonable salary to request. According to Indeed, the eight types of pay progression structures include:

  • Length of time employed
  • Competitive rates
  • Company performance
  • Individual performance
  • Team performance
  • Skill development
  • Inflation-based

Some of these pay structures are easier to negotiate a raise than others. For example, if you can prove that your salary falls below competitive rates to your employer— or show them you’re receiving a competitive offer with a higher salary — and they follow a competitive pay structure, this can be enough to secure you a raise. However, for performance or time-based raises, the process could be much more complicated and nuanced.

Build a rapport with your supervisor

Maintaining a strong working relationship with your supervisor can help improve your chances of getting a raise. This isn’t about playing favorites, but simply about having an inside track to company developments and policies.

Your supervisor can help you negotiate a raise by providing you with new insights that allow you to improve your performance, or discussing how previous employees who successfully received raises did so.

You can start building a healthy rapport with your supervisor by:

  • Asking for feedback on your performance outside of mandatory reviews.
  • Providing critical feedback whenever it’s asked of you.
  • Volunteering for enrichment opportunities.
  • Lending a hand when you can.

It can’t be stated enough — creating a rapport with your manager isn’t about sucking up or being best friends. It’s about showing that you’re an engaged and interested employee.

Devise a backup plan 

There is always a possibility of denial when asking for a raise. This may be because your company doesn’t agree with your proposal, or because there’s no extra money in the budget, as well as a plethora of other bureaucratic reasons.

You can safeguard yourself against total denial by having a backup plan. For example, asking for other forms of compensation, like stock options, or more flexible hours can be just as intrinsically valuable as asking for more money.

If you’re completely denied, be sure to ask for critical feedback — was there a way that you could have increased your chances for success?

Don’t be afraid of quitting 

Quitting as a response to a raise denial can be a powerful leverage tool when used correctly. Before you consider quitting or raising the ultimatum with management, be sure that your job’s intrinsic value — the culture, your co-workers, your commute — matters less to you than the figure you’re requesting.

Sometimes, being paid less than what you want can be worth it if you’re still financially stable, and you’re working for a company you love. However, if you’re working with unreasonable management or unfair working conditions, it’s more than fair to move on to a new company.

How to increase your value

An employee’s value to their company is essential in determining their chances of getting a raise or promotion. Employees make it possible for companies to function, to provide the products or services that help keep them profitable.

Establishing and increasing your value to your company is a great way to increase your leverage when negotiating for a raise. In addition, there are several other ways that you can increase your value as an employee to your company.

Continue your education

Earning additional educational qualifications can set employees apart for additional opportunities in the workplace. This endeavor doesn’t have to include earning a degree — taking professional development courses and earning specialty certificates  in your field are other ways you can continue your education. In some cases, your workplace may even reimburse you for continuing education costs.

If you are interested, earning a degree online can be ideal for fitting school into a full-time work schedule. Professional development courses may also be available online as a flexible, cost-efficient option. 

Ask for more responsibility

Another way that employees can increase their value to their company is by taking on more day-to-day responsibilities in the workplace. This can display initiative and create more job security as you become more integral to the company’s operation.

Any extra responsibility you offer to take mustn’t put your work/life balance in danger — overextending yourself for the sake of a possible raise is a gamble that doesn’t always pay off. Ask your supervisor if there are any tasks they could comfortably delegate to you.

Help other employees

You can showcase your skills and help build a positive reputation around the company by being helpful to other coworkers. Offering to brainstorm on projects, providing feedback, answering process questions or offering to help up-train new employees are all good ways that you can assist your other employees without sacrificing your own working time.

Once you’ve determined that you deserve a raise and have collected a case in your favor, it’s time to sit down with your manager and have a conversation. Try to be amicable but firm in your wants or needs, as this will ensure you don’t burn any future bridges you may need to walk down.

Raise negotiates can take some time, particularly if all the interested parties aren’t physically able to gather and discuss. So be patient and be confident in your worth as an employee.