From A Therapist's Perspective
Coaching people on how to get a raise from their respective employer is something that I've been doing for years. Not only do I have a masters in mental health, which might also be seen as a masters degree in being a good communicator, I own my own business and have had 40 to 50 employees over the past seven years. I've been involved in salary negotiation conversations a number of times, both as the one asking for a pay increase and the one who is being asked to give out a raise. That being said, I think I bring a bit of a unique voice to this conversation and if you are looking to get a pay raise, here are some tips and tricks that I think could help you achieve that higher salary.
So Why Should We Meet Your Raise Request?
Most people begin their salary increase request with jargon that really does not mean all that much. I remember having a conversation with one of my wife's friends years ago about why she wanted an increase in her current salary. I thought I'd role play it with her a bit, so I asked why she deserves a raise. She went on to tell me how she was invaluable to the company and great at her job. I was looking for more though. She floundered a bit trying to tell me how she exemplifies all of the things that you would look for in an employee, you know, someone who brings a good hard work ethic to the business and has a good idea more often than not. I think she was a bit deflated when I told her this wasn't really doing it for me and it also didn't really mean anything.
And this is the first mistake that people make when they are looking for that possibility of a salary increase: they focus on some of the things that they are doing well. Which is why we want to quickly shift our focus off of that and on to the external circumstances of life.
I then asked her what was going on in her life that necessitated that she be making more money. She told me about how she and her husband were looking to start a family. Not only to kids require having some more money, but with their expanding family they were also hoping to move into a larger home as their current home wouldn't be as sufficient for raising children. And this my friends is the first step that we are going to take when it comes to making a strong case for why more money is necessary. The reason that you are placing this higher salary request is not because of everything you have already done for the company, it is because you are needing to make more money in your life.
People can be afraid to make this move because it can sound greedy or like it's not really about the benefit of the company. But I don't really see anybody out there working for free and most employers understand that your family comes before your job. If you don't have an employer who understands that, I'd probably recommend looking for a new job.
And the reason that you are needing to make more money doesn't even need to be thrust upon you. It's great if you can say that you just got pregnant with triplets and need to bring in some extra cash to feed all of their little mouths, but it doesn't need to come from some mildly out of control event. It can simply be because you have been living at a certain income level for the past year or longer and are wanting to upgrade your lifestyle. And if you are in a company where you have these conversations with the actual owner of the company, rather than just a manager, this is also something they should understand. They wanted to improve their life financially and so they sought out owning a company in order to do so. Now they are talking to somebody else who is also motivated to make improvements in their life? You've also established some common ground.
Move The Problem
One of the best things we can do in a negotiation is move the problem from being between the two people engaged in the negotiation, and move it metaphorically out to the side so we can work on it together. If you come to somebody and tell them that they need to pay you more money, you are essentially giving them the problem and asking them to do something about it. People don't really like this and it causes some defensiveness. They end up feeling like they are sitting across from you and you want them to do something for you. In this scenario I want you to picture a direct line moving between you and the person you are talking to.
But now let's imagine that we can move the problem out to the side of the conversation. Imagine that you, your employer, and the problem (needing to make more money) now form a triangle. You and your employer are at the bottom of the triangle and at the top point you have the raise.
Now the two of you have the opportunity to work on something together and can actually unite over a common goal. This is going to be the best way for us to actually achieve our goal of increasing that dollar amount on our paycheck. You might be curious about why your employer is uniting with you on this goal of you making more money. The reason for this is because if you are telling them you need to make more money, their mind will of course go towards if you are able to find a way to make more money outside of their organization. We don't want to come in in a threatening way saying we are going to leave if they don't meet our request. In fact we want to let our employer know how much we want to stay at the organization and contribute to the success of the company. This is where the problem comes into play.
I want to stay at this company.
I don't make enough money in this position.
How do we resolve this?
Again, this isn't about what I want vs what you want, it's now about what we both want.
What Do I Need To Do
When we are talking about a pay rise what we are really talking about is driving more revenue to the company. We need to be making significant contributions towards the overall profit of the organization and we need to have a higher understanding for how we are going to do that. There is a decent chance that after this conversation you are going to need to take on some additional responsibilities, which is for the most part how all of our valuable contributions work.
The only reason that you would not need to to take on new responsibilities is if there is something that is not lining up about the original agreement. Meaning, when you first took your position, you agreed to a certain average salary as long as you fulfilled the outlined responsibilities. Obviously our job descriptions are never perfect and sometimes we do a bit more than we are asked to do or have a week that is a bit less. But if you have spent some good time working on tasks that were not originally discussed, you can bring the conversation back to the fact that you are being paid to do a certain amount of things but are actually doing more than that.
So this leads us to the question that are going to ask:
"What do I need to do so that I can make more money here?"
The reason that I like this question is because it assumed that you are not just coming with an ask, but rather you are coming with a give. You are saying "I want to use my skill set here to bring more money to the organization, how do we make that happen?"
This doesn't necessarily mean that you need to change your current position, but we do need to change your current role. Meaning that you are now responsible for more things. It can be tough for the person you are speaking with to come up with a new set of tasks for you in the heat of the moment, and so if they need some time that is okay. This is also why it is good for you to come with several ideas that you are bringing to the table. Think about some specific examples that you are passionate about and could see yourself providing some added value. It will be really difficult to accomplish if you are not doing things that actually bring more dollars into the company. For instance, if you are saying you want to be in charge of remembering everybody's birthdays and having their teammates sign a card with positive feedback, sure that is good for morale but doesn't actually create any increased revenue.
This is really part of the second piece in the conversation, but I think it deserves it's own header. When you vocalize how you want to be making more money, you need to be able to give a range when you ask for it. People can be afraid to do this because they feel they might be leaving money on the table by showing their hand first. But this kind of makes our first point fall apart. Let's play this out:
Employee: As you know, my partner and I are wanting to expand our family and in order to be able to do so, I need to be making more money.
Manager: Okay, how much do you need to be making?
Employee: I don't know, how much are you willing to give me?
It's not a very compelling argument and doesn't really make a lot of sense. You are tring to come in as an intentional well organized individual who understands what needs to happen in your own life as well as your contribution to the company.
Now rather than just give the number that you want to make, you are going to give a range and the low number of that range is what you are actually wanting to get. If you get more than that, great. But everybody likes getting a deal. If I tell you that I charge between $125 and $175 per hour for individual counseling, you are probably going to be pretty happy with the $125 price. If I tell you I charge between $90 and $125, paying the $125 rate suddenly doesn't seem so great. It's also better but not imperative that those numbers have a bit of oddness to them. It's better to say that you need to be making between $62,500 and $70,000 than using $60,000 as your base anchor. When our numbers are too round if make it seem like we're just pulling it out of thin air. $62,500 looks like you've sat down and looked at your budget to determine what the correct answer is.
All of this shows how deliberate of an individual you are which puts your threat of leaving the company at a bit higher without actually making the threat.
Now here is the disappointing part of this conversation, is that you are not going to receive a raise the first time that you have this conversation. That's not what the conversation is for. It's the starting point for setting you up for when you are actually going to receive the raise. I like to set somewhere between a 90 day period for when you will reconvene to see if you have met the agreed upon goals. I think it's important to also schedule that meeting right then and there. If you are having the conversation on January 22nd, look at the week of April 22nd and get that meeting on the calendar. If you've accomplished what you said you would in that time period, you have a great chance at receiving the reward. If your employer is unwilling to give it to you, it might be time to look for a new employer.
I also like to send an email receipt of that conversation just recapping what was said. It doesn't have to be long, but can be short and simple. You can use the email template below:
Thank you for much for meeting with me just now. Just to recap our conversation, with the upcoming move my partner and I have as well as some other life circumstances, I am needing to be making somewhere between $78,500 and $85,000 per year. I want to do do that at this company and so I am going to be working on driving more revenue to the company by (list out all of the tasks that you agreed you would do).
Our plan is to meet in 90 days on April 22nd at 1:30pm to discuss whether or not that was achieve.
I am looking forward to that upcoming conversation.
And that is how you are going to do it. Our key points are:
State your desire to stay at the company while needing to make more money due to a life circumstance.
Ask for what you need to do in addition to bringing your own ideas in order to achieve your desired salary range.
Set a follow up meeting to discuss.
A strong work ethic is going to go a long ways as well, but I think that having a structure to our conversation really improves our chances of success. Remember, your negotiations are only going to go as well as you prepare for them.