Asking for a Raise: How to Manage Common Salary Situations

Asking for a raise can be one of the most nerve-racking things you can do at work. As motivated as you may be to earn more, you also may fear your supervisor’s reaction: Will you be seen as greedy? Will your boss reject your request? Will there be any negative long-term implications if you’re turned down?

Here are three common challenges you may encounter when seeking a pay increase, along with strategies for managing them appropriately:

You feel too intimidated to ask for a raise.
As much as you believe you deserve to earn more, you just can’t bring yourself to initiate the discussion with your manager, so month after month passes by with no action. To overcome this roadblock, you need to put the situation in perspective. Negotiations go on every day in business, and your boss will not be appalled that you broached the topic. You’re not the first IT professional to seek a raise, and you won’t be the last.

The key is to build your confidence by researching your value in today’s market. Talk to colleagues, friends and others in the industry, and gather the latest salary data. The better you understand what other employers are paying, the easier it will be to make a persuasive case for boosting your pay.

You want a raise, but your employer isn’t doing very well financially.
It’s best to wait until conditions improve. Even if your supervisor is impressed with you and wants to give you a raise, it simply may not be possible due to budget considerations.

If you do decide to make the leap and seek a pay increase during challenging business times, you will need to make a concerted effort to show how your work is positively affecting the bottom line. For instance, maybe you came up with an idea that helped your team work more efficiently or found a way to make some older systems work well until the firm can invest in newer technologies. Also, enter the discussion with the latest salary data to show that your pay is below what other firms offer.

You find out a co-worker in the same role earns more.
Another programmer in the same position left her pay stub sitting on her desk and you happened to see the amount of the check. You realize you’re earning far less and you’re not happy about it, so you’re ready to walk down to your manager’s office and demand a raise.

Hold off. You may be unaware of factors affecting your colleague’s compensation. Maybe she holds a professional certification or declines the firm’s health benefits package, leading to a higher salary.

Your boss will not be impressed that you accessed confidential information, so don’t refer to it when asking for a raise. Instead, focus entirely on your contributions and compensation trends in the IT profession to make the strongest case for a pay increase.

In all situations, you should never mention your personal financial concerns. The fact that your mortgage has gone up, you have multiple student loans to pay off or you need to earn more to pay for that new car are irrelevant to the discussion. Your compensation is tied directly to your value to the firm, so concentrate your efforts accordingly.

Regardless of the outcome of your talk, remain professional and thank your boss for considering your request. Even if you are turned down today, the situation may change three months from now, so it’s best to overcome your disappointment and adopt as positive a mindset as possible. You never know when your manager might agree to give you the raise you want, so take the step when you feel it’s warranted, and you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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