Asking For A Raise

Asking For A Raise

Hey Dan and Guy! How should I ask my boss for a raise? I've been at this company for a few years and while I've been given a yearly raise, it never seems to be enough to get ahead.

There comes a time, usually about an hour into your first graveyard shift, that you think to yourself , "They don't pay me enough for this." For me it was about 3 A.M. and my second day on the job.

Some drunk decided it would be a good idea to urinate on the side of the building I was monitoring. I found him, grabbed him by the shoulder and started to tell him to move on, but I couldn't seem to find my words. It turns out he wasn't quite finished, so my pants and shoes got a nice little pee shower. After spending the next five hours smelling like stale urine, I decided I needed more money.

Unfortunately, since it was still only my first week, that raise just wasn't going to happen.

Model Employee

The next six months I was a model employee. I was at my shift on time, uniform spotless, smile on my face.

I cozied up to my boss, Eric, and looked for every chance I could to brown nose. Eric was a pretty repulsive guy, someone who rarely showered and liked to tell stories about how he banged the gorgeous salesgirl while he played drum solos on his enormous belly.

He loved the attention I was giving him, and soon we were the best of pals. He even asked me to join him in a trip to his favorite bar on one of my off nights. He wasn't any more pleasant to be around after eight beers than when I was sober.

I finally worked up the courage to go talk to him about my pay rate. I had a whole speech laid out. I was 33, with a wife and a small child. We couldn't afford to send the kid to daycare, so the wife had to stay at home, leaving me as the only source of income.

The bare pittance the security company paid me was barely enough to eek out a living, and nowhere close to enough to provide my family the kind of life they deserved. I was hoping that I could play on his heartstrings, maybe get a little sympathy.

Asking For That Raise

I strolled into his office after my shift one morning to talk about my situation. The words "Eric, I need a raise" weren't out of my lips for two seconds before he started laughing at me. I honestly don't know how he didn't have a heart attack, he was going at it so violently. Red-faced, he tried to stammer out a response, but he wasn't able to catch his breath long enough to say anything.

When Eric finally spoke he berated me for not being appreciative for my employment. He pointed out that someone with my work history and education wasn't exactly an ideal employee. He raved on about how easy it was to find and train new people, and he would be better off getting rid of me than paying me more.

It took every ounce of strength that I had not to slap him in the face, but I managed to pull myself together long enough to tell him that I quit. I walked out of his tiny office with my head held high.

A year later I found myself in a similar situation. I'd gotten a job doing daytime lot security, which meant much better hours and fewer drunken idiots, but I still wasn't making as much as I wanted. I talked to my wife about whether or not I should ask my boss for a raise.

She pointed out what happened when I asked Eric for one, and after we had a good laugh at his expense, I realized I needed a different approach.

Have A Plan

For a week I thought about nothing other than how to ask the new boss, Mike, for a raise. I knew that brown nosing was not the way to go, because it's transparent and insincere. One rainy afternoon I had an epiphany.

My plan for asking Mike for a raise would be threefold:

  • Schedule an appointment: I needed to let Mike know that I respected him and his time, and the only way to do that was to schedule an appointment with him. It made me seem more professional and set the right tone for our conversation.
  • Don't talk about others: The last time I'd asked for a raise I tried to justify my request by pointing out how much more the other guards made. I didn't even consider that they had different circumstances, maybe more education or experience than me. I just assumed that we should all make the same since we all did the same job. Focusing on other people opened me up for attacks on my performance that would keep me from getting that raise. Tommy might make more money than me, but that's because he's always on time.
  • Make a proposal: Finally, I knew I needed to have a number. Just saying I needed a "raise" was never going to get me what I wanted. Mike might give me $.25 an hour just to get me to leave, but that's not what I was looking for. The number had to be on the high end of what a reasonable request would be. Asking for too little wouldn't give me any room for negotiation, and asking for too much would make Mike defensive.

I spent the evening before my meeting drawing up a list of things I wanted to talk about. I wrote down some ideas I had to improve the quality of life for all of the guards and ways that we could improve security for the site, without spending a lot of money.

I made notes about the good things that I'd done, all of the positive aspects of my performance, and my reasoning behind the raise request.

On a separate sheet I listed the reasons why Mike might deny my request so I could start thinking of counterpoints to his arguments.

The Ask

On the day of our meeting I arrived early to calm my nerves and prepare myself. I went into Mike's office and spent about five minutes making my case. He nodded in agreement in all the right places and I swear his brow furrowed only a little when he began to realize I was asking for a raise.

When I was done, he told me how much he appreciated my work, but he couldn't possibly give me the extra $3 an hour I wanted.

He countered with $1 and a promise to reevaluate my pay in three months. After a few minutes of negotiation we settled on $2.25 and I left his office feeling like a hero.

Asking for a raise is always tricky business. The person you are making the request to usually feels as underpaid and under appreciated as you do.

Many times they don't have the authority to give out a raise over a very small pittance with your annual evaluation, and they feel powerless as they watch great employees walk over low pay.

The best thing to do is keep your cool, present a logical argument and stay professional throughout the conversation. Doing so won't necessarily guarantee you a raise, but it will increase your chances.

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