4 Steps to Ask for a Raise
Q: I’ve been at my job for a while now, and I know that I make a valuable contribution to my company, but I don’t know how to ask for a raise. Employers say vague things about the economy being sluggish and rush past any conversation that involves compensation. What does the Bible have to say about how to have an uncomfortable conversation about compensation? Is it more “Christian” to take a lower salary and give up worldly riches?
A: This will be fun! Hopefully this will cover the questions you are wrestling with and give you some tips for seeking a raise so you will be on track for a healthy increase in pay soon!
Your question raises an issue on which I believe many people are confused, namely how to understand how God views rich versus poor, and whether one of those states is more “spiritual.” The Bible is clear that God is the Maker and Master of rich and poor alike, who are both expected to be good and faithful stewards with what they have been entrusted.
But that doesn’t mean that a good man or woman should take a lower salary without comment or that God doesn’t care when people are underpaid. In fact, the Bible consistently tells employers to pay their workers fairly. In James 5:4, Scripture says that God hears the cries of workers treated unfairly, saying, “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.”
Here are four recommendations for seeking a raise.
1. KNOW YOUR MARKET
You believe that your work is valuable to your company and that given your experience you should be rewarded. Romans 4:4 says, “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.” What would an employer be obliged to pay for the kind of work you do?
You must first research the job market in your area to consider what employers typically pay for your skill set and level of experience. Your employer doesn’t pay you because you are friends, but because you do something important that has an associated cost. If you find that you are underpaid according to your research, you can make the case that your work is valued higher than your current compensation, taking into consideration your experience and expertise. But you may instead find that you’re at the top of your market, and need to increase your skills. This is also a regional calculation, as you may not receive what a worker in New York City is paid, but you don’t have the cost of living in New York City. Check out Salary.com, Payscale or Glassdoor to begin your research.
2. KNOW YOUR TARGETS
In any job, an employee has tasks for which they are responsible. To argue for an increase in salary, you need to show that you are doing the job in front of you. Luke 16:10 observes, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
Can you illustrate the impact of your work? For people in sales, it is rather obvious as you can point to how many units you moved out the door. But it’s important for every person headed into a salary negotiation to show how you met and excelled in the tasks of your position.
Most employees would agree that their job description “evolves” over time, leaving competent people with more work that doesn’t exactly fit their role. Unfortunately for them, when it comes time for more money and advancement, the employer looks at only a few of the things they were first assigned to do. Pay attention to what an employer truly wants from you, and when new tasks are handed to you, make sure you know what they want to see happen, so that the new work will “count” when it comes time to evaluate how you spend your day.
Employers love data, so get it together for them. Start keeping a daily record of what you do so that you can show the scope of your work. Compare your job description to job descriptions similar to yours to illustrate that you are doing more than is expected at other locations, which would call for more money. You can look at other job listings as one source of information to understand the scope of work expected by your profession.
3. TELL YOUR STORY
So you have your market math, showing what your skills can earn, and you have your company math, showing how you contribute – now tell your unique story. If you don’t, no one else will. The Muserecommends that you prepare a one-page brag sheet – I prefer to call it a “value sheet” where you can identify how you are delivering results for the company.
A good framework for making your pitch is “Not only this… but that…” LifeHacker notes: “If you were to write it out as a formula, it might look like this: ‘Not only do I have [all the standard requirements that everyone else has] + but I also possess [the following unique traits that make me a better candidate and thus worth more money].’ Basically, you want to consider (and capture on paper) what makes you different.”
Writing in Time, Jim Hopkinson of SalaryTutor.com recommends that you evaluate your contribution by mentioning “unique, valuable, and complementary skills.” He observed:
“So if you know that the company you’re working for is looking to expand internationally, and they offer you a starting salary of $70,000, you might reply, ‘I appreciate that generous offer. However, since I’ll be coming into this position not only with proven marketing and team-building skills, but also as a multi-lingual manager with experience building out teams internationally, I was seeking a salary closer to the $80,000 range.’ If the hiring manager knows that this will be an asset in the future, or saves the time and cost to train a similar manager in language skills, you’re likely to get that additional salary.”
4. KNOW WHAT YOU’LL TAKE
Through your preparation you can go into a negotiation confident that you do deserve a higher salary and can command that kind of compensation in your market. This should help you take the emotion out of what can be a tough ask for many of us. But are you ready to walk away if the answer is no?
It’s possible that your employer will not respond to your request or counter with a lower number. It’s possible that he or she may offer to take some work off your plate or sweeten the deal with more vacation time or a flexible schedule. It’s worth considering whether time might be more valuable than money. With your research in hand, you are equipped to consider if it is time to walk away and go to the next level in another company.