People are often apprehensive about asking for a raise, but research shows it pays off: According to a survey conducted by PayScale.com, 75% of workers who asked for a raise got one, and more than half of that group got the amount they requested.
The reasons people avoid asking can be complicated, but career experts say there are ways to conquer the fear factor and get over your reluctance. The key is to understand the thoughts behind the hesitation.
The thought: “I don’t deserve it.” Many workers, even accomplished and experienced people, don’t feel like they’re equipped to ask for more money. Salary.com conducted a survey and found that nearly a third of respondents think they lack the skills or confidence to negotiate for higher pay. “It’s common for people to tie their self-worth with their salary,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of HR consulting company Robert Half. If you’re not being paid what you’re worth, that can become a negative feedback loop that prevents you from taking action. But, as PayScale’s data shows, the vast majority of people do in fact deserve the raises they ask for.
What to do: “It’s important first to understand and acknowledge your self worth,” executive leadership coach Lolly Daskal advised in a recent Harvard Business Review article. This won’t just improve your bank account balance; it will benefit your morale as well. List your accomplishments and articulate them the way you would to your boss in role-playing exercises with a friend or trusted colleague.
The thought: “I shouldn’t talk about this.” “In my experience, employees often seem embarrassed to talk with their supervisors or HR about compensation issues, particularly when asking for a raise,” said Art Glover, expert panelist with the Society for Human Resource Management. Glover said many people have the idea that asking for a raise is confrontational or takes them out of their comfort zone—an impression some companies do nothing to dissuade.
What to do: Consider how much transparency there is around salaries, raises and bonuses—or if the entire topic is a “black box.” “Some organizations have created a culture that nurtures this reluctance to speak openly about compensation,” Glover said. If this is the case, your best bet is to come to the conversation armed with facts and keep your argument focused and direct. Your chances of success are greater, he advised, “if you have prepared talking points that seem objective and fact-based.”
The thought: “My employer will pay me what I’m worth.” Another common pitfall is to think that when you’re ready for a raise, your boss will offer it to you. “Some workers may feel it’s their employer’s job to pay them what they’re worth, and that they shouldn’t have to ask for a raise,” McDonald said. But the dynamic around raises has changed in recent years, pointed out Amanda Augustine, career advice expert at the site TopResume. “Before the recession, it was normal for companies to give out annual raises,” she said; these days, not so much.
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What to do: Don’t wait for your employer to come to you. In today’s lean and mean corporate culture, you need to be your own advocate. “If you want more money, you have to be willing to ask for it,” Augustine said.
The thought: “What if my boss says no?” It’s only natural to shy away from the prospect of rejection, but that could be costing you a raise, McDonald said. “Some people aren’t prepared to hear ‘no’ and negotiate from there,” he said.
What to do: Go into the conversation knowing what you really are worth, said Aubrey Bach, PayScale’s marketing manager. “When you use data to drive the discussion, you take away the emotional penalties that drive fear associated with salary negotiation,” she advised. Do research into salary ranges for your title and job description so you can make the case to your boss more easily. “If you come into a salary negotiation with a well-researched number and data about your performance and your market value, you remove most of the friction,” Bach said.