How to Negotiate a Raise Out of the Blue

I want a raise. It's a thought that most people have at some point or another. After all, you're an outstanding employee. You work hard. Of course you deserve a raise.

A yearly or biyearly raise is common, but not a guarantee. In certain instances, it may fall upon you as the employee to ask for an increase in pay.

Raises outside the normal pay structure should be treated like salary negotiations. The more leverage you bring to the table, the higher the chance you'll get something out of the negotiation. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you build your case.

Consider the company

Before you waste time cooking up a strategy, be realistic about the organization that employs you. Is it the type of company that works hard to cultivate and keep talent? Or is there a high turnover rate with little value placed on individual contributions?

If the company doesn't value its workers, you can certainly open the topic of a raise, but the chances of a successful negotiation may not be in your favor. After all, why pay an employee more when there are countless individuals that will do the same job for less? In these circumstance, you would be better served focusing your time on looking for a job elsewhere.

There's also the issue of financials. Is the organization financially stable enough to give you an unplanned raise? If the company isn't in a good place, the chances of obtaining a raise might be less likely. In these instances, you should come to the table with concrete evidence of how you've exceeded expectations in your contributions to the company. It's vital that you prove that a raise will be a long-term investment that could turn the company around. (See also: The Absolute Worst Ways to Ask for a Raise)

Consider your performance

Now, you must ask yourself objectively: Do you deserve a raise?

A raise, especially an unplanned raise, is a financial investment by your employer. Before you even broach the topic, analyze your last six to eight months with the company. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you taken on new tasks that are outside of your normal duties?

  • Do you outperform your coworkers?

  • Do you consistently get verbal or written praise by management for a job well done?

  • Do you contribute to the development and performance of coworkers?

  • Do you earn extra financial gains for the company?

  • Is your current wage below the normal pay for the profession in the surrounding area?

You should, ideally, be able to answer yes to at least a few of the above questions. If you can't answer yes to any of the questions, you probably don't have enough leverage to negotiate a raise successfully. It would be smarter to wait until you have more evidence in your corner before approaching management about a salary negotiation. (See also: 5 Times You Should Demand a Raise)

Preparing for a salary negotiation

As you prepare to ask for a raise, begin to collect evidence that you deserve one. Make a list of your noteworthy projects or accomplishments over the past year. You can write your accomplishments out in a resume, but it's not required. You should at least be able to speak about them in detail if necessary. You can start by:

  • Making note of any tasks that have been added to your regular duties.

  • Listing any big projects you successfully completed or led.

  • Quantifying above-average productivity or success.

  • Documenting any positive remarks from individuals in management about your performance over the past year.

If you don't already know it, research what the average salary is for other professionals in your field and region. You don't want to try to argue that you deserve a wage equivalent to a big city salary if you work in an area with a lower cost of living and lower salaries overall. You can check Glassdoor or for average salary stats in a number of fields and regions.

Be flexible during negotiations

When you do engage in salary negotiations, be flexible. Salary negotiations might not lead to a direct monetary raise. The company might not be prepared to invest more in personnel salaries or they might have a very strict pay structure that management doesn't have the power to override.

Don't be afraid to explore other types of perks or benefits that the company could offer to ensure a long-term partnership. Other perks that might be negotiated are:

  • The ability to telecommute.

  • A more flexible work schedule.

  • Company-funded education or training opportunities.

  • An increase in paid or unpaid vacation time.

  • A new cash or share bonus.

If management cannot offer a new perk or benefit, it might be a good opportunity to move the discussion to preparing for potential promotion opportunities. It's not uncommon for management to groom interested individuals for higher level positions within the company.

A salary negotiation, at its core, is a means to talk about how a company and individual can work together to pursue a mutually beneficial long-term partnership. Professionals who approach the conversation from that mindset have a higher chance of success and lower chance of walking away disappointed.

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How to Negotiate a Raise Out of the Blue

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