A cartoon popped up in my inbox recently. It featured a man in a suit and tie sitting in a desk chair, one foot crossed onto his knee, saying, “As your supervisor, I have no idea what you do, but I know you can do better, so I’m rating your performance for the year as ‘adequate.’”
The cartoon made me chuckle in recognition. It reminded me that we can only rely on ourselves to keep track of what we’re doing at work every day and how it contributes to our company’s growth. And why, in the weeks before a performance review, it’s so important for us to pull that information together in an easily digestible format for both ourselves and our managers. Our success in this endeavor, after all, might determine whether or not we get that much-deserved raise.
Below, we’ll go over tips you can use when asking for a raise during a performance review, things you absolutely should not do when asking, and how you should respond if the answer is no.
It’s important to know your market value — or the going rate for someone in your position, industry, and location with your skills and experience. Writing for The Muse, Lisa Gates recommends using sites like Salary.com or PayScale to do your research. It’s best to print this out or jot down the pertinent info in your notes and bring it with you to the meeting — “it helps to have the data if you get nervous or trip over your words,” Gates explains.
It’s also helpful to think about what your company in particular values so you can explain how your skills and contributions help the organization achieve its goals.
Performance appraisal time is stressful for everyone, whether you work at a small company or a large corporation. Practicing what you’ll say in advance will help you respond to feedback or questions you think your boss may have. Prepare answers that don’t seem defensive and then practice how you’ll negotiate for the raise. It’d be best to practice your pitch with a friend but even practicing out loud in front of a mirror at home will help you work out the wording prior to the big review.
Providing clear and substantial evidence of your accomplishments at your company is key to negotiating a raise. “When you ask for a raise at your performance review, think of it as an opportunity to give your boss the information needed to convince their boss or HR that you deserve a raise,” says Laura Browne, corporate trainer and co-author of Raise Rules for Women How to Make More Money at Work. “Typically managers can't make the decisions by themselves. Give them examples of business results you've accomplished and comments from others about your effectiveness.” Providing these results and testimonials from colleagues will help your boss understand the impact you’ve made at your company — and use that to persuade others you deserve a bump in salary.
Not sure where to start? Career coach Jessica Smith, who runs the podcast Coaching with Jessness, suggests asking yourself“How was the business positively impacted because of what I've completed/accomplished?”
Some roles and tasks can be quantified more easily than others. In sales, it’s relatively easy to know how many new customers you closed deals with and how much revenue you brought in. Other roles may be more difficult to quantify, but that doesn’t mean you can’t demonstrate impact. Career counselor Lily Zhang recommends that you break it down by focusing on range, frequency, and/or scale:
Range: If the scope of a particular task you do fluctuates, give your best estimate using a range rather than an exact figure. Example: Completed 20-30 cold calls a day to potential clientele across the healthcare industry.
Frequency: Include how often you do a particular task. Example: Finalized an average of 3 residential blueprints per week to present to upper management.
Scale: Think about what you do to save your company money — and say how much. Example: Initiated new labeling technique to speed up processing times, saving around $20,000 to $25,000 per day in gas and energy bills.
Things like flex-time, remote work, educational opportunities and reimbursements, transportation or daycare reimbursement, or additional vacation time can be negotiated if you’re capped on salary or if your boss isn’t able to give you a raise this review period.
Performance reviews are a chance for us to get feedback on where we can improve. Your acceptance of feedback improves your likability and indicates that you’re a team player, according to Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, co-authors of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. And that, in turn, could help you make the case for upping your compensation.
Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions, especially, “What else can I do?” even if your score was exceptional. This shows that you’re always striving to grow and want to help the company succeed, too. Your boss will remember your initiative, and even if a raise isn’t in the cards this time, it might help set you up for one in the future.
Equally as important as knowing what to say and do during a salary negotiation is knowing what not to say and do. Here are a few things to avoid:
Don't use personal issues, such as financial woes, student loans or family responsibilities, as a justification for why you need a raise. As Browne writes in Raise Rules for Women: How to Make Money at Work, “Your employer doesn’t care if your rent has increased, your car has broken down, your partner has been laid off, or you’ve run up credit card debt” — or rather, they might care as fellow humans, but that’s not going to be a persuasive case in this particular conversation.
Personal reasons have no place in a raise negotiation. Instead, focus on how your work has positively affected the company’s goals by bringing in more clients, spearheading new initiatives, or contributing in other ways.
If you think you deserve it, own it! Apologizing displays a lack of confidence, which you never want to show when negotiating a raise.
While it's fine (encouraged even) to point to industry averages or general employee data from your company, you should avoid saying, "I know so-and-so makes such-and-such, and I've done X things better than her." You don't know anyone's complete circumstances other than your own. Stick to the data you pulled from researching your market value.
Raising your voice, insulting your employer, making petty comments, or storming out of the room are all examples of unprofessional behavior that you have to avoid if you want to be treated like a respectable adult. In order to be taken seriously, you need to do your absolute best to keep your cool, even if the conversation isn't going the way you wanted it to.
It can be disappointing to be turned down for a raise, especially when you know you've put in the effort and deserve it. So how are you supposed to respond if it happens?
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Former professor Jill L. Ferguson is an award-winning author of seven books, including co-author of Raise Rules for Women: How to Make More Money at Work, and thousands of published articles. She is also an artist, business and higher education consultant, entrepreneur and founder of Women's Wellness Weekends.
Fairygodboss editors contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.