Approaching supervisors to ask for a pay raise is intimidating for many employees. So much so that 63% of employees never ask for a raise, according to a recent report from PayScale. But having the conversation is often worth it: Of the 37% of employees who do inquire about more pay, 70% end up receiving a pay increase, the report found.
The main reasons employees don't ask for raises are because they either don't feel like they have been in a position long enough to ask, or they just feel uncomfortable negotiating their salary, the report found.
SEE: Payroll services comparison tool (Tech Pro Research)
According to the research, women were statistically less comfortable than men in negotiating salaries, which isn't a new discovery. In a male-dominated business world, women may feel especially ill-equipped to approach male supervisors. Oliver Cooke, head of North America at Selby Jennings, confirmed this notion, emphasizing the toxicity of modern work cultures. "Hopefully companies can breed a culture where both men and women feel comfortable discussing this subject," said Cooke.
However, asking for a raise isn't an easy conversation for anyone. "It's naturally an uncomfortable conversation to have," said Paul Wallenberg, unit manager of technology services at recruiting firm LaSalle Network. "Anything related to finance can be a pretty personal topic for people. A natural discomfort is what makes people shy away from having tough conversations about it, especially in a professional setting, because you don't want to rub anybody the wrong way or even risk the chance that an offer can be rescinded if you sound unreasonable."
Yet, with the majority of those asking for a raise receiving one, more people should feel motivated to try. Most people just don't know where to start.
Here are the five steps to approaching supervisors about a raise.
1. Do your research
Before you talk to your supervisor, make sure you've done some homework. "Some people may have an elevated sense of what they should be paid versus what is the reality, or vice versa," said Cooke. "Some people may not realize that there are other people in their industry that are in a similar role in a similar type of organization who are being paid more than them."
The best way to get those figures is through networking in your specific industry. "I would caution using websites such as Glassdoor. Sometimes they can either inflate or deflate your perspective," said Cooke. He also suggested reaching out to recruiters, as those professionals often gain a cross-sectional perspective of industry trends.
Doing a quick Google search is a fine starting place for a benchmark, however, said Wallenberg. He emphasized paying attention to geography in your search, as many job wages fluctuate based on location.
2. Choose the appropriate time and place
Think logically when determining the best time and place to talk to your boss. For example, if you just had your annual review and received a raise, it's probably not the best timing to ask for another raise shortly thereafter. However, you can start planting the seed leading up to your annual review, said Cooke. He also recommended approaching a supervisor on a Thursday or Friday afternoon, when the office atmosphere is more relaxed, rather than first thing on a hectic Monday morning.
"Schedule a meeting. Don't do anything over email," said Wallenberg. You don't want questions about your salary getting buried in an inbox. Meeting in person is also a more professional route to go, giving you the opportunity to show your manager how serious you are about the topic.
3. Ask for the right reasons
Make sure your rationale for a raise is relevant to the company. "I think where people often go wrong is when they give reasons that are really not the concern of the employer," said Cooke. "So whether it's 'I need to send my son to college,' or 'I need buy a new house,' or whatever it might be, something in your personal life really should have no impact on your professional life. Albeit from a personal perspective that might be true, the reality is the business doesn't really care about that."
Cooke instead recommends emphasizing the value you bring to the company, providing examples of credibility and keeping it a business issue.
You should also avoid direct comparisons to colleagues, Wallenberg said. "It shouldn't be like, 'Oh I heard from Joe or Jenny in my team that he or she is making more than me, and I think I deserve more because I do X, Y, and Z.' You can't make it a competitive thing," he added. "It has to be more about the market and then the work product that you bring to the table."
4. Approach professionally
Building upon the previous point, if personal issues are brought into discussion, then so are emotions.
"It's really important not to bring emotions into it. Be professional," said Cooke. "Obviously, state your case and be prepared to push back where necessary, but always do it in a professional manner, and do it from a business and professional perspective. Because if you start bringing personal feelings or emotions into the conversation, we find that it doesn't normally end up well."
5. Have a follow-up plan
As noted in PayScale's research, bosses oftentimes can't provide a raise because of budgetary restrictions. Managers may say they aren't able to offer anything presently, but could in the future, said Cooke. In that case, Cooke recommends that you don't get disheartened, and instead, follow up. A "maybe later" is better than a "no."
"If it is a case of 'Let's resume the conversation at a later date,' what are the objectives that you need to achieve in order to get to the level that you want to get to? And then what are the targets and goals? Set up a follow up meeting in the future for when you can reach out and go back over these things," said Cooke. "If possible, get those objectives also in writing, or over an email, so you have that to go back to when you do have that follow-up meeting."
- How to build a successful developer career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- America's 13 highest-paying tech jobs for 2018 (ZDNet)
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- Where the tech jobs are — and will be in the future (ZDNet)
- Women in tech: Career tips for female IT pros and diversity resources for employers (TechRepublic)
Macy Bayern has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.