Asking for a Raise? What’s in It for the Company to Give You One?

Dear Anne:

I work for a small business that has been affected by the current economic crisis.  Money is tight and contracts are hard to come by.  But I really need to increase my income because we have a new baby.  I love my job, but it is necessary that I make more money.  How do I approach the owner to ask for a raise?

Dear Raise:

Work: It's Personal by Anne Giles ClellandBefore you approach a company owner – or a boss, or a supervisor – for a raise, whether in the midst of an economic downtown or economic upturn, always ask this question first:  “What’s in it for the company?”

From your point of view, you may need, merit, and deserve a raise.  From the company’s point of view, its budget includes you doing what you’re doing at the current rate.  The company has a legitimate and basic business question to ask you:  “How will paying you more money make more money for the company?”

That’s why, when you ask for a raise, you’ve got to pitch a project or a role that demonstrates your financial value to the company.

As you think of ways you can use your strengths to be of greater value to the company, be careful of dreaming up projects or roles that will be more work.  You’re already working full-time.  Generate ideas that ask you to work in other ways, not more ways.  Play to your strengths, not to your time, so you’ll be working well for your company and be home in time for dinner with your spouse and new baby.

As one of its employees, you’re an expert on your company.  You’re also an expert on your own skills.  Take that expertise up in a hypothetical airplane ride and look down on you, your company’s owner, and your company objectively.  What could that person – you – do differently or other to make more money for that company and that owner?  The answer is your pitch.

Your company’s owner may say no to your request for a raise.  By seeing your own skills in a new way, however, you will have strengthened your understanding of what you can do.  And by sharing your ideas, along with your request for a raise, you’ve demonstrated to the company’s owner that you are of current value, can be of future value, and you think you’re worth it.  The owner may well have that in mind the next time raises are added to the budget.


Need help with a personal problem at work? E-mail your question to Anne Giles Clelland at [email protected].

Please include the subject line "Workplace Advice." Anne regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Valley Business FRONT's Workplace Advice Column, written by Handshake 2.0's Anne Giles Clelland, appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT and in the collection Work: It's Personal. A version of this column first appeared in the April, 2009 issue.

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