Are you feeling underpaid or way overdue for a promotion or salary boost, but the pandemic has you worrying if it’s even worth it to ask? You can guarantee you won’t get it if you don’t ask, but timing can play a huge role in how the conversation goes.
While things may seem unpredictable, the economy doesn’t necessarily dictate whether you get a raise. In every economy, people are still hired, promoted, and given more money. Some industries will boom while others continue to struggle.
If you’re considering negotiating your salary, you should begin by asking yourself the following questions:
1. What is the state of the company and the industry?
It’s important you have some awareness of the state of both the individual company and the industry. Have there been layoffs, furloughs, or hiring freezes? If you’ve been asked to do more recently, is it because business is booming or because cutbacks have required everyone to do more? If the company or industry is struggling right now, chances are there are budgetary reasons why you won’t be given a raise and asking is likely a futile effort. “It can come across as insensitive to still ask for an increase when the company is in survival mode,” says career coach Julia Rock, founder of Rock Career Development. This is the time to find out as much as you can about how your employer is doing and what leadership’s priorities are.
2. What is Your Role?
You should know exactly what you do in your company. Of course, this includes the day-to-day tasks, but it also implies understanding the big picture. How does your role impact the overall success of the company? How do you make a difference in the profitability of the business? What do you bring to work every day that’s above and beyond your job description? If you’re not able to pinpoint these things, you’re probably not ready to ask for a raise.
3. How is your performance?
Objectively evaluate your own performance. Answer each of these questions honestly:
· What have you accomplished in the last six to 12 months?
· Have you received positive feedback lately?
· Have you taken on more responsibilities in the last 12 months?
· Have you become a leader or taken initiative to help lead your team?
If you can’t answer these questions, start tracking your progress at work and create a running list of accomplishments. Write down your successes, your wins, and revisit your list each week. Look for things you can share with your boss when you’re ready to ask for that raise.
4. Do you know who to talk to?
Talking to your boss may be an obvious answer – but having relationships with others who may advocate on your behalf can be helpful. Consider talking with your network, co-workers or other members of leadership who will support you in the process. If you haven’t talked to your boss lately, it might be a good idea to start checking in on a more regular basis to increase your visibility. Make sure your boss knows what you’re doing and is engaged in your projects. They should have a front-row seat to everything you do before you ask them for increased compensation.
5. Is now a good time?
Some companies have a certain time of year when they renegotiate salaries or give out promotions. It’s worth reviewing your emails for any mention of annual performance reviews or evaluations. If there is no cyclical nature to a raise, start having small conversations and get feelers for how the company is doing and if your request is reasonable.
Even if your performance is exemplary, if your company is not hitting revenue goals, or there have been cutbacks and spending freezes, it may not be a good time to ask for a raise. Continue to evaluate your own performance and wait for a better time.
6. Can you afford to stay where you are?
Ultimately, is this a deal-breaker for you? Do you need more money to sustain your lifestyle, or can you afford to stay where you are? Is your partner laid off? Are you having a hard time making your monthly payments? Do you need extra money for childcare or tutoring for children learning remotely? It’s not necessary that you share all of this with your employer. But it is good for you to clearly understand what you need and why you’re asking for a raise in the first place.
7. Have a backup plan ready
If the answer to a raise is unequivocally No; have a backup plan ready. This could include other non-compensation benefits like the ability to work from home, adjust your house, increase PTO, receive a home office supply budget or a one-time bonus. This may also mean leaving the company if necessary. Consider ideas outside the box of what happens next if a raise is out of the question. End the conversation by asking your boss what you can do to prepare for a raise in the future and set a timeline to revisit the issue in the future.
Your Value Hasn’t Changed
Is there ever the perfect time to ask for more money at work? Probably not. It’s always an uncomfortable conversation to have. But it’s important to realize that your value hasn’t changed, even if the economy has.
Of more than 2,800 U.S. senior managers surveyed between July and August 2020, 88 percent said they are worried about their company’s ability to retain and attract valued staff. Staffing agency Robert Half said, “Companies struggle to find the talent they need to support new business priorities sparked by the pandemic…Professionals with in-demand skills know they still have options, and employers realize they need to offer competitive salaries to attract and secure top candidates.”
Self-advocacy is one of the best skills you can develop in both your professional and your personal life. Negotiating for what you want is a beneficial skill to learn, even if the answer ends up being no. Self-advocacy shows your boss you are serious about your career, you’re looking for growth, and you are loyal to the company goals.
If you’re adding value, exceeding expectations, and your company is performing well, then you should consider asking, even during a pandemic.