Getting that pay raise
Today, we start an occasional series on business English which discusses the psychology of business as well as subtle differences in popular phrases.
ASKING for a pay raise is a bit like asking someone out on a date. There’s the same nervous tension, longing for acceptance, and fear of rejection.
Yet there’s no reason for that feeling: unless you happen to be a billionaire, you’re unlikely to be working for love. Selling skills, energy, time, loyalty, and so on in return for a salary is purely a business transaction.
Unfortunately, the global financial crisis that started in 2007 that has been hailed as the modern equivalent of the Great Depression means money is tight. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask for a raise. The trick to improving the chances of success is in the phrasing.
In good times, you can be blunt and say boss, I want a raise. In hard times, when bosses are allergic to words like increase and raise, subtler phrasing is necessary. Try: boss, I’d like to discuss my compensation package. word package, you leave the door open to discussing cash alternatives such as petrol allowances, family health insurance coverage, flexitime, and perks like free parking. I appreciate that finances are tough. Could we discuss non-salary perks?
While assertiveness is a good thing, being too blunt can sound aggressive, and work against you. Avoid you are underpaying me in favour of I feel my salary does not reflect my value to the organisation.
Talking to rival companies, or checking with recruiters to see what you’re worth to another company if you leave, can be seen as hostile too. However, you can present useful information as “research”: I have researched current market condi-
Sir Richard Branson tions, and believe I am not receiving the fair market value for my work. Tip: Kelly Services offers a Malaysia Salary Guide at kellyservices.com. my.
It’s standard practice to accompany a raise request with a list of your achievements: new clients you’ve brought in, potential disasters you anticipated, and so on. Business mogul Sir Richard Branson suggests in Business Stripped Bare (Virgin Books, 2009) that you also attach a brand-new suggestion that contributes to the bottom line – and then ask for a percentage of that saving as your increase.
Alternatively, if the boss isn’t willing to discuss a salary increase, ask for a performance-related bonus based on revenue growth, turnover, or whatever measurement you find useful. It means you’ll have to wait for your money, but it’s better than nothing, right? Good luck!