Negotiating a Raise

Part 1: Do your Homework before you Meet with your Boss

Business Man writing in a book at his deskIts never too early to prepare for negotiating a raise, although it is possible to prepare too late. Today we are posting part one of a two part blog, concluding with next Monday’s entry. Over this next week, focus on getting your ducks in a row by reviewing the tips in today’s blog entry and reflecting, to the best of your knowledge, how you fare in your boss’s eyes among the first four tips below. And always remember, we welcome comments in the section below each entry if you have any questions or anything else to add.

Several times a year, seminar participants will inquire, “Do you have any tips for asking for a raise?” A sensitive issue like a raise can be difficult to negotiate. For your boss, agreeing to a raise will most likely impact the budget, and may even cause other employees to feel they are also entitled to a raise. For you, getting the raise–or failing to get it–could ultimately impact your ability to live in the style you wish. Although asking for a raise can be a risk, not asking for one can also carry a price.

Here are some tips that will help you in advance, when negotiating a raise.

  1. Build Your Reputation. There are only two types of reputation–good ones and bad ones. Anything in the middle is not a reputation at all. It is important to remember that the reputation that your boss will be taking into consideration is the reputation that you have built on over time, such as months or possibly years, not your stellar performance over the week leading up to your meeting. Over time, people with great reputations earn more money and find it easier to get raises than people with bad reputations. The next three tips will help you build a great reputation.
  2. Outwork Your Competition. Being successful in obtaining a raise begins the day you start working for your company or boss. Do you do exactly what is required for your job, or do your contributions significantly stand out because you outperform your competition? Do you work only your scheduled hours, or are you willing to put in extra effort when required? Do you volunteer for additional assignments? Do you have a cheerful attitude when requests are made for your assistance? Getting a raise is a lot easier when you stand out from the crowd.
  3. Produce Results. One of our favorite quotes is, “Results speak many languages.” When your boss feels that the results you produce are significant, you have a much better chance of getting a raise. To put it another way, if your boss believes that, without your contributions and results, it would be difficult for her to be as successful as she is in the eyes of her boss, you are in a much stronger position when you ask for a raise. If your success is measured by project completion, do you consistently meet deadlines, and do your projects exceed your boss’s expectations? If you are in sales or another area responsible for generating revenue, do you consistently meet or exceed your sales or revenue goals? Producing results significantly increases your chance of getting a raise.
  4. Add Value by Solving the Tough Issues. Every organization has some challenges that, for whatever reason, have not been solved. Does your organization have systems problems that have created too many unhappy or angry customers? Are your company’s files in such disarray that finding information is difficult? Does your company have a hard time selling a particular product or service? Does your team find it difficult to meet delivery schedules? My father once said, “If you have to swallow a frog, don’t sit there and look at it.” People who are good at swallowing frogs tend to make more money. The tougher the problems you are able to solve for your team or organization, the higher your perceived value is when you negotiate a raise.
  5. Think About Timing. When it comes to asking for a raise, timing is everything. Is your company financially strong, or is it struggling to make ends meet? Are you currently outperforming your competition, producing extraordinary results and adding value by solving tough problems? Is your department or team on budget or over budget? Do you currently have a positive relationship with your boss? Is your boss confident about his position in the company, or is he worried that his career is in jeopardy? The best time to ask for a raise is when your company is financially strong, your department is outperforming the budget, your performance is stellar, your boss is relaxed, and you and your boss have a great relationship.
  6. Know What You Are Worth. Before asking for a raise, it is critical to know your value. Value can be divided into two arenas: your intrinsic value to your current company, and your extrinsic value to other potential employers. Your extrinsic value is your marketable worth to other organizations that might value the gifts and talents you could bring to them. Understanding the difference between your intrinsic and extrinsic value is important because this knowledge could play a large role in the decisions involved with requesting a raise. For example, perhaps you hold a bachelor’s degree in journalism and are an excellent writer, but your company has you in a position that doesn’t utilize your writing skills or education. In this case, it might be wise to market yourself to other organizations because your extrinsic value is most likely higher than your intrinsic value.

    The best way to know what you are worth is to research the current job market. Although knowing what other people in similar positions in your company are currently earning may be helpful to a certain degree, that information could just upset you if you find out that someone you think contributes less than you do earns more money. Learning what people make in similar organizations in your geographic location is much more useful in determining your true worth. You may be the best-paid person in your company, but find out that other organizations value your type of work or position more highly than your company does. Or you may find that your organization provides a much better wage-and-benefit package than its competitors. This type of information is critical to your success.

    You can easily find salary information online on websites such as or

    A second great source of salary information is job postings such as the ones you would find at, or in your local newspaper.

    A third resource is professional associations geared to the type of job you are seeking. Professional associations usually have current salary data compiled from member companies.

    A fourth resource is experts in the field. Build relationships with headhunters, human resource professionals and consulting firms. These experts will either provide you with salary information or refer you to someone who can.

  7. Ensure Your Research Is Accurate. Nothing will give you more credibility and bolster your confidence more than knowing that your research is 100 percent accurate. And nothing will cause you to lose credibility faster than having your boss point out there are holes in your research. Be sure you are comparing apples to apples.
  8. Clarify Your Personal Goals. For some people, working close to home is very important. For other people, the ability to set their own schedule each week is a priority. Some people place the highest value on how they are treated by the boss and others in the work environment. For others, having a specific title or working in a specific industry is what is most important. For some, medical or retirement benefits are key; but for others, the only thing that matters is how much money they make. Ask yourself: if you get your raise but the boss is a jerk or you have to sit in rush-hour traffic for two hours each day, have you really achieved personal success? Success is all about achieving your personal goals. Knowing these goals is crucial when deciding what to ask for from your boss.

Now that you have all your bases covered, be sure to read next week’s entry on what to do before, during and after the meeting. Good luck in your preparations!

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