Talking about compensation – that is, your paycheque – can be one of the most difficult things to
do in any workplace. It’s no coincidence that employers love to ask potential new hires about
their salary expectations, not only to gain information but to see candidates’ reactions under the
pressure of this, often the most awkward of questions. Even once you’ve been employed for a
while, it can be tempting to keep mum on the subject of pay with your boss or supervisor.
This may be a Canadian quirk – as a nation, we’re consistently ranked one of the most reluctant
to talk about money with friends, family or co-workers, and over fifty percent of Canadians
surveyed by Seymour Management Consulting in 2017 admitted being stressed about their
finances. Yet, there are ways to walk into that office, have that awkward discussion, and
impress upon your colleagues that yes, you, too are deserving of a pay raise.
Timing is Everything
There’s a right and a wrong time to approach your boss about the possibility of a pay raise.
Knowing this depends in part on knowing the ebb and flow of your workplace – just before or
after a reorganization or budget announcement, for example, might not be a great time to walk
through the door looking for a raise. Similarly, you should prepare the timing of your request so
that it follows the completion of a significant project or initiative to which you made a big
contribution. Stress will be low and your accomplishments will be fresh in the minds of the
people to whom your performance matters most. Your work, too, will be well organized and easy
to refer to as you build your case for a pay bump in the days or weeks right after a big goal is
completed. If you have been able to keep your supervisors informed of a string of recent
accomplishments, you should keep the momentum going!
Confidence, With Limits
“Or else” might be the most dangerous phrase in salary negotiations. You may feel like you
need to raise the stakes of your value to your employer, or even impress upon them that you
could move to another job with better pay, but be very careful: in this case, a “no” may not be
the worst response you could get. Confidence and assertion are great qualities to bring into a
meeting about your salary, but if you are too forthright or demanding (or even disrespectful) you
might find yourself out of a job in the worst case scenario!
Keep an Eye on the Future
When making your case for a pay raise, don’t just focus on what you have already
accomplished. In the best case, you will be able to show your boss that you have been taking
on new responsibilities and, more importantly, actively building the foundations for expanded
contributions to your job in the near future. Show, don’t tell them the value of what they might be
investing in longer term should they decide to raise your salary.
The Rolling Stones said it best: “you can’t always get what you want.” And that’s especially true
when you’re asking for a raise. Do your research beforehand to avoid awkwardness and
disappointment. For example, you may want to look at your current finances and decide on a
few different potential scenarios that a change in pay might affect. What would happen to your
plan if you were making 10% more? 25%? And so forth. There’s no harm in asking for your
best-case amount, but you should know beforehand that you can come to a different agreement
with your boss without compromising your financial plan should they offer you less than what
you may have expected.
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