How to Ask for a Raise -- and Get It

Dear Ms. Demeanor:

How do you ask for a raise or a promotion? Do you base it on how long you have been at a job or on the type of job you feel you have performed?

Thomas K.


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Dear Thomas:

Asking for a promotion or a raise is gut-wrenching for most of us. Even for supremely assertive, confident people, it's usually a difficult ordeal. Most managers feel that good employees should not have to ask because it should be offered before that person has the opportunity to ask for it.

Sometimes the biggest raises and best promotions go to the people who go out on a limb and ask for them. Let's say you hear that the company policy will be limiting raises and promotions to 5 percent that year. You can say something to your supervisor such as: "I've heard that raises and promotions are very limited this year. However, I believe I can make an important contribution to the company if I'm promoted to working on the XYZ project. Here is the documentation for my work to date, so I hope you'll consider me." Use the same basic language for getting a raise.

It's important to be specific about exactly what amount you're expecting. Otherwise, your supervisor has no guidelines to negotiate and neither do you. What happens most often is a compromise is made. And as with all situations, you have three choices: Accept it. Leave it. Change it.

As unfair as it might seem, simply working hard is not what gets people raises and promotions. Working hard on whatever the boss thinks is important, does. A boss wants to know that he or she can count on you not just for solid work but also for being willing to go the extra mile even before you're asked.

Bosses look for team players, not prima donnas. Helping fellow co-workers whenever you get the chance is a great opportunity. For one thing, it's a great way to repay the people who've helped you (and nobody truly works alone); for another, you never know how or when you'll be repaid. Your objective should be to show the boss that you're always available to help your department -- and it's even better if you can anticipate what's needed and volunteer to do it before anyone asks you.

Your personal motto should be "Make friends." Nobody can afford enemies easily. And treat everybody the same: respectfully. Otherwise, your fellow workers will view you as a climbing, self-centered opportunist.