One of the most horrendous professional events for many people is asking for a raise, even when it’s very much deserved. There’s an unspoken societal taboo around cash: it’s somehow unseemly to discuss it, which makes it awkward to even suggest that your worth might be more than what your employer is offering. If you’re into conspiracies, you might be inclined to think there’s corporate commercial industrial complex that fosters the idea that asking for more money is somehow bad. If you’re a feminist (and you should be) then you’ll know there is an intrinsic cultural expectation that if you’re anything other than a cisgendered, heterosexual, white male, you’ll settle for less. And if you’re any kind of person who’s ever held a job you’ll feel like there’s something you can’t quite put your finger on, but that simply feels icky about asking for more cash money from your boss.
But asking for more is part of a professional progression. Whether it’s being promoted at work or just having been there long enough, sometimes it’s just time for a raise. Or maybe you’re a freelancer negotiating pay for a contract. Whatever the context, asking for more money might seem painful, but it’s often necessary to ensure that you’re being paid equitably for your time, hard work, and expertise. It’s not easy at first, but take it from someone seasoned in the practice of asking for more: once you get the hang of it, you’ll kick yourself for ever feeling embarrassed to request your fair due. Here are some ways to help you get there, and ask for more money at your job without dying or awkwardness.
1. Remember Why You’re Worth It
This tip might sound like a beauty slogan, but it’s true: you’re worth it. Before you actually ask for the money though, figure out exactly why you’re worth it. Write down what it is that entitles you to extra pay for a new job, or a pay increase at your current one. Things to consider include:
● Any niche or special knowledge/education/experience you have.
● Previous achievements.
● Your increased responsibilities.
● Initiatives you have taken.
● How efficient you are at what you do.
2. Research the Market
Before you ask for more money, you need to look outside yourself. Are your skills in demand? What’s the going rate for the kind of work you’re doing? How are people at the top end of your profession, with similar experience, getting paid in analogous positions? Even if you’re lacking a little self-confidence or feeling nervous about beating your own drum, it can sometimes feel much easier to get behind universal statistics (even though all that great stuff about you is true too, obviously). If you can root your worth not only in what you can do, but in what the rest of the world deems that worth to be, then you have a sound foundation for asking for more.
3. Email Is Your Best Friend
Bless technology. These days, there’s no reason to walk into your boss’ office for an immediate face to face. You can pen an email first. Reach out to your HR department, supervisor, or whoever it is in your work environment that’s in charge of budgets and wages. Let them know your position, including the above information, and that you’d like the opportunity to discuss your pay rate further. Keep it short and succinct, and you never know--in my experience, many times the initial email will get you a “We can’t meet your rate [which I always set higher than what I’d settle for] but we can give you this rate which is higher than your current rate [generally around the rate I’d decided I would settle for].” So you might not even have to ask for more to anyone’s face, in which case, congratulations, you successfully avoided awkwardness entirely!
4. Be Humble, Grateful, and Positive
In the process of any written or spoken negotiations, it’s important to be gracious. Remind those around you that you love your job, and you look forward to continuing to work hard at it. When you’re making demands, adding defensiveness or aggression to the mix can make you look bratty or unappreciative, and it’s unlikely you’ll get what you’re asking for. If you do get what you’re asking for, it will be given grudgingly, and it will be harder to negotiate in the future. You catch more dollar bills with honey, so be kind and patient if you’re serious about getting paid.
5. But Stay Firm
There is, of course, a way to be firm without being a total asshole. Because the last thing you want to be when asking for more money is a push over--don’t feel like in order to show you’re humble you have to take the first offer on the table. You can say “Thanks, but no thanks” in ways that show integrity. For instance, “Thank you very much for taking the time to hear my concerns and negotiate with me. I appreciate your offer very much, but I hope we can continue this conversation as I believe a current pay increase of X AMOUNT is due for the following reasons...” See how sweet you can be while still kicking butts and taking names?