By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Career Tips
At the start of this decade, the U.S. economy was hardly conducive to widespread business largesse in the form of employee raises.
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The national unemployment rate was 9.5 percent at the end of the recession in June 2009. By October, unemployment had peaked at 10 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
“The employment decline experienced during the December 2007-June 2009 recession was greater than that of any recession in recent decades,” the BLS noted.
Today, those numbers are history. In its September 2019 report, the BLS put the unemployment rate at 3.5 percent.
Last Time Employment Rate Was So Low Was 1969
The last time the rate was that low was in December 1969. The BLS says, “Employment in health care and in professional and business service continued to trend up.”
In addition, the number of unemployed persons decreased by 275,000 to 5.8 million. So it would appear that now is an excellent time to ask the boss for that hoped-for salary boost.
How to Ask the Boss for a Raise
How should you ask for a raise? Indeed.com, an online job-finding assistance site, offers six tips on tackling that thorny issue:
1. Choose the right time to ask: Research the company’s financial status. Look for warning signs about the company’s health such as cutbacks in spending or layoffs.
If you are due for an annual review, your employer might already expect you to discuss your compensation. The end of the fiscal year could be another opportunity because employers are likely making hiring and compensation plans for the next year.
2. Get salary trends: Find out how much of a raise is reasonable to ask for. Every job has a market value. Check out business sites like Indeed Salaries. You will be able to see national, state and metropolitan area salary trends for your job title.
Compare what you are currently making to the trends. Where you fall within that range may affect the pay increase that you ask for. Three percent is considered an average or even generous pay increase.
3. Set up a meeting: Do not ask for a raise without first setting up an appointment with your manager. It’s ideal to ask for a raise in person and in private, not in a common area such as the lunch area or in a hallway. If you can avoid it, don’t ask for a raise via email.
The best setting is a room with a closed door. It’s also advisable to let your manager know that you plan to discuss compensation at the meeting.
4. Prepare what to say: Writing and practicing a script beforehand is one way to overcome the natural feelings of fear and anxiety. Focus on the professional rather than the personal reasons why you deserve this raise.
Throughout your pitch, avoid weak words that could undermine your determined position such as believe, feel, think, just, only and might. Go into the conversation knowing that you deserve a raise. Communicate your confidence with strong words that leave little room for extended negotiation.
5. Be ready for questions: Expect your manager to question your reasons for a raise. Most likely your superior will ask for details about your recent work accomplishments or the salary research you’ve cited.
Listen carefully to how your manager responds to your request. If you feel intimidated at any point, return to your evidence to strengthen your case. Ask your own questions too in a non-confrontational way: “Can you tell me more about…?” or “What I’m hearing is….” This will create space in the conversation for more understanding.
6. Thank your manager: Regardless of how the meeting goes, end by thanking your manager for the time. If the meeting ends without an immediate decision, follow up later that day or the next with a thank-you email that also recaps your reasons for asking for the raise. Also, include a summary of the two-way conversation.
If your manager needs to ask someone higher up about your raise request, the email will serve two purposes. It will make it easier for them to have a conversation on your behalf. If your request is turned down, the email can serve as a record of the meeting that can be referenced at a later date when you again request a raise.
Asking for a Raise Is a Normal Part of Having a Job
As Alison Green of New York Media’s The Cut points out, “asking for a raise is a very normal part of having a job.” She says if the thought of that meeting makes you feel uncomfortable, “you’re potentially giving up a significant amount of money – just to avoid a conversation that could be as short as five minutes.”