At Work

How to Ask for a Raise at Work

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If you are thinking about a new job or have financial goals in the new year, have you thought about asking for a raise? When I was preparing to ask for one, I learned there’s more to consider than how to spend the extra cash. 

Reasons for a Raise

Foremost, I learned to not seek a raise for the sake of lifestyle expenses. That may be obvious, but after some months of tight budgets, the prospect of what I could afford with a raise was alluring. If I was to get a raise, I’d have to prove I deserved one, based on my work performance—not my personal need. 

You only ever need a raise insofar as your work performance shows you deserve one. So, I identified three items to make my case.

First, I hadn’t had a raise in over a year. My supervisor was let go the month I would have had my evaluation, when I might have been given at least the cost-of-living adjustment. But she was gone, so neither the eval nor the increase came. Employees might be surprised to hear that the COLA or annual raise isn’t legally required. But it is customary, and mine was overdue. 

Second, when my supervisor left, my department divided her responsibilities, adding much to our plates. Of my coworkers, I spent the most time in the office (the others had assignments in the community), so it was a natural opportunity to make myself nearly indispensable. I enjoyed the challenge but had a lot to complete.

Finally, I was invited to apply for an opening at another company. I never expected to garner this kind of attraction, so I often had to remind myself I did not have the offer in hand. Ultimately, I decided I’d use the offer to leverage for a raise. If no offer, I felt I still had enough of a case to ask for a lesser raise. 

Counting the Costs

I had more to consider as I sought wisdom on how to ask for a raise. For example, I knew I should be content in all things (Phil. 4:11-12 ESV) but learned that it’s not wrong to ask for more money. Romans 4:4 (ESV) and James 5:4 (ESV) say that workers are due their wages. 

But just how much more to ask for? I found the salaries of similar jobs in my area listed online. The job offer was a convenient maximum on what I felt I deserved for my current position. Based on the competition, my value to the company, added responsibilities, and whether or not I could leverage a job offer, I determined an acceptable minimum raise. 

If I had the choice between the job offer and a raise, I had to decide which would be the better move. Both would benefit my family financially. I would enjoy either position. But for the needs of the two companies’ clients, I determined I would be more useful at my current company, while admitting no one is completely indispensable. 

After all this thinking, it was possible that I wouldn’t get the job offer and that my company couldn’t, or wouldn’t, afford a raise. I had to remind myself of this to stay humble going into the ask.

Terms of Negotiation

The time to ask came quickly. In fact, it had been weeks since I reviewed the wisdom and answers I’d gotten from others and prayer. I was offered the job with a mere twenty-four hours to make a decision.

So, I scheduled an impromptu meeting with my interim supervisor. I felt hurried by the deadline but knew the importance of making the ask more than a passing conversation. For both parties to take the raise request seriously, the employee should schedule a time to discuss it. 

The speech I prepared did not come out eloquently, but I trusted advice to simply lay out the facts: “I was invited to apply to a job and just got the offer. But, I want to stay here for such and such reasons. As you know, I’ve added responsibilities, and it’s been so long since my last raise…That’s where I’m at.”

Once I laid myself bare, my job was done. Asking felt vulnerable and awkward. Thankfully, it was obvious he had been asked for a raise before and perhaps had been expecting to have this conversation with me sooner than I did.

He noted how much I was asking for. I gave him the offer’s increase, saying I didn’t expect them to meet it; I didn’t feel my role warranted that much of an increase. He noted when I needed a decision and said, after talking to the relevant decision-makers, he’d give me an answer in enough time for me to answer the other company. 

After my own sleepless night, he checked in with me saying, “Could we meet at one? I know you need an answer by three.” That seemed enough time for me, but I was thankful when he found a sooner moment in his day to give me a figure.

Upon hearing the number, I knew my answer but took the time he gave me to tell him later. In the meantime, I ran it by my wife, prayed, and told the other company thanks but no thanks.

In Summary

As Christians, we should never think we are due anything, even a raise. All things, the lesser and greater salary alike, are a gift from God above, as are the skills we have to show we deserve a raise. So, ask for a raise with humility. 

Also, be confident in your request. Present to your company all the facts so they can focus on preparing a counteroffer. Show respect with a willingness to negotiate. You might expect to haggle the monetary increase, but would you settle for decreased responsibilities?

And at every step, pray. For trust in God will provide you your greatest needs.

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