CAUTION: Any career advice is opinion only based on my unique experiences, and you should apply this at your own discretion.I want to be careful because what has worked in my career is reflective of the economy that existed between 1991 and the present day. As our economy is now characterized by automation, globalization, and financial uncertainty, every employee or contractor should primarily be concerned with retaining and preserving their ongoing commitments and connections to their employers or clients, and doing their level best to fulfill obligations and provide those valuable contributions which have always characterized quality practitioners throughout the years.
In deference to the "4P Alliteration" relating quality to marketing principles, I will provide some additional P's to organize my points, and support my conclusions.
When evaluating your current situation, it is important to have a clear perspective and keep everything in balance. If you allow your career or profession to define you, at the expense of family and other enjoyable pursuits, there is a risk of missing out on the rewards of a balanced and fulfilling life. Work exists to sustain life, not the other way around.
Having expressed that sentiment, each person in our workforce owes their present position three conditions which, if violated, could affect their employability:
- Being independently trustworthy and productive in their role
- Working harmoniously and constructively with colleagues, partners, and customers
- Operating within their allotted budget
Before having the audacity to approach your boss or organization for a raise, ensure that you have a consistent track record and reputation of fulfilling these three basic principles.
When establishing perspective, also consider fair and ethical compensation, as part of social responsibility. In this sense, if you have evidence that you are deliberately being under-compensated based on your gender, race, or illegal discrimination, I suggest that you consult with an attorney or mediator to obtain the proper expertise to resolve your situation.
Before approaching your employer for a raise, it is important to prepare and understand the facts of your profession, your business, your industry, and your alternatives. The negotiating reference, "Getting To Yes" introduces the term BATNA to help determine a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement or contingency plan if the desired outcome does not occur. Without a firm BATNA, the negotiation tactic can turn tragic, like Willy Loman in the play Death of a Salesman who drops his expectations from a raise to a desperate plea to retain his job.
In most organizations, the salary range is reflective of the role and level of authority, and should incorporate market intelligence and competitive salaries for the same type of role. Obtaining the raise often becomes a linear relationship where pay is increased with an expansion of the role or level.
There are additional considerations:
- Risk and reward: An employee may obtain more opportunity for additional pay if they take on a greater portion of the business risk. A typical example is found when a consultant becomes a partner in the firm, and shares in the investment, losses, and ultimately the gains and profits.
- Essential vs. Discretionary: In my career I have been in roles which were both essential to the core operations of the business and those which were termed as "nice-to-have". In a particular case, I was performing quality on an innovative web banking product developed alongside a legacy banking solution. When the web product did not obtain the sales to justify the product development costs, the program was substantially reduced, and resources were shifted to the "core" legacy product maintenance efforts. If a business area is discretionary and at risk of reduction or cancellation, obtaining a raise would be less likely.
- Alliances and supporters: In addition to your own direct impact on the company, your work should have an accelerated impact or multiplier effect on other departments. The greater the span of positive impact, the more effective would be the case to identify benefits supporting a raise.
The fourth P is given from the viewpoint of the boss or organization, attempting to justify why an employee should obtain a raise. The underlying condition is that giving the employee a raise aligns with the long-term strategic interest of the organization. This should be distinguished from any gestures of social responsibility or charity, which may occur. As an example, a firm may close its production facility during a low season, but continue to meet its payroll in order to preserve the financial stability of a community.
Before approaching your boss or organization for a raise, it is important to understand why raises would be provided. I have listed some examples:
- Correct a demonstrated imbalance or shortfall. This can occur if employees were hired before salary levels increased, and the old salary level has experienced employees paid less than the newcomers they are expected to train and mentor.
- Recognize an employee who has accepted, or will accept, additional workload and responsibilities. This may sound positive but could actually be a source of employee abuse when the workload previously performed by multiple team members is bundled into the portfolio of a single employee. I have personally observed on multiple occasions where I have left a role, only to have my individual workload spread across two or more successors.
- Retain a valued employee and/or preserve an essential skill set or knowledge base. This goes beyond just hard work and best efforts to demonstrate that the capabilities of the employee align with the priorities of the organization.
- Reward exceptional performance beyond the expectations of the role and level. This is easier to demonstrate at lower levels, but more difficult when advanced or senior roles come with higher expectations.
5. Personal Brand
Before making the pitch or delivering the case for your persuasion, it is important to ensure a reasonable and frequent series of interactions, in order to have a progressive ongoing dialogue. While an aggressive and robust case may be more persuasive in the short term, it is important to support promises and claims with actions, success stories, and a consistent track record over time. It is important to shift from infrequent "take it or leave it" discussions towards an ongoing valuation of your capabilities relative to the demands of the organization.
The current business trend is to build your Personal Brand. While at first this seems selfish, it actually requires collaboration and constant feedback to refine and solidify the desired manner in which you want to be received and treated.
The 5 P's I have listed (Perspective, Preparation, Position, Patronage, and Personal Brand), will not guarantee a raise in 2013, but will provide awareness and enlightenment to both employee and supervisor. The analytical approach will also identify potential gaps which may have been obstructing or diminishing your chances of getting raises to this point, and which correction could have beneficial outcomes.
As a final point, you should consider that stewards of an organization who are entrusted with shareholder capital are exhorted to spend or invest that money as if it were their own. As a boss and hiring manager, I would only advocate for extraordinary raises if:
- I would be prepared to personally support the raise from my own money
- I would not be hesitant to have that subordinate make a higher salary than I was making
- I would be prepared to take a personal stand on the issue
If that compelling conviction was not in place, as a boss I would defer to the organization. With that in mind, if you really want that raise beyond the normal pay and performance structure that your employer has set for your particular role and level, you must win over your leadership so that your cause becomes their cause, and through their personal advocacy and influence, you are able to benefit and reap the rewards of your quality career.