Where I used to work, the employees who got raises were always the same ones – year in and year out. For everyone else, the response to a raise request was just a YouTube video of the boss laughing for five minutes. In time though, I’ve identified the behavioural traits that make it easier for some of us to get raises:
Long before you ask for a raise, you have to start laying the foundations. You need to spend months making efforts to stand out, showing you’re not just a regular employee. By the time you ask for a raise, your boss should be convinced you can change a light bulb just by holding it to the socket and waiting for the planet to revolve.
Tweak your behaviour to do that:
1. When Chatting at Work, Steer the Conversation Toward Ideas more than Other People
You know that more vocal employees get noticed more often (duh). But being vocal alone isn’t enough. You have to be vocal in the right way, and this is one of them:
You generally meet two types of people when chatting at work. The first group talks about ideas, and the second one talks about other people. I want you to take a minute to think about this:
Think about the lunch conversations you’ve had. Think about the colleagues who talk about a book they just read, how the department should be restructured, why the market is down, etc.
Now compare them to the colleagues who talk about other colleagues (e.g. the one who spends 20 minutes talking about how the front desk lady is such a flirt, and makes a houseplant look intelligent by comparison).
See the difference?
Most of the time, the idea people look more competent. Which is not to say you can never talk about people; just use a 70 / 30 rule. 70% ideas, 30% other people.
2. When You Screw Something Up, Explain What You’re Doing About it – Don’t Just Apologise
Screwing things up should guarantee you won’t get a raise (unless you’re in fund management, in which case it was clearly the market’s fault).
But there are some employees who can set the office on fire and run over a client in the parking lot, but still be identified as “valuable”. And while they may not get a raise on the year of their screw-up, their chances are good as ever next year – whereas your screw-ups may as well be tattooed across your forearms.
How do they do it?
One way is that they accompany their apologies with solutions. Instead of saying “I accidentally went $1,000 over budget”, they might say :
“I accidentally went $1,000 over budget. To deal with this, I’ve already e-mailed an explanation to Accounts. And this is my plan on how to never let this happen again.”
Much better than mumbling a few apologies, or playing pass-the-buck.
(Warning: Does not work in the event of a truly momentous screw-up, like a million dollar lawsuit from a client. But you can use it for your small sins.)
3. Give a Quick Update on What You’re Doing, During Chance Encounters
As despotic as they seem, most bosses don’t want a band of mindless robots. Dealing with 20 employees with no initiative is frustrating – like trying to stage a rock concert with the help of ants.
If you can reassure superiors of your initiative, they’ll value you more. Because they’d just rather have a thinking worker who saves them time, as opposed to drones who’d soil their pants if you didn’t remind them to use the toilet.
So work some updates and solutions into your elevator pitch. Whenever you encounter the boss in the lift, in the corridors, etc. try to mention:
- What you’re up to right now (if they wouldn’t already know)
- How great the progress has been
- The problem(s) you thought would hold you up, but then you fixed it by (insert your solution). Wasn’t that lucky, eh!
4. Offer Suggestions on How to Implement OTHER People’s Ideas as Well
Doing all of the above can – if you lack a touchy-feely approach – make you seem cocky. Don’t be, and try to learn from my example (i.e. humility is merely one of my countless virtues).
You want to show you’re a team player. So when others come up with ideas, join in with enthusiasm. Treat your team worker’s suggestion as if it had come from a senior – make polite suggestions on how you can help to implement it, and say how you think it’s beneficial.
This also has the cheerful side-effect of making people like you more.
5. Propose Your Solutions Before You Ask How
Let’s say you’re the marketing executive. But your boss is tight on manpower, so he asks you to code the website as well as running promotions- a task for which you’re as qualified as the average walrus.
Your response reveals whether you’re a top performer they want to retain (a big deal when asking for a raise), or just another mediocre drone.
So before asking “how”, or God forbid, saying “I can’t do it”, make some mental effort. Ask around for some ideas on how to execute the task; at the very least Google it. From there, cobble together a solution.
Any solution is better than no solution. So long as you’ve got it written down, and have a tentative budget or list of needs. Then update the boss on what you’ll be doing.
At the very worst, your boss will say it’s a terrible idea, and make corrections or assign it to someone else. Ouch. But at least you made a real effort. At best, they may think you’re brimming with initiative, and innovative to boot.
(PS: If you just try before saying you “don’t know how”, you’ll surprise yourself with how smart you are).
What do you think your odds are of getting a raise? Comment and tell us why!
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