Monday, May 20, 2019

How to Ask for a Raise

And now, for a change of pace, a post lacking in snark and sarcasm and criticality. This post will not emphasize the many ways that people get things wrong, but will show instead how to get them right.

The issue is: asking for a raise. As you know, the conventional wisdom dictates that you should assert yourself, lean in and be upfront with your demands. You probably know by now that this strategy does not work. Even before Michelle Obama made it acceptable to think the thought, I argued against the approach. We should reject the half-assed idea that people get ahead when they indulge in macho posturing. Neither men nor women should do it… no matter what anyone told you.

Of course, those who are propagating this nonsense do not understand its philosophical underpinnings. These derive from the notion that Self is what really matters, that we should express it, assert it, and that we should not care how it looks to other people. It’s all about how we feel about ourselves, not how it looks to other people. This is genuinely bad advice. It is a prescription for trouble.

Charlotte Cowles explains the problems in New York Magazine:

When asking an employer for money, the conventional wisdom is to demand the highest amount you can possibly say out loud (or type in an email) with a straight face — plus more. The worst that can happen is they say no, right? As my friend Jess once told me, “If they don’t laugh at you when you name a number, then you didn’t ask for enough.”

But, that approach can easily backfire:

But that approach can also backfire — sometimes spectacularly, as it did for Anya, 33, who recently put in for a modest raise at a company where she’d been doing contract work for two years. “I’d always gotten positive feedback, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask,” she said. But when she did, the company didn’t just decline. It launched an in-depth evaluation of the revenue her work was generating, determined it wasn’t enough, and canceled her contract entirely.

As the example makes clear, what matters is not how you feel or what you want. What matters is what you have contributed. That is, what value you have added to the enterprise. This means: if you want a raise your work must be able to speak for you. If your work cannot sell itself, you will probably not be getting the raise. Being too arrogant, placing your own whims over the company good, cannot work.

But there is more. If you want more money you need to have a sense of the labor market, of the market value of your work. And, of course, you should know how well or poorly your company is doing.

Cowles quotes a specialist who puts it in good perspective:

Thorough research can nip a lot of these problems in the bud, says Alexandra Dickinson, a career and negotiation expert who leads membership strategy at SoFi, a personal finance company. “Do your due diligence about both yourself and the marketplace,” she explains. “You can start with salary websites, but I also recommend talking to at least six people — three women and three men — who are familiar with the work you’re considering and can offer advice on what you should ask for.”

Then, determine how much your work is worth to the people you’re approaching. “If you can put a dollar amount on your sales or other accomplishments, great,” Dickinson says. “But otherwise, look at the value you’ve created for your team, your manager, and your company. Also, consider the value that you helped save. For example, maybe a colleague left and their role didn’t get filled so you picked up the slack.” The more specifically you can quantify your strengths, with actual stats and examples, the more solid your case will be. (For example, Anya might have mitigated her situation by soliciting more direct, quantitative feedback from her employer before asking for a raise — although in her defense, her employer should have offered it to her, too.)

You should not rely on your sense of entitlement or your ability to self-assert. You should approach the task of asking for a raise as you would any a job. You should prepare for the meeting. And, note well, Dickinson recommends that you talk to a half dozen people, to seek out advice. You need not take all of the advice but you should certainly not wing it or go with your gut.

And finally, keep in mind, one expert suggested, that you are all on the same team. Get over the tendency to see it as a struggle between antagonists. Get over the notion that you are an underpaid prole working for a capitalist patriarch who wants only to exploit you. Get over the ideological narrative that makes you into enemies.  

Cowles quotes Claire Wasserman:

“I urge people to approach negotiations as a social experiment,” says Wasserman. “They’re an opportunity to observe. And remember, both sides are on the same team. You each need to be willing to give up something in order to get something, which means that you each need to know your bottom line.”

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

I'm retired. I don't need to ask, as there's no one TO ask.