What do many employees wish for at work? A bonus or raise. At least that's so according to results from a recent survey developed by OfficeTeam, a global staffing service that specializes in placing administrative professionals. The telephone survey, conducted by an independent research firm in February, polled 571 men and women in the United States over the age of 18. All respondents were employed full-time in professional positions. Survey results revealed that almost half (48%) of the respondents put "a bonus or raise" at the top of their "wish list" at work.
But that wish probably doesn't surprise those of us who already feel overworked and underpaid or are in need of just a bit more money for personal financial reasons. But is that wish based in reality and if so, why isn't it happening for some of us?
Well, while I can't tell you with absolute certainty how to get a raise, I can tell you it often takes more effort than simply crossing your fingers or putting it on your "wish list".
Your first step toward getting a raise or bonus is to tackle that reality factor associated with wanting more money; that is, you must determine if and when you warrant a raise or bonus. And today's reality says that being a worker who gets to work on time, does a good job and sometimes even stays late just isn't enough to warrant bigger bucks in business. Neither is personal financial need.
"A lot of people have the misguided notion that because they're working really hard, they deserve a raise," says syndicated workplace advice columnist and leadership development consultant Joan Lloyd. "Or people think that because their personal expenses have gone up, they deserve more money." Not so, says Lloyd who owns Joan Lloyd & Associates in Milwaukee (www.joanlloyd.com).
"The bottom line is there are only two basic ways to earn more," Lloyd says. "And that's either increase the size of the job or increase the level of performance."
More specifically, Lloyd explained these two factors this way:
1. If you have roughly 20 percent more responsibility and authority in your job, you're within your rights to ask for more money, she says. That's because your job is more substantial and thus truly worth more now on the open market.
2. If your performance on the job is over and above, then a merit increase or bonus pays you for the effort and results you're getting.
And determining if or when your performance has increased relies on more than instinct or guesswork. Use methodology. Have a plan.
"At the beginning of every year after the performance review, talk about expectations [with your boss]," advises Lloyd. "Ask 'What would excellent performance look like?'" she says. And persist if your boss doesn't give you a straight answer. "Say 'I really want some examples,'" says Lloyd. "Ask 'Does it mean this? Does it mean that? How can I aim for a higher goal so that at the end of the year, I'm eligible for a bigger merit increase?'"
After that, Lloyd suggests you check in twice during the year. "Don't wait and be surprised," she says. "Check in and say 'How am I doing against what we talked about? These are the expectations you said (write them down beforehand). How am I doing against them? And if I'm not at an excellent level, please tell me how I can get there so at the end of the year I'm eligible.'"
Then if you've been getting feedback throughout the year and keeping communication channels open with your boss, his jaw won't slacken at your request for a salary increase when you make "the ask".
About two months before performance reviews, or before the appropriate budget cycle at your company if you don't have performance reviews, give your boss a heads up about your specific desire for a raise or bonus. Why? Because your boss needs time to present your case to his boss, the owner or the human resource department and to do so before the budget has been finalized for the year.
So be proactive and initiate a conversation about your performance at that time, says Lloyd. Don't stay silent, possibly indicating you're satisfied with things as is or just plain getting lost in the shuffle on your boss' to do list.
And when you ask for the raise, don't make demands or whine but rather be factual and make a very strong business case, Lloyd advises. Consider even putting your case in writing so you make it easier on your boss to restate if he must take your request to someone higher in the company.
Your case should include previously discussed expectations and how you fulfilled them and what results you attained. Or make a chart showing your responsibilities at the start of the year and your current increased responsibilities and decision-making authority.
"It should be pretty evident to the manager that you want more money and that you are open to taking on more responsibility or improving your performance," says Lloyd. "So this [salary request] shouldn't come as a surprise at the end of the year or cycle."
And before you make your case, always have a plan B. You may truly warrant a raise, and your boss may truly want to give you one. But for whatever reason, a raise may not be plausible this year at your company. So plan B could include what else you'll settle for in lieu of a raise, such as a couple more days of paid vacation, a flexible work schedule that allows you to work at home one day a week or just a spot bonus.
"If you're a good employee, bosses don't want to lose you and they feel just as badly as you do that they can't reward you for what you're doing," Lloyd says. "And the thing that worries every manager when they can't give a raise is 'Am I going to keep my good people?'" Plan B might just answer that question for both of you this year. And then next year is a whole new ballgame.
© 2004 Karen Fritscher-Porter
Karen Fritscher-Porter is the publisher and editor of The Effective Admin, a FREE monthly e-zine for administrative support professionals who want practical tips to advance their career and simplify their daily job duties. Learn more about The Effective Admin and sign up today to receive your FREE issues full of helpful career and workplace tips at www.admin-ezine.com.