How to Get a Raise

Money is never spent to so much advantage as when you have been cheated out of it: for at one stroke you have purchased prudence. – Schopenhauer

When is the last time you got a raise? We don't mean an increase in your salary because another year had gone by, or because it was company policy to give everyone a pay hike the first of each year, but a real merit increase based on your real value to your organization. If you are like many people, your answer probably will be: “It's been a long time.”

You have waited patiently without results. If you continue to wait, you probably will develop considerable skill in waiting, but not much else.

A simple formula can get you out of the “routine” raise rut and bring serious consideration of you as a candidate for an “earned” raise. Notice, the formula is described as simple, not as easy.

Here is a four-step approach to help you get the raise you want and deserve:

1. Be certain you have deserved it.

2. Be certain your superior recognizes you have deserved it.

3. Be certain your superior recognizes that you know that you have deserved it.

4. Be certain your superior knows that you recognizes that he knows you know that you have deserved it.

This may sound like double-talk, or at least a humorous approach to a very serious situation. It is neither. It is a system that works.

Nearly all the people who do not get earned raises have overlooked one or more of these steps. There's no accounting for those who get raises who do not seem to have earned them - and their ranks are legion. Included in this latter category are people who did really important things that others didn't know about, as well as some who accumulated raises because of nepotism or favoritism.

There is also the “squeaky wheel” principle: If you make enough of a nuisance of yourself the boss just might put through a raise to get you off his back for a while. This works some of the time, but managers are catching on to it and their resistance is increasing.

These rules, the first one in particular, are part of the benefits maintenance system. All good things need maintenance work – marriage, houses, jobs, kids, self-knowledge, typewriters, and so on. The increased self-knowledge needs to be kept up to date. Easy ways to do this have been developed.

For now, the concern is limited to getting a raise while on your present job. For practical reasons, this must be assumed to be a change in your pay rate. That is why it is necessary to go back to the time your last raise came through, or when you reached your present pay rate.

What were your real duties and responsibilities at that time? The word “real” is used because actual duties and responsibilities often are different from those outlined in job descriptions. Almost every manager and professional person modifies his job within six months after being hired. His special styles, the way he goes about doing things, change the job content in at least its points of emphasis.

You were paid what you are getting to do the type of job you were doing when your pay rate started. Employers may buy your future, but they are like bankers. They do their best to pay on the installment plan: After the work is done, and their payments are made with inflated dollars on the basis of a value agreement arrived at in non-inflated dollars, on the basis of a value agreement arrived at in non-inflated terms, the difference to the bankers is added profits.

There are, of course, pay raises based on increases in the cost of living and raises associated with seniority. But we are not concerned with those increases; the focus here is on the earned raise.

When your earned raise does come through, it should take inflation into account and be sufficiently above it to provide real reward for having earned that raise.

“Increased productivity” is a term that too often covers a variety of factors that should earn raises. These include cost reduction; ideas to save money or get desired results better or faster; and such intangibles as contributing to better morale, improved relationships, and healthier environment.

Some Obstacles To Earned Raises

You need to be aware of a special problem, especially prevalent in larger organizations – groupism.

When one person gets a raise, others in the same category or classification may feel they, too, should get a raise. This very business of classifying people, grouping them and taking away their individual identities, has created one of the many “Frankenstein monsters” that contribute to organizational disruption. Some classification system is unavoidable, but it often has been permitted to smother creative individualism and to encourage mediocrity.

When a manager must choose between approving a raise for only one man and having a discontented group, he probably opts for group harmony, and the earned raise is not given. Today's humanism, and even intelligent capitalism, requires that the person who earns rewards should get them. When that does not happen, when superior contributions are not rewarded, the high-talent man slows or stops his contributions. B. F. Skinner's experiments have demonstrated that non-reward, even punishment for poor performance, begets adverse results.

There continue to be all kinds of obstacles in the way of getting earned raises. “We consider people for raises once a year” is perhaps the most widespread obstacle. Today, with computerized payroll systems, this concept is reinforced by warnings of the chaos it would cause to be “changing the payroll data all of the time.” Both approaches are “don't bother me” reactions of bosses who have other reasons for not giving a reward when it has been earned.

Then there is the general feeling that “my boss knows what I'm doing, so he knows that I've earned a raise,” and its twin, a person's feeling that he will get his reward sometime if he just keeps his nose to the grindstone, just keeps on doing a good job. The fact is that most managers continue to be fire fighters. They run to where things are going wrong and have little time left to give attention where things are going right. They are relieved by those persons whose work they don't have to worry about, who “don't need my attention.”

It has been said earlier that attention alone, as any mother will testify, is a kind of reward. Skinner proved that rewards tend to reinforce the behavior with which they are associated. The manager who gives most attention to problem makers is unquestionably encouraging more of the same.

What these practices often add up to is a serious case of management inertia. Management believes that if it gives a raise to one, it must give corresponding raises to others, and it is cheaper to let one man suffer than raise the whole crew. It believes that if a superior man is doing a good job, he usually is no problem and so can be left where he is. It believes that promoting a man entails all sorts of training expenses and uncertainties, not to mention the paperwork, so why take the risk that he will fail? Laboring under this negative attitude, it is often loath to move at all.

Additional objections to raise giving include “The budget is tight,” “We have an economy drive,” “You're at the top of your salary range,” and “Your timing isn't right.” Of course, there are many more obstacles, but they all can be overcome by the person who has earned his or her raise.

The extreme approach is too often used - using a firm alternative job offer for bargaining purposes. That approach tends to force an otherwise reluctant employer to give in, and it has too much potential for changing a good relationship into one that makes your boss wonder if you outsmarted or overpowered him. That attitude tends to stimulate attempts to even the score, and could soon become counterproductive.

There are many ways to give a raise. The bonus is one; another is profit sharing; still another is some form of tax-free gift, which could be an expense account, special services like tax accounting, and investment counseling.

But the age-old special reward for special services is usually a pay increase. This might be a sound approach, but day-to-day pressures combined with the scheduled times for consideration of pay increases often result in overlooking some deserving workers. And, because the budget is not elastic, too much money goes into rewards for limited performance

Reward for performance is our concern here. Accordingly, “performance” should be provable. And it is. You will recall that the formula begins with being sure you have earned an increase. You can be sure of this when you know that the quality of the job expected of you when you reached your present pay level is higher now. Take the following example.

Bill, a maintenance supervisor, was responsible for machinery, equipment, offices, and similar items at the newest of the company's five facilities. The rumor mill was spreading the word that profits were slim and that there would be no salary increases that year. At 38 Bill had two engineering degrees and plenty of ambition. He felt his work gave him satisfaction; he believed he was worth more money; he doubted that he could have greater responsibility than he had at this new facility.

His search for a greater income in the face of the no-increase rumor brought him to a career counselor. The career study confirmed that he had chosen the right career. His counselor suggested staying with the company and pursuing a salary increase.

His achievements indicated he had gleaned preventive maintenance methods and systems not only from the company's other facilities but also from up-to-date sources in industry and that he had built these methods into the operation of the new facility. As the result of his actions substantial savings were taking place each month.

Assumptions Are Dangerous

“Does your management know about these savings?” he was asked.

His reply was: “They certainly should know about them. Installation of the new systems was approved by top management when the plant was in construction.”

The counselor asked: “Does the same management team have responsibility for plant construction as the one that is responsible for plant operations?”

Bill responded: “The plant operations people are different, but they all report to top management.” Then, he paused and added, “What you're saying is that maybe the operations people to whom I report, and with whom I work, don't really know about my maintenance systems, even though they do know that the continuity of production at this facility is greater than at the other four.”

“How are they to know if nobody tells them?” the counselor asked.

Bill began to think seriously about working out a way to get a raise from this employer, for whom he had worked about eight years. There were several things Bill had going for him. He knew company politics, which managers had power and which only talked as if they had power. He had good working relations with most of the management and professional personnel. He had a good staff. Probably most important, he knew what the other maintenance managers were doing and what most of their problems were.

He completed the first step described earlier, writing down his duties and responsibilities at the time he was given his most recent salary increase. Then he headed another sheet, “My contributions since then,” and listed them. He said it felt as if he were writing a “brag sheet.” Yet it took three prodding consultations to develop a good list.

“How can you measure the value of preventive maintenance?” he wanted to know. He was able to get comparable costs from other sources for many of the same items. This showed him that his methods added up to combined manpower and reduced down time and materials, and produced an annual savings of more than $200,000.

The total was very much of a surprise to him. “If you weren't aware, why should your vice-president be aware of your contributions to the firm?” the counselor asked. Only then, when he went beyond his feelings of self-value and learned the fact of it, had he moved from feeling he had earned a raise to being sure that he had earned a raise.

Savings add to profit directly, they amount to an increase in productivity. But the way in which they add is interesting. Very few corporations make a 10 percent profit on their sales. So a saving of $200,000 would about equal the earnings that would result from the sale of two million dollars' worth of products. When Bill realized this, he began to think of asking for twice his $22,000 salary. That, of course, had to be revised realistically.

But now he had a new concept of his worth to the organization. He had come to recognize that he, like almost every good professional and management man or woman, is worth more than he or she thinks.

When Bill began to get annoyed about his “low rate of pay” – which previously had moderately satisfied him - the discussion moved on to how much of a raise would have pleased him before his self-appraisal. Ten percent would have been satisfactory, he said, in view of the company's low profits, but he really would have liked 15 percent. “But now, I'd be unhappy with less than 15 percent,” he said.

“Suppose,” the counselor suggested, “you aim at 20 to 25 percent and develop a plan with that expectation in mind. You've heard of people expecting trouble and finding it - the self-fulfilling prophecy bit? Well, you can just as easily use self-fulfilling prophecy to get something you want. When you move from wishful thinking to setting a goal and planning carefully to achieve it, there is a good chance you can succeed. Do your motivated skills indicate you should have a different title as well as a higher salary?”

“They're not going to make me a vice-president,” he said. “I'm one of the five plant maintenance managers and I'm already paid as much as the one who's been there longest, twice as long as I have.”

“You seem to have a vice-presidency in mind,” the counselor said. “Perhaps that could be a longer-range goal, especially since your achievement facts show you have worked on policy matters at several times in your life as well as on operations. Your concern for that status also should be kept in mind as you develop your plan for the pay increase.”

They then began to work on the second step of the formula, making sure that his supervisor knew he had earned the raise. Fortunately, the third quarter of the company's fiscal year had barely begun. Timing is a major factor in getting a raise. The person who tries to get one just after the budget has been completed is likely to be disappointed; the same holds true for the person who plans for an increase just after the annual board meeting when the profits have been allocated. Nearly every employer has a schedule, written or unwritten, of its structured activities, the timetable the policymakers use to set guidelines for company performance.

In some organizations there is a set time for consideration of who should get raises and how much. If possible, you should begin to work on your plan for a raise three or four months before the company puts its budget together.

Bill developed a short list of key executives who would be interested in knowing about the maintenance costs savings, key people who could influence a decision on his pay increase.

He then worked up a concise report on his contributions since getting his last increase. Each of the four executives received the report with a cover letter, which said in part: “I have marked in red certain sections of this report that will be of particular interest to you.” Bill timed the distribution of his report to coincide with the anniversary of his joining the firm. He indicated in his cover letter that he periodically examines his contributions to company effectiveness and that this time he felt his study was worth sharing with those who had been most helpful in achieving the results. He asked for their corrections, criticisms, and comments.

The sections marked for each executive's attention were very short. Short enough and factual enough it turned out to induce each of them to read all five pages. When they got back to him, which they did quickly, each was just as surprised as Bill had been and were pleased with him for sharing the report with them. One of the vice-presidents said, “If everyone were as conscientious as you in watching the dollar we wouldn't be in a financial bind this year. We'll have to take care of you, even if nobody else gets a raise.”

Bill was given a $5,000 increase, with an apology that there couldn't be an equivalent bonus with it. By far his raise was the highest of the few handed out that year.

Bill had completed the four steps. By making a list of his contributions he made sure he had earned the raise. His report helped his bosses know he had earned it and that he knew he had. His letter requesting corrections and criticism - which he would have followed up within a week if he had not been called first - completed the fourth item, making sure that his bosses knew that he knew his bosses knew he had earned it.

Suppose you are at the top of your salary range. Or suppose you are not getting along too well with your boss, but nevertheless have earned that raise. What then?

In the first instance you need to change the salary range; in the second you have to change the conditions. Examples of how to handle each situation follow.

Jack was doing a very good job in a nonprofit research organization. He headed one of four departments, the one responsible for the highest proportion of the organization's income. His salary was comparable to that of a top professor, several of whom worked for him on a special project. It was well known that their university salaries were used as a standard for this organization's pay scales. It also was well known that the university with which the professors were associated resented the fact that much younger men, however competent, were getting the equivalent of top university salaries.

Jack discussed this problem with some friends, indicating he would consider quitting if his salary could not be adjusted. After a while they came up with an idea to remove the professional pay choker from the neck of the salary scale. Twenty of the key faculty members were made special advisers to the research organization, with annual retainers of $1,000 each. Because of the special status this gave them, they dropped opposition to salary range changes, and Jack got a substantial raise, along with others in the organization.

Each situation is unique when it comes to effecting policy changes. What is the same is that solutions are available, and can be found, when conditions warrant changes. The need must be recognized, the salary increase must have been earned, and then some way usually can be found to provide it.

A Case Of "Cronyism"

Paul's case was very different. He had made good progress for seven of his ten years with a very large company. But he had received no increase for the past three years and his frustrations continued to mount. Although he seemed to get along well with his co-workers, he felt like an outsider because the five other men and his boss always seemed to know more of what was going on than he did. His work was satisfactory, but no more. During the three years he had been in this department he had seen others, no more effective than he, move ahead. “For some reason, which I cannot understand, my boss has it in for me,” Paul said.

He had been doing a good job, liked his company, and should have a good future there. But they also showed that his effectiveness had dwindled. He compensated for his employment frustrations by involving himself in community affairs in ways that continued to demonstrate his managerial effectiveness.

“Why do you feel you are an outsider?” he was asked.

Paul responded, “They have lunch together almost every day at the Princeton Club. I'm a Williams graduate.”

It turned out that his boss was a Princeton man who turned to his old professor whenever he needed staff. Paul was the only “foreigner” in the department. The others hadn't intended to block him. It was just that the Princeton Club was the best place to eat; and while they lunched, they often talked shop. The information they exchanged informally also was available to Paul, but he didn't know what to ask for and they all assumed he had the information.

When the reason for his “outsider” status became apparent, he developed a contributions-to-the-company report to discuss with his boss and also with the man who had hired him originally (by now that man was a vice-president). In that report he added a page on his contributions to the community; this showed he had not lost his ability to contribute ideas and leadership. Paul used his birthdate as the peg for his report - there needs to be a time peg for such a report when it cannot be tied to an employment anniversary. He called the vice-president, reminding him of their early relationship, and asked for an opportunity to review his progress as justification for the original hiring.

Paul leveled with the vice-president. He suggested a three-way lunch to let his boss know how the informal “Princeton Club policy” was preventing the company from getting the best out of him. An open discussion, without recriminations, helped change conditions. In this case, Paul got an increase without having earned it because his boss had unintentionally kept him from doing those things that normally would have earned greater financial recognition.

This article would be incomplete without some reference to pay inequalities experienced by women. These inequalities are real, but they can be changed on an individual basis. The process is essentially the same, with the addition of some comparative data.

Mary, an account executive and copywriter in a small, growing advertising agency handled substantial accounts. Only one other staff member handled more. His earnings exceeded $50,000 a year, partly because he was the president of the agency. Her salary was $15,000, just about half that of other account executives - all male.

She developed a brief schedule of her activities and results, along with the activities and results of two others doing the same work. The schedule made it clear that she was doing more work. She knew she was being paid much less for doing it.

She used her knowledge of advertising presentations to create a “show” of different parts of the schedule and asked the president to set aside half an hour for her presentation.

He congratulated her, said he knew she had been doing an excellent job, and assured her of a raise at the •next regular time for such increases. Prepared for that response, she kept her cool.

“Don't you think the facts show I should be getting as much as the others?” she asked.

Some negotiation followed. She was given an immediate raise of 50 percent of the difference and assured of the balance within the year.

The point of Mary's story is that employers are nearly always willing to pay for what they are getting. Often, though, as with Paul and Bill, the boss simply does not know all that his subordinates are doing. Bosses rarely take time to identify the contributions of each manager or professional. They are content to accept progress and share some of the increased income without really examining who should get what proportion n the basis of his or her contribution. In the case of women's pay, an additional factor of custom or habit enters the picture.

This leaves it up to the individual to make clear how much of a raise he has earned. The actual amount, of course, will be decided by the boss. But when you go through the process outlined, you will have given your boss the facts he needs to make a reasonable decision.

It just doesn't make sense for a good manager to willfully deny a raise to someone he knows has earned it. If you want the raise you have earned, be sure the boss knows you have earned it. Don't blame him if you haven't kept him informed and you don't get the increase.

When you want a raise you have earned, get your facts. Be sure they are checkable, be open to correction if your view of the facts does not completely check out. Communicate.

When you keep your nose to the grindstone, when you just keep on doing a good job, that's when you can be sure that nobody needs to pay any attention to you - and nobody will!

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