Requesting a raise can be a daunting task, and it can be especially tricky for women, but there are ways to draw attention to the qualities that truly make you an employee worth the extra money regardless of whether you’re a member of the so-called fairer sex.
According to the National Organization for Women, women make 77 cents on the dollar compared with their male counterparts. If you think you deserve more from your company and you need an effective way to request a raise, here are some tips that could help you get what you’re worth.
Getting the Guts
Even when you know you want and deserve a raise, it’s all too easy to say you’re happy enough with what you get paid, according to Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire, a company that focuses on recruiting services for women.
And it may be easy to settle with your company’s standard 4% even though you know you’re worth more. After all, you may just be glad to be employed since the nationwide unemployment rate reached a high of 10% amid the recession.
But as the economy and the job market improve, opportunities are opening up. Just as workers who are unhappy with their current jobs aren’t as afraid to move on to another, employers may be more willing to pay extra to keep their most valuable workers.
“The biggest challenge for women is to commit to asking … commit to negotiating. That’s often where we fall short,” says Johnson. “We refuse to ask because we don’t want to rock the boat, we assume they know better what we’re worth, we want someone to like us, we don’t want to argue. Those are all the exact words women say when coming up with reasons why not to negotiate.”
But if it makes you miserable that the pay that you want is far higher than the pay that you’re getting, a bit of discomfort while negotiating now is probably better than the unhappiness you’ll continue to feel if you do nothing at all.
And you don’t have to be tied to requesting a raise only when an opportunity presents itself. It’s possible to get a raise at a time of the year other than during your annual review or a change in your title or responsibilities.
List Your Accomplishments
Listing your accomplishments in your current position can help convince your boss you’re worth more money and it can boost your confidence as well, so this can be an important step in preparing to ask for a raise.
First, think of anything and everything you’ve done for your company beyond your job description or what’s expected of you. Mention any special projects you’ve worked on or initiated and how you’ve helped make your company more lucrative.
That’s exactly what Susan Avsec, National Marketing Manager for CBIZ Inc. says she did.
“My boss … went through the usual motions and set my increase to be a mere and the usual 4% increase. I thanked him then pulled out and handed him a copy of a PowerPoint presentation that listed all the extra work I contributed to the position and the successful efforts I made to increase firm productivity over the year,” Avsec says.
If you’re requesting a raise as part of an annual assessment, your review may include questions about your longer-term goals at the company. In that context, you can gently remind your employer about your previous experience, and your current work in the context of how it has led to your current goals.
But, not surprisingly, companies can be more focused on their bottom line than what each of their employees is worth, suggests Brigitte P. Martinez, a property and casualty insurance account manager in Orange County, Calif.
“Show them how they save money and how losing you would cost money…” says Martinez, who successfully negotiated a raise recently. “That’s what the powers that be want to know,” she says.
Some women admit that they may be getting paid less than their male counterparts because they’re less inclined to negotiate or complain, Avsec says. Even so, when she herself mustered the courage to ask for a raise, it didn’t go as smoothly as it could have.
“I believe I had to work harder and provide more reasons why I deserved more money,” says Avsec. “I will add that both my boss and the CFO were taken aback by my request but they couldn’t argue that I [didn't] deserve it.”
But raise seekers can also benefit from certain personality traits that come natural in many women. Certain expressive words used in a positive light - "feel good" words like “optimistic,” “proud” and “happy,” according to Martinez – could lead to a positive response from your boss.
Plus, if you continually produce quality work, your performance reaches beyond expectations and you’re a valuable part of your team, it may be difficult to deny you.
Know What You’re Worth
It’s actually not difficult to find out how much people in similar positions at similar companies get paid compared with you. Salary.com lets you look up wage information based on reports from HR departments at companies near you. There, you’ll get a graph of the salary range of other workers in positions comparable to yours.
“One other common challenge I see now more than in the past is the need to recognize the difference between your worth and the position’s worth,” says Johnson of Women for Hire.
Though a specific position generally pays a specific salary for instance, you may be able to argue that you are worth more than standard pay. You’ll have to demonstrate your value, and subtly communicate what the company stands to lose if you were to leave.
“The negotiation must focus on what you bring in relation to what’s needed for this role, your value and the value of the role to the company,” Johnson says.