I got the raise.
More importantly, I asked for the raise. The asking is the big deal, the getting is just icing.
We’ve talked a lot about how difficult it can be for some women to feel capable of asking for recognition of awesomeness, even when well-deserved. Obviously, this is not true of all women, and obviously, many men may also feel uncomfortable with these (frankly, uncomfortable) conversations.
But, women are generally encouraged by society (think all media everywhere) to be pleasers. There’s nothing wrong with pleasing people (it’s a good thing, right?), but there is something wrong with teaching one gender to pursue his dreams and shoot for the stars and all that jazz, and teaching the other gender to make sure people like her.
So I asked for a raise. Was it a little awkward and stilted? Yes. Did I blush and stammer? Yes. Did I make my case? Yes. In the end, on the other side of the 20 minutes of discomfort, I got the raise, and it’s a big one. So what did I learn?
1. Talk to boys: I love my lady friends, and they are a brilliant, ambitious bunch. But, they are also ladies like me who have, despite attempts to avoid it, absorbed a lot of societal lessons about propriety and likeability. Talk to your male friends and ask them for details. What language did they use? How did they prepare? Beyond mechanics, talk about how they see themselves in relation to their jobs and their salaries. See this chat with Josh to understand what I mean.
2. Think about timing: Is there a natural point in your work cycle to have this conversation? I framed mine around our anual performance review, which was ideal because we had just finished discussing all of the good work I’d done. If you don’t have an anual review, ask for one (it’s pretty standard). You could also consider bringing it up right after you’ve completed a big project, or when you’ve just received some recognition for recent success. The point is, you want your boss to be thinking about how valuable you are when you bring up the dollars.
3. Do your research: How much are other people in your company making? Awkward convos? For damn sure, but if you’ve got friends, the sharing can become conspiratorially worthwhile for everyone. How pissed will you be if someone doing the same job is making more simply because they asked? The point is not to pull a petty “But Sally in accounting makes XYZ!”, but to come armed with knowledge about how you’re being compensated compared to your peers. Is what you’re asking for reasonable? Are you overshooting everyone by 20%?
4. Threaten to walk: Don’t actually threaten to walk. Mentioning other options is as good as reminding your supervisor that you are always looking out for yourself (which you should be). I went with something along the lines of “I’ve done some research into similar positions at our peer companies, and it seems like $XYZ is within the standard range for this kind of job at my level.” Except imagine that with more “ums” and “uhs” and a red face.
5. Set the stage: I started the conversation with the performance review, and asked if now was a good time to discuss the potential for a raise. Nobody wants to have that conversation when your boss is super rushed or in a pissy mood. As an added bonus, my boss and I were stuck in a car for hours in the Philly ‘burbs. Nothing like a confined space for a convo between coworkers!
6. Have a number: After I broached the subject, my boss asked point blank what I had in mind. I fumbled. You won’t, because you’ll be more prepared. I came up with a range that fit the above criteria (#s 3 and 4) after a moment of faux-thoughtful soul-searching (read: scrambling). He nodded and considered it seriously. No laughing in my face, no guffaws, no eye-rolls or “are you crazies?” I mean, I didn’t expect those things….. but I kind of did!
7. Debrief: Regardless of how your raise conversation goes, if you have a good relationship with your supervisor, take a minute on the end of it to talk about the conversation itself. Presumably, your supe has been around a few more years, and has probably had to have this conversation on their own behalf. After my conversation, I confessed to my boss I had never asked for a raise before. He gave me some pointers! If the conversation doesn’t go well, set yourself up for another review in 3 or 6 months, and establish some goals that you can work towards to increase your odds next time.
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