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Opinion: Want a raise? Ask boss for more than just money

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There comes a time in every employee’s career where they consider that after having worked at a particular organization for some period, and doing quality work along the way, that it’s time for a raise. This internal conversation may happen after six months or six years, but it will happen and it needs to.

Money, as I have written here before, is not the only motivator, but it’s still a powerful one. Some organizations give raises automatically, based on union agreements or long-established step increases. At most others, you need to earn them and ask for them.

Asking for a raise can go two ways. You walk into your boss’ office and say, “Can we talk about the possibility of me getting a raise?” Your boss looks up from their pile of papers or computer screen and says, “Uh, now’s really not a great time. The organization is going through some changes and my hands are tied, budgetwise. Maybe next year, after your annual review.”

The other way to do it is by making an appointment to see your boss – where you identify the raise issue as the reason for the meeting – and then you do your homework to prepare for that meeting. One place to start is by researching what other employees with your similar job title are paid. It’s called a salary survey and there are many examples online. They may vary from state to state – software engineers in San Francisco are paid more than ones in Biloxi, Mississippi, but you can certainly start to see salary patterns in your research.

The amount of raises is not much these days. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 64% of U.S. organizations gave base pay increases in 2020, down from 82% that raised salaries in 2019. The average salary improvement was between 2.6% and 3%. Every penny helps, but those low rates certainly won’t match the rising inflation numbers we’re seeing now. So this means getting a lot more money should not be your primary goal in your discussion with your manager or supervisor.

It’s time to get creative and make a list of the nonmonetary improvements you can ask for to improve your work life. Think back to when you were a kid, and make a Holiday Wish List as it relates to your job. Keep it simple and make it realistic, but don’t ignore this opportunity to ask your boss to say yes to a lot of items on your list that may not come out of their salary budget. Get started on making your work life more productive and comfortable, and that will lead to a future where your hard work really will earn a higher-dollar raise.

Start by asking for things that improve your status in the organization if not just your wallet. This includes asking for a change in title. This process could necessitate a mutual discussion with HR and you and your boss as to a change in job duties and responsibilities connected to the new title. It shouldn’t just be a “paper promotion.” You’ll need to earn it. Then, ask for items that can make you more productive, starting with equipment. Do you need a new cellphone, work tablet, laptop, desktop or color printer? Would you become more productive if you got an assistant, even on a part-time basis? Can you get a bigger office, better furniture, or an assigned and paid-for parking space near the building? Can you have the flexibility to work from home?

Will your boss agree to pay for you to attend more training programs, online or out of the office? Does your organization offer tuition reimbursement for you to finish your degree? If not, ask for all or some portion to be paid of your course costs and materials.

Think outside the box to help your personal life as well. Think about what will save you time, so you can be with your family or take care of your physical and mental health through rest, recovery and whatever you need to do to prevent burnout. Ask your boss if your organization will pay for your child care costs, your gym membership or give you a gas card if you have an especially long commute.

If your nondollar raise wish list is well-crafted and carefully presented, you may be surprised what your boss will agree to give you. If, after all your research, preparation and discussion, the answer to all you have requested is still no, ask if you can revisit these issues in six months. Don’t wait a year to have this conversation again. It never hurts to ask, boldly and politely, for what you need and want.

Steve Albrecht is a Springfield-based human resources trainer, security consultant and employee coach. He can be reached at


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