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Asking for More During a Recession


9/23/2011 1:33:19 PM

By Angela Rose, BioSpace.com

"Please sir, may I have some more?"

It may seem counterintuitive even to consider asking for more when times are tough, but today’s circumstances may actually be favorable for stating your case for a raise. In fact, the 2011 Culpepper Salary Increase Budget Update Survey revealed that salary budgets, including increases, are higher in 2011 than they were in 2010. The survey also revealed that the number of companies instituting salary freezes has declined, and salary cuts have become virtually non-existent.

Of course, you’ll need to proceed carefully with your quest for a bigger bowl of porridge. You don’t want to come across as out of touch or indifferent to the financial challenges still facing your employer. There may even be danger in asking for more if you aren’t great at your job or difficult to replace. On the other hand, if you don’t ask for a raise, you’re unlikely to get one. In times of financial crisis, no one is going to give you more unless you ask for it. But you must be prepared to prove your worth.

Start by determining your market value based on education, skills and experience, as well as your industry, position and geographic location. Payscale.com and Salary.com are ideal for this purpose. You may also discover useful salary info on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Many experts advise against negotiation attempts in a recession if you are not earning below average wages.

Next, make a list of achievements since your last salary increase and document their significance. Numbers speak loudly, so try to assign a dollar value to each item. For example, if your marketing campaigns brought in x number of clients each spending y amount of dollars, document it. If you implemented a cost-cutting measure and saved the company z amount of dollars, document it.

Document specialized skills you bring to the table as well. Are you the only person in your department able to do x, y or z? Do you have experience or connections that benefit the company? How hard would it be to replace you? For example, if your skills allow you to fill three distinct roles, would the company need to replace you with three individuals?

List your accolades. Go through your emails and pull out quotes from clients, co-workers and supervisors pertaining to your performance. Your boss cannot claim that you’re not working hard enough for a raise if you have twenty emails where you’ve been thanked for your diligence. Nor can anyone claim that you’re not a team player when you have numerous emails showing that you’ve assisted others.

Once you’ve gathered the cold, hard facts, it’s time to make your case. Request a meeting with your boss. Present him or her with your data and ask for a specific compensation increase. Be tactful yet confident. Don’t be apologetic or make excuses. Leave your personal financial situation out of it. Your boss does not want to hear about your mortgage payments. Whatever you do, don’t make threats and don’t come across as pushy or angry.

If your employer acknowledges the validity of your request but states that an increase is not possible given the current financial situation of the company, it could be a good time to ask for something else in return. Consider requesting an upgraded title/promotion, telecommuting privileges, reimbursement for commuting, a bump in commission, stock options, scheduling flexibility, extra vacation time or a written agreement to increase your salary as soon as the company is back in the black.

About the Author

Angela Rose researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for BioSpace.com.

Check out the latest Career Insider eNewsletter - September 22, 2011.

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