Annual performance reviews can be a nerve-wracking experience if you don’t know what to expect, and that’s especially true if you’re planning to ask for a raise. Having conversations about money can be awkward and intimidating, but there are a few easy steps you can take to help the conversation go as smoothly as possible and result in a positive outcome - whether the answer is “yes” or “no.”
Time Your Ask Strategically
When it comes to optimizing your chance at successfully securing a pay increase or another benefit boost at work, timing is everything. In many cases, an employee’s annual performance review is the best time to have conversations about compensation and benefits. You’re already discussing your performance and how you’re feeling about your job, so it’s a natural segway into asking for a bump. However, there are a few things to keep in mind: Have you been meeting (or, better yet, exceeding) your performance goals? Has the company as a whole? If there’s been a dip in performance quality or financial stability in either case, it might be worthwhile to wait until the circumstances are more favorable. On the other hand, if you’ve recently completed a tough project or otherwise accomplished something great for the company, you might consider having a conversation at that time, instead of waiting until your review comes around.
Consider Your Boss’s Perspective
You are responsible for managing your career, you spend a huge chunk of your time and energy at work, and you know what you need to thrive both in the office and in your life. However, your manager is juggling a lot of responsibilities outside of your career, and those responsibilities can affect what your boss is able to offer you. For example, your boss has a budget to consider, as well as team dynamics, big-picture company strategy, and even sometimes the desires and demands of their superiors. Even if they would love to give you a huge raise, it’s not always possible for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with your performance or how much they value you.
Support Your Request With Details
You might think it’s obvious how hard you work and how much value you bring to the company - and you might be right. However, simply saying “I work hard and I deserve this” lacks strength as an argument, even when it’s true. Instead, come prepared with objective facts and figures that demonstrate how you’ve made money, saved money, and solved problems for your company. Having successful estimates, cost/controls reports, or safety improvement numbers on hand can bolster your argument and help both you and your manager, if needed, justify a pay increase. You can also check into the market value for your position so that you know if your current compensation is at or above where that position is typically valued. And beyond the numbers, think of other things that matter to your company: Have you been there for a long time, showing your loyalty and interest in growing within the company long term? How do you contribute to the company culture outside of your stated job responsibilities? Loyalty, passion, and positivity go a long way in helping an employee stand out among their peers and encouraging their company to keep them on board.
Understand Your Options
Whether you’re asking for a pay raise, better benefits, a promotion, or anything else, there are a few different possible results.
- Scenario A: Your manager might dismiss your request outright. In cases like this, hopefully they also offer feedback about your performance that can help you improve in your role and earn those improvements later. Be objective and self-aware as you assess their feedback and decide what your next steps might be based on that information.
- Scenario B: Your manager might tell you they’d love to honor your requests, but it’s just not feasible at the moment due to budgetary or other constraints beyond their control. In this situation, you might consider asking for a timeline on following up, so you can ensure that your needs and desires stay on their radar as things move forward. If you’re able and willing to wait, then everyone can still win in this scenario - even if not that day.
- Scenario C: Your manager grants your request, and everyone celebrates!
While Scenario C is obviously the goal, the other scenarios also present great opportunities and pose questions that can lead you forward in your career. The most important thing is to know what you want and what you need in your career and in your life, and to be willing to ask for those things. Whether your current company is able to meet those needs or you decide you want to explore other opportunities, learning how to advocate for what you need, at your annual performance review and beyond, empowers you to take control of your career in positive ways.