Thursday, February 11, 2010

Asking for a Raise or Promotion: What’s in it for THEM?

Asking for a raise or promotion can be both a scary and empowering experience. Actually, asking for what you want period can be. The fear of the “no” can be disabling if you allow it to. Instead look at this as an opportunity to stand up for what you want and believe – there is nothing really to lose in doing that. If you come armed and ready, you’ll be in a better position to get it. And if you can do it without being attached to the outcome, you won’t feel a sense of defeat or disappointment if it doesn’t go the way you’re hoping. The goal is to be bold, put it out there, and be open to either result.

We are used to considering WIIFM: what’s in it for me? However, the biggest thing that you need to consider when asking for a raise or promotion is the reverse: what's in it for THEM (WIIFT)? While you might have excelled on your last performance appraisal or continue to fulfill upon the requirements of your job, that is "just enough" in this economy. You want to not only go above and beyond in your day-to-day performance, but offer something of added value that only you can provide. But before you go in to ask, do your due diligence... on yourself.

Reflect on what you have accomplished recently, all the way back to about 6 months ago. Write everything down. This may take a few sittings, and you may want to involve a close friend or confidante to help you tease the ideas out. Consider quantifiable, tangible results (i.e., dollars/time saved or gained, percentage improvement in efficiency/quality and how that translates to dollars/time, number of client contracts secured, etc.) as well as the intangible results (i.e., coached an employee into performance improvement, improved morale, etc.). As an ongoing practice, it's good to not only continually keep track of your achievements, but to save emails and other communications where anyone is praising your efforts.

Next comes the PR campaign -- a tricky, but essential part. Hopefully, you've been doing this all along, but if not, start setting the groundwork now. You want people to take note of your accomplishments and contributions, but don't want it to appear as flag-waving. There is a difference between confidently sharing what's been going on with you, and brown-nosing or tooting your own horn. Even worse is arrogance. Casual conversations work great, as do unsolicited updates (perhaps weekly) to your boss about what you're up to and achieving.

Be authentic and honest about yourself and what you bring to the table -- and own your power. However, it is just as important to call out the members of your team who helped you along the way. In fact, sometimes you'll go even farther if you focus on publicly acknowledging the contributions and achievements of others, leaving your impact as implied/presumed (great leaders do this!). And be sure to NEVER blame anyone else for failures -- the buck stops with you.

Next, consider the following questions and answer them honestly:
  1. What are the values and mission of the organization, and are you living and breathing them?
  2. What are the implied values and mission -- what is really going on -- and are you living and breathing that?
  3. What does your business really need NOW, and are you prepared to provide it? Perhaps there is an initiative that is desperately needed that just needs a leader (you?) to make it happen.
  4. What does your boss need and how can you give it to him/her? Making yourself indispensable is huge. Consider where you might be able to volunteer to assist with drafting routine communications or reports. Perhaps you are privy to troop-level information (not gossip or tattling!) that would help in planning that is relevant to the culture s/he is not privy to at the top. Important: Be sure that you won’t be sacrificing your own work and effectiveness in the process (you’ll shoot yourself in the foot and end up looking bad, or alienating others around you).
  5. What are the special skills and talents that you bring to the table that you can either start using or amp up? This blog entry may help you get started. Maybe you have a real knack for writing or selling that could enhance pitches or closing deals. Think back to past roles and areas in your personal life that might serve you on the job.
And most importantly:
  • What do you want? Be specific... and...
  • What's in it for them? Be specific.
Once you've done the leg work (hopefully, with the groundwork laid over time), you are prepared to ask for that raise or promotion. Be bold, yet respectful. Ask for what you want, and elaborate authentically on not only your accomplishments and the value you add, but on what they stand to gain by giving you what you want. Help them to see it in dollars and cents (and sense), and to realize the huge asset you are to them. Bottom line: While this is about what you want, you want to help them to get what they want.

If it doesn't work out this round, keep doing the above and ask again. Sometimes it’s just bad timing, or there simply isn’t money in the budget – right now. So don’t get discouraged or take it personally. But you’ll need to also be very honest with yourself about your own performance and, just as important, whether this is the place you want to be. If not, there are larger, more fundamental questions to ponder...