Biz Basics

By Beau Denton June 30, 2011

The Salary Standoff

Asking for a raise or improved benefits is a daunting task for any employee, no matter how talented or productive he or she is. How do you know if your boss will respond favorably? What if your employer disagrees about how much you are worth as an employee?

“If you are a stellar performer in an organization where the results of your activity are measurable,” says Joe McElmeel, CEO of Sarasota-based executive search firm Brooke Chase and Associates, “there’s never a bad time to ask for an increase.” In some industries, like advertising, marketing and IT, the results of your work are harder to quantify. That means proving your worth can be more difficult than pointing to a data report.

“Your supervisors need to be aware of your accomplishments,” says McElmeel. Don’t be afraid to share ways that you have improved efficiency or cut costs, and pass on emails or notes commending you for a job well done. That way, when you do bring up the big question, your boss will be more inclined to reward you for the value you bring the company. “Everything is based on return on investment,” adds McElmeel, and your company needs to know that you are a wise investment.

Before you ask for a raise:

Know your company. “Different companies are faced with different challenges,” says McElmeel. If your business is on the verge of bankruptcy or in the middle of layoffs, you might want to wait a few months. If business is booming, be ready to make the case that you are a valuable part of your company’s success.

Know your industry. Do some research to find the average salary of someone in your line of work. If your current pay is below that amount, be prepared to show your research. You can find a helpful wage and salary survey at

Know your limits. Before approaching your boss, have a target salary or perk prepared. Keep in mind that, especially for large companies, negotiating salary or perks (like flexible work hours or vacation time) is much easier than benefits, which are typically established companywide. Re-familiarizing yourself with the employee handbook will help you see if your request is even an option.

Be prepared. “Plan accordingly,” says McElmeel. “Have facts, figures and documentation” to highlight your worth. A boss who doesn’t know your work cannot be expected to reward you for it.

Watch your tone. “Going in and demanding an increase is a very bad thing to do,” says McElmeel, “unless you have an alternative career opportunity.” Make it clear that you are simply opening a discussion about compensation for the value that you bring the company.

Filed under
Show Comments