Asking for a raise in today’s economy

At a time when many employers are trimming budgets, laying off employees and resorting to extremes to cut business costs, many workers wonder whether it’s still possible to get a raise in today’s economy.

Fortunately, it is, according to Sandra Naiman, author of The High Achiever’s Secret Codebook: The Unwritten Rules for Success at Work. “Companies know they need to be poised for an economic recovery, and rewarding and retaining top talent is critical to that strategy,” she says.

The reason many workers are overlooked for a raise is because they don’t ask for one or they don’t ask for it confidently and appropriately. “When asking for a raise, it’s essential to focus on the value you bring to the company,” Naiman says.

She offers the following tips.

Document your contributions

Chronicle your achievements over the last year or so. Show how you have increased market share, exceeded expectations of valued customers, cut costs and streamlined processes.

“Showcase how your knowledge, expertise and efforts contribute to the success of the company,” Naiman says. “This information also helps your boss justify the raise to those who might have to approve it.”

Be reasonable

Ask for an amount consistent with your fair market value based on data obtained from recruiters and websites such as and

“Remember this is about what you are worth, not what you need to meet your personal expenses,” Naiman cautions. “Show that you understand that budgets are tight and that you want to be a part of the team and continue to contribute. Even if you plan to look elsewhere should your request be refused, such threats have no place in this conversation.”

Seek alternatives

“There are forms of compensation other than salary,” Naiman says. “If your company cannot take on a fixed cost, perhaps you could be given a bonus for performance.

“Also look at other perks such as a BlackBerry, lap top, paid vacation time, educational opportunities or association memberships.”

Set the stage for next time

Even if your request is denied, there are things you can do to keep the topic open. “Ask for the reason a raise is being denied and lay the groundwork to renegotiate the issue at a specified future time,” she says.

If performance is cited as the reason, ask what you would need to do, within what timeframes, in order to be considered for a raise. “Get specifics, achieve them and document your results,” she says.

If the economy and company finances prohibit a raise, suggest that you and your boss revisit the issue when the economy picks up, market share improves or other financial benchmarks are achieved.

“A ‘no’ today does not mean the answer will be the same six months from now,” Naiman says. “It’s a lot harder to deny a raise after such conversations have taken place.”

Remain gracious

If your request is denied, thank your boss for his or her time and consideration. Maintain the highest standards of performance and remain pleasant and positive moving forward. Also, never discuss your experience with colleagues.