Friday, 15 August 2008

On Raises and the Art of Negotiation

"No hide, no Christmas present" as my Granddad used to say, meaning that if you don't have the guts to ask, you simply won't get...

Believe it or not, this applies as much to asking for more money as it does to asking friends for a favour, or family for that much-desired gift.

Your boss is not a mindreader.

I'm not suggesting you march into your head-honcho's office first thing on Monday morning and ask for a raise!

What I am pointing out is that there are ways by which you can ask your boss for a raise without him feeling as though you're costing him more money. And if you approach it the right way, you might even do better.

Remember: I'm a mum. I've gone through the stress of not having any independent income during that time after our little one arrived, and I've gone through it while my husband was in the first stages of retraining - as an apprentice, which in any language means very low pay in the first year.

So I had to go back to work.

Casual seemed the most appropriate way to go until I realised that not only had my hours become quite regular and were actually 3 days per week, but that I'd also not really have enough to pay the bills during the two-week Christmas break my boss imposes every year...

Now, not everyone is as lucky as I am to have a boss like I do. I know this. But you shouldn't be too afraid to approach him or her with a proposal that won't do any harm.

In my case, I needed to go Permanent Part Time so that I could have some leave for holidays and for when I, or anyone in my family who needs me there, gets sick on occasion. The catch was that the resulting drop in pay (because you get more as a casual employee, supposedly to cover things like leave) meant I couldn't afford the childcare I needed to be able to come in to work!

Slightly tricky situation!

First I sent an the boss an email explaining that this problem had finally arisen (we'd discussed the possibility of it happening when I started, because he knows I have a young daughter), and that I was trying to work something out if that was alright by him.

Over the course of the following week, I did my research.
  • I checked government web sites about the NSW Award Wages (that's the minimums to be paid to any employee at their level).
  • I checked the definitions of employee levels for my field.
  • I looked at what I was doing in each of those levels and, much more importantly, I checked what I could be doing to assist my boss better by doing more in my job to help out.
Then I presented my boss with a brief but detailed analysis of the problem. I pointed out that the best way to go was still to go part time, but that it would leave me short. I then presented links to the relevant web pages (on the Award levels) and asked what he thought about their contents, pointed out that I could be doing more, and asked a three questions (expecting that I might only get a positive answer to one!).
  1. Failing an actual raise, would you be willing to leave me at the pay rate I am (instead of dropping me to the Part Time Rate from the higher, Casual, rate?
  2. What would you expect of me if you were to agree to this? Could I take on some marketing work (for example) to bring in more money?
  3. Would you consider taking me on for an extra day per week to get the extra stuff done if it means you actually see money coming in as a result of the extra work you expect of me?
Funnily enough I got a positive response to the first two, which was a major triumph, with a "no" for the final question, but outright confirmation that my hours would get better if I started to show results.

See? If you're willing to go the extra mile, it can make a difference.

Be as frank as you feel able. Think hard about what talents you have to offer, and GO FOR IT!

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