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Want a Raise? Here's How to Ask

By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, August 1, 2007 9:16 AM

I was originally hired as an accounts payable specialist. After a co-worker in receivables retired last year, instead of hiring a replacement, my employer parceled out her work. I managed to get most of it. It seems I am having more and more work sent my way.

However, I was not hired for those tasks and even though I enjoy learning more, I feel I am not being paid sufficiently for the additional work. The company constantly cries "No money!" and yet the owner has a company vehicle and donates money to charities. How do I ask for a raise in this situation?

Your frustration is completely understandable. It sounds like your company may be suffering from a confusion of priorities, which is aggravated by the apparent hypocrisy of your leadership. Nevertheless, when it comes to asking for a raise, it is best to put such feelings aside.

Focus on the business case for boosting your salary. How much, by your calculation, have you saved the company? You may not know exactly what your retired colleague was making, but take a conservative guess. If, for example, she was earning $40,000 annually and you are doing half of her old job, then you are saving the company at least $20,000. Asking for a $10,000 raise, then, would seem absolutely fair. If you can attach a dollar value to the additional work you have been assigned since her departure, all the better.

Estimates regarding the costs of employee turnover vary. According to a survey conducted by William M. Mercer Inc., however, 45 percent of companies report that turnover costs more than $10,000 per employee, and 20% of companies estimate that turnover costs more than $30,000 per employee. That covers costs including recruiting, lost productivity and the time that other employees spend covering for the vacancy. You can therefore argue that it would make no economic sense for your employer to refuse your offer and risk losing you.

An alternative and complimentary approach is to research what people who perform your set of tasks are typically paid. Are they called "accounts payable specialists" or do they go by a different title? If you explain to your supervisor that you are, in reality, doing the job of a senior accounts payable administrator, for example, it will be easier to argue that your salary is out of alignment. Most employers will be hesitant to offer large pay increases to their employees without a corresponding promotion. The reason is that this wreaks havoc on the pay scales for different positions, depriving job titles of meaning and creating a perception of unfairness.

When you approach your supervisor with the data you have gathered, be self-confident and professional. Thank your supervisor for the opportunity to grow in your job, point out how well you have managed the additional tasks and ask for his or her assessment of your performance. Then present your case.

Practice the conversation with two or three non-work friends or family members to make sure you come across as sensible and well-informed rather than arrogant or entitled.

Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail lilymgarcia@gmail.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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