Is It Time for a Raise?

by Carol Aloisi

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For many people, their annual raise either falls at the end of the calendar year or on the company anniversary date. But the budgets for those raises are often being developed now for implementation.

Don't wait for the end of the year or your anniversary to start preparing for your annual raise discussion. Ideally, you should be discussing the merits of your performance throughout the year. But if you haven't been, now might be a good time to start.

Preparing for Your Annual Raise Discussion

Preparation for your next annual raise discussion should begin the day after your last raise discussion. Few of us have had the foresight to do this.

It is never too late, or too early, to prepare for your raise discussion. And, with budgets being established right now, having preliminary discussion with your boss on how you are doing could help to assure that you get a fair raise come merit review time.

The most important item in determining the size of your raise (other than the pre-established raise budget ranges) is your ability to meet your manager's (and the company's) expectations. Making sure that you and your boss agree up front on those expectations should be your first priority.

Schedule a meeting with your manager and ask him/her what you have to accomplish in order to achieve an "exceeds standards" (or better) performance rating.

Get your supervisor to be as specific as possible in defining those accomplishments. For instance, being told that you have to "close new business" is vague. Provide examples of a reasonable goal such as, "if I close five new accounts at X dollar volume, will that be considered an 'exceeds standards' performance?"

Make sure that the goals you agree to are realistic. Sometimes, managers will tie your raise to unrealistic goals under the guise of "stretch goals." You can provide historical data to put goals in perspective. For instance, "I'm aware that Reggie was rated outstanding last year and he closed four new accounts so I am concerned about whether a stretch goal of 10 new accounts is realistic."

If, however, you have not had the opportunity to discuss expectations with your boss beforehand and your raise discussion is coming up in less than six months, you should still sit down with your boss to review your performance to date. Former Mayor Koch's line "So how am I doing?" is appropriate in this situation. The benefits are twofold. You put your boss on the spot. Without being faced with filling out your raise form or determining budgets, (S)He may be more honest in telling you that you have done a good job rather than coming up with arguments to justify a predetermined raise rate. If your boss gives you a favorable rating, (S)He will have a hard time giving you a raise that isn't commensurate with what you have been told.

It's also not a bad idea to send a note reiterating your discussion and expressing your appreciation of the support.

If there is a problem with your performance matching expectations, you can discuss it before you've been formally evaluated and in a time frame which allows you to improve that performance before the official raise discussion. You should ask, "What do I need to do to demonstrate an above average performance level?" And then do it.

Timing is Everything

Must you wait until the end of the year or your anniversary date to get a raise, even if you've just closed a major deal? The answer is no.

If you have just achieved something significant that you know your boss agrees is a major contribution, schedule a meeting with him/her shortly after this accomplishment.

Discuss your performance and tell your boss that you would like to be considered for an out-of-cycle raise based upon your results and the extra effort you put forth to accomplish those results. Even if an out-of-cycle raise is denied, you have laid the groundwork for receiving an exceptional merit increase at your annual due date.

Another factor as to when to ask for a raise concerns equity with peers. This is especially an issue for women and minorities. But it also applies to anyone who suspects that (s)he is not being paid comparably to peers in the same position with the same level of performance.

If you suspect that you are not being paid comparably to peers and your performance has been good, meet with your manager. Don't be accusatory or demanding. Simply tell your boss that these are your concerns and ask that an equity study be performed. An equity study is a review of your peers and their salaries and is usually conducted by the compensation department.

Often your own manager is not aware of what individuals in different departments, but on similar levels, are being paid. Your manager may be just as interested in the results of the equity study as you are because good managers do not want good people to be underpaid and de-motivated.

An equity study does not guarantee a raise. The study may reveal that you are paid equitably relative to your peers. But isn't it worthwhile to know that you are being paid equitably, even if it does not result in immediate raise?

Discussing raise and performance issues with your manager can be a difficult and stressful task.

Ms. Carol Aloisi, President of Career Management Consultants, Inc., has also authored a professional booklet called Raise Your Interview IQ containing information others have paid thousands of dollars to access in her coaching sessions. Career Management Consultants, Inc. can help you think through your strategy and help you achieve your goals. Call them at (908) 281-9509 and, "Let us contribute to your success!" email:

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