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How to Approach your Manager about a Raise

Q. I am very underpaid. I have been here almost two years and have had one raise. I work hard – harder than the guy I work for. I have taken on more responsibility. It’s time for a bigger raise. Do I talk to my manager or HR? What do they really need to know?

A. Most raises are granted by your manager and are offered on an annual cycle after a performance review, or off cycle after a significant increase in responsibility. You seem very sure about the state of your current compensation and before you meet with your manager or HR, you need to do some research.

Review your job description to see if it is accurate. Does it represent the skill level you need in addition to your responsibility? If not, consider drafting a revision. Try to make it as accurate as you can so your manager and HR would be in agreement with what they read about the role. You can research the compensation of similar roles by going to state website, DETMA.org, and reviewing the occupational and employment wages.

You can also go to job sites to check the salary ranges of advertised jobs like yours compared to what you currently make. Don’t forget to add the value of the benefits package you have – health insurance, company contribution to 401K, vacation time and anything else you receive. Typically this adds an additional 25 to 30 percent to your salary.

If there is a discrepancy between what you make and the data you discover, having this data will make any conversation you have with your manager or HR more productive. You may also need to reconsider your belief that you are underpaid.

If you are ready to talk to your manager, be wary of delivering a message that you work harder than he does. While you may feel that way, you may have very little visibility to what your manager actually does, or the level of responsibility his role holds. Your goal is to help him understand the value of what you bring to the organization, not to discuss the merits of who works harder. So focus your conversation on results and the impact of the work you do. Trying hard and working hard may or may not have the impact needed to generate results. People and companies pay for results.

What your manager and HR really need to know is the impact you have on the company. You should want the opportunity to talk to your manager about your role with the company and the value you bring through your role. This will help you understand if you and your manager share this belief, or if your manager doesn’t agree with your view of your role, your capabilities or what fair compensation is. That will b the beginning of a very different conversation.

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