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November 22, 2011 > Counseling Corner: The Right Way to Get a Raise

Counseling Corner: The Right Way to Get a Raise

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

Are you unhappy about how much you are getting paid? Want a raise, but not sure how to go about it? One survey has shown that a majority of people believe they would be happiest if they made twice as much as they currently make. I'd imagine just about anyone would be happy if they got paid more for their hard work. Unfortunately, people often don't know how to position themselves for a raise. Read the following scenario and see if you can spot what has gone wrong in one person's quest for a raise:

Our hero (let's call him Tom) is a reasonably good employee who performs his job duties fairly satisfactorily. There are a few times when Tom goes above and beyond his job duties (when he's in the mood), but he is not consistent in this regard. His employer considers him an "okay" employee - solid, reliable, but not outstanding. After three years on the job, Tom decides he needs a raise since he recently got married and has a baby on the way. He has also moved to a more expensive apartment and his monthly expenses have gone up.

On a Friday afternoon, he casually says to his boss, "Hey, I've been working here for two years now and I've been hoping for a raise. I just got married and the wife has really been on my back about bringing home more bacon. Plus we have a baby on the way and we just moved to a more expensive place. I could really use a raise." His boss raises an eyebrow and tells him he'll think about it. Tom gets his answer on Monday - it's a definite no, without much explanation. Tom is angry and disappointed and thinks his boss is an evil demon.

Some of you would understandably be sympathetic about Tom's plight - perhaps some of you have even been in a similar situation. I myself have had to labor for very low wages for an evil demon and I can certainly resonate with Tom's resentment about not getting rewarded for years of hard work.

But for just a few seconds, put yourself in the shoes of Tom's boss. Imagine that you are personally responsible for making the money that would go into Tom's raise. Picture every dollar that you could spend on groceries or rent going instead to Tom's raise. Would you want to give Tom a raise for the reasons he furnishes?

Tom has made a few classic mistakes in his quest for a raise:
* He assumes that his years on the job automatically qualify him for a raise
* He believes that his new apartment, wife's needs, and baby are good reasons for his boss to give him more money.
* He thinks that simply performing his job duties means that he is a great employee deserving of a raise.

Tom is not alone in his assumptions - many people share these beliefs and assume that they deserve a raise simply because they show up to work every day and stay at the same company. People forget that they are paid for their value to the company, and not for their personal needs and desires. It is irrelevant to your boss that you need new shoes, new plumbing, or a new hair-do. However, what does matter is your value to your boss and to your company.

The question you should be asking when you want a raise is: "What have I done above and beyond my job duties to deserve an increase in pay?" If your answer is "Er, nothing much," then you might want to plan and prepare before you ask for a raise. Here are some things to consider doing to maximize your chances of getting the raise you want:

* Take a careful look at the pay scale you are hoping to get to. What are the job responsibilities at this level? How can you demonstrate your competence and abilities in these job duties?
* Upgrade your portfolio of skills by taking on challenging projects.
* Add to your skills by taking continuing education courses, even if these are at your own expense.

Let's not forget about your soft skills either - these are the personal qualities that can seriously affect how you are perceived at work. Take a good hard look at yourself at work. Are you often tardy? Do you waste time gossiping at the water cooler? Do you go above and beyond in your work with others? Are you grumpy or moody at work? Once again, put yourself in your boss's shoes - would YOU want to reward someone who wastes time, spreads negative energy around, and leaves early?

You might be one of the lucky few who get a raise simply by casually asking for one. Most employers, however, are not your fairy godmother. Here's one last tip - don't casually ask your boss for a raise. Prepare a portfolio outlining your added value to the company. Include supporting "evidence" to document your worthiness for a raise, such as courses you have taken (hopefully with "A" grades), demanding projects you have successfully completed, and positive evaluations from customers. If you want to be successful at work, then start by being successful and professional in what you currently do.

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Anne Chan, Ph.D. is a career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She specializes in helping people find happiness in their careers, lives, and relationships. She can be reached at 510-744-1781. Her website is www.annechanconsulting.com

(c) Anne Chan, 2011

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