Money, money!
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Money, money!

One of the questions I’ve been asked many times is the best way to ask for a raise. After all, we work hard at our jobs; we do many things that no one even notices; we contribute to our department’s/team’s/company’s/BOSS’S success (note: The CAPS there are intentional because people really do make their bosses look better on many occasions and may not get the credit they deserve), and yet we often feel like we’re underpaid. What is the best way to address this inequity?

As with so many work-related questions, the pros will answer this question in many ways, some of which even conflict with each other. I’m here, though, to give you Dr. Steve’s principle for making more money at work. While not foolproof, it’s based on 25 years of work experience, both as a hard working (and, of course, deserving) employee, but also as a former chief operating officer who sat on the other side of the compensation table.

And, the answer is… Yes, it’s good to have data in hand. There are many websites, such as www.salary.com, www.payscale.com, and www.collegegrad.com, that can provide salary information by job title and even location (because, after all, we all know that not only is the cost-of-living higher in the MetroNY area but salaries often are as well). But, the problem is that the accuracy of salary information depends on matching your job to the job described in a particular database, and that match is almost always subject to judgment and discretion. And, for those of you who know how the data are collected in the first place, there’s judgment applied to that process as well! So, while external salary information may help make a case if you’re grossly underpaid, your manager or HR pro may have many valid reasons as to why your data don’t hold water.

What’s more – and this is very important – that very same manager or HR pro has many things to consider even before taking your performance and argument into consideration – namely, what others in the company are paid; whether giving you a raise is going to bring about increases for others; and, of course, how much salary budget is available to spread around. So, while you may be armed with data, the person who needs to agree with you is often saddled with many constraints.

So, what do I recommend? By all means, if you think you deserve it and have data to back it up, you can ask for a raise. But, far better, and here’s the Dr. Steve principle I promised – “work at the next level or pay grade and make ‘them’ take notice.” That is, rather than push your cause verbally, push your cause through the work you do. Make believe you’re already more senior than you are and demonstrate – every day – why you’re valuable to the company. You may not get the raise you deserve now, but over time you will likely earn much more than if you manage to wrest a begrudging raise out of your boss or out of HR. That victory may be short lived; proving value, and even indispensability, never is.

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