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In the current job market, good employees should feel emboldened to ask to be paid more for their contribution to the company.fizkes/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Asking for a raise can be nerve-wracking at the best of times. The fear, stress and anxiety of proving to the boss that you deserve more money may be heightened amid the pandemic when you haven’t been in the same room for months, or maybe years.

“[An employee’s] stomach turns when they’re thinking, ‘I’m going to have to go out and ask for what I want,’” says compensation strategist Annika Reinhardt.

But in the current job-seekers market, where employers are struggling to attract and retain talent, good employees should feel emboldened to ask to be paid more for their contribution to the company.

“The market is changing,” Ms. Reinhardt says. “Salaries have increased significantly, especially in 2021. I think folks can really capitalize on that.”

Ms. Reinhardt, a consultant who helps organizations build their salary structures, says the competition for talent is also creating greater salary inequities. Often, she says new employees are getting paid more than existing colleagues in similar roles.

“Hiring salary ranges are creeping up much, much faster than internal salary ranges,” she says. “[It] causes this massive gap between new hires and internal folks.”

Those that haven’t had a raise in some time or feel that their salaries fall behind what new hires at their company, or a comparable organization, would be offered can use current market rates to their advantage, she says.

“I think this is a great opportunity for employees to put a little bit of pressure on their organizations by asking: ‘What are we doing to adjust internally for what the market is doing?’” Ms. Reinhardt says.

The war on talent has evolved from ‘The Great Resignation’ to ‘The Great Renegotiation’ as employees seek better compensation at their current companies, says salary negotiation expert Fotini Iconomopoulos, author of the book, Say Less, Get More: Negotiation Techniques to Get What You Want.

Before entering a salary negotiation, Ms. Iconomopoulos suggests researching some figures in advance, such as comparable salaries for similar roles in the industry and the impact of inflation. 

Employees should also be ready to demonstrate their value to the company with metrics, where possible. For example, key performance indicators, major wins or goals achieved, or new clients or business brought in.

“What have you done that’s contributed to their bottom line?” Ms. Iconomopoulos suggest asking. “Why is it that they can afford to pay you more now because of what you’ve contributed to this organization?”

Then, when booking a meeting with your manager, choose a time when they aren’t going through a high-stress situation or the most stressful part of the day, month or year. 

“Pick a time when they’re in a neutral or good mood,” Ms. Iconomopoulos says.

If you’re working remotely, avoid asking for a raise in an e-mail, she says. Instead, request a video chat or phone conversation with your manager to make it more personable.

“[Describe] it as a catch-up meeting or a check-in on this year/quarter/month’s goals,” Ms. Iconomopoulos says. “That sets you up to recap all of the great stuff you’ve been doing, demonstrating your value and contribution to the bottom line.”

Employees looking for more money shouldn’t wait for an annual or mid-year performance review to ask, since it might not be in the current budget. 

“The conversation needs to happen with enough lead time for your manager to champion you at the decision-making table before the results are disseminated down to you,” Ms. Iconomopoulos says. 

Also, hearing a ‘no’ now doesn’t necessarily mean ‘no’ forever, which is why Ms. Iconomopoulos suggests framing the request as a discussion, not a demand.

She says employees could say something like: “‘Based on my research, this seems like an appropriate number. What can you do to get closer to that figure?’”

And don’t threaten to leave if you don’t get the salary increase, Ms. Iconomopoulos says, even if you have another job offer as leverage.

“You need to tread carefully,” she says, especially if you want to stay at your current company.

If you mention the job offer, Ms. Iconomopoulos suggests not providing the name of the other employer or the proposed salary.

She also suggests framing the conversation positively, using language such as: “People have been inquiring,” or “I am getting these requests,” and asking if anything can be done to improve your circumstances at the current company.

If your raise request is rejected, it doesn’t necessarily mean the conversation is over, Ms. Iconomopoulos says. She encourages employees to ask follow-up questions about why the answer is no.

“Then you can use that [answer] to work on solutions to remove that obstacle,” she says, adding that employees should ask when a good time would be to talk about it again or what milestone would need to be reached to receive the raise.

Ms. Reinhardt says employees should avoid looking at raise requests as a “win or lose” scenario. Instead, go into the meeting as though it’s a negotiation between two parties seeking a mutually beneficial outcome.

“[Look] at it as a meaningful conversation. Be curious and try to tune into the other side. It can be positive, no matter what the outcome is,” she says.