Cosmopolitan magazine gets it right — how to ask for a raise–or what to do when the answer is no

Ok, let me start this off by saying I’m not normally a Cosmopolitan reader. My wife is a subscriber and there’s usually at least one issue hanging around the house. The other day I saw the most recent issue tossed on the coffee table. Among the articles advertised on the cover was the title of an article, “How to Ask for a Raise”. Anything employment-related will catch my eye, so I decided to see what advice Cosmo was offering my wife. We wouldn’t expect Cosmopolitan to deliver a deep dive on the labor market, labor organization, or prevailing wages; however, they do offer some reasonable ideas for employees.

How to ask for a raise at work

I’ll admit it. I started flipping through those perfume sample-scented pages expecting recommendations to dress more trendy for the office or the old saw to dress for the job you want. Like I said, I don’t regularly pick up my wife’s magazines. I was wrong. The article “How to Ask for a Raise” actually had good advice and pretty solid recommendations. I won’t go through all of the tips provided but one stood out as an idea worth expanding upon.

Fort Worth Discrimination Attorney EEOC LawyersThis particular tip is entitled, “Give and Take”. It discusses how sometimes you want the raise but management did not authorize raises. Instead you can find other useful benefits. This is a good opportunity to continue to obtain better job conditions when a raise is off the table.

Sometimes other benefits are more worthwhile than a marginal raise. For example, if you have to juggle your work schedule and family schedule then schedule flexibility might be more important to you than an extra few dollars in your paycheck.

Of course, this tactic works if your performance supports it. If you come to your boss asking for a raise but you are a bottom performer than you should not expect to receive a raise or any alternative benefit. If you need something like schedule flexibility you may be better off addressing that directly and how it is a benefit to both you and your employer. Employers generally want to keep strong performers but they may not be in a position to offer a raise when you want it. Giving them alternatives that are less costly make it more likely you can maneuver yourself into better job conditions and ultimately that raise.

Asking for soft benefits and raises at work

Some of the benefits you can negotiate with your boss are what we might call “soft” benefits because they have little financial impact. If you cannot make headway negotiating a raise or official promotion then a better alternative to walk away with something may be to ask for something useful to you but costs the company little or nothing. Some examples are:

Increased bonus opportunities

If your employer offers bonuses you can request a much larger bonus than you normally might receive. Many companies allocate separate money to the bonus pool not affected by raises given. An increased bonus is easier to request when you are a top performer and your team or business unit has some low performers because the low performers are probably not getting a large bonus and there may be money left in the bonus pool that can be allocated to you.

Extra paid time off

Most employers limit how much paid time off in the way of vacation and sick time you can have; however, your boss may be able to offer you some additional days or half days “off the record” but make sure you get that agreement in writing so it doesn’t come back around to bite you in the ass. This option is particularly low cost for your employer if you are salaried because they are already paying for those work days.

Recommendations for special projects or assignments

Yep, asking for more work can sometimes be a plus. Getting included in special projects or assignments can put you in contact with people higher up the food chain or in different departments where you can build your brand with people who are influential and can help you move up the food chain yourself. These projects also give you an opportunity to showcase an expanded skill set and show you are more than whatever your current role is. It distinguishes you from your peers both in the short term and the long term. Additionally, this is a zero cost option for your employer.

New job title

This is another zero cost option for your employer; you can ask for your job title to be modified to demonstrate your expertise or job duties. Depending on your employer’s nomenclature you can request an inclusion of “senior” to your title or an additional number added to your title to designate an advancement (for example, convert project manager to senior project manager or project manager II). It’s good for your resume.

You can also negotiate a new job duty to go into a completely distinct title (that you should make up), such as taking one of your boss’s duties off his or her plate. That helps your resume but like the previous point, it distinguishes you from your peers.

Equipment/office upgrades

Does your office feel like a closet? Is your computer still running Windows 2000? You can also request better tools to perform your job. The employer already ate the costs on open office space. There may be money for office equipment and supplies not in current use. Although a nicer office or a newer computer isn’t a huge win there are hidden benefits. The quality of your office often indicates your position in the company. A new, fast computer can take some of the daily frustrations out of your job.

Work from home

COVID broke wide open the idea that driving to the office five days a week is necessary for productivity and accountability. If present news reports (circa this update in September 2021) are accurate, it seems more employers intend to retrieve workers to a physical workplace. Vague justifications prop up these decisions (which should cause any thinking individual to collapse in laughter) but the real reason likely boils down to employers desiring more control over their workforce.

If your employer takes away something you like that you know they could return then you have another bargaining chip. If a raise is off the table then maybe remote work on a full or part-time basis may be a good alternative.

A roadmap to a raise

Often raises arise during performance reviews which may be the only time your employer pays close attention to your performance. If your past performance did not justify a raise (or the raise you wanted) or the employer is not giving raises at this time then an alternative is to confirm a roadmap to obtaining the raise in the near future.

A performance action plan aligns improving your performance with improving your compensation with clear metrics. Too often employers will promise improved compensation with improved performance without telling you how much improvement in work produces improved pay.

Never assume that good work cannot be rewarded just because it cannot always be rewarded with a raise. It’s up to you to define what you need and what you want out of your job. Always keep that in mind when you go in to negotiate anything with your boss. If you have a potential labor or employment law claim then you should speak with an employment lawyer right away.

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