“I need help in getting the raise I want.”

Question: I have two bosses – the one I work for and the one I get raises from. My company is a consulting firm that’s in the business of “farming out” technical expertise to government agencies. My government manager loves my work, puts me in charge of large research programs, and sends me in his place to technical meetings, while he tends to program and finance meetings.

My company has given me a 2% raise each year for two years. It’s difficult for me to argue for a larger raise, because their criteria are about bringing in new business, developing new clients, and mentoring new employees. I’m also at the top of the promotion ladder, and am being told that employees at lower levels need to “catch up” in their salaries (so they got an average of 4% last year.)

I’m not looking for promotion or extra benefits, but a 5% raise would be good, or something extra in the end-of-year bonus (everyone gets the same percentage bonus, based on company profits).

How do I negotiate this? How do I prove my value to the company, beyond just saying that I’m keeping one client very happy? Thanks. I’ve gotten a lot out of your blog already.

Washington, DC

Answer: The answer is as simple as one, two three:

First, it seems to me that you really “get” the critical point that raises, bonuses and promotions go to people who demonstrate their value. That’s what raises and the like are all about. That’s a very, very important point to understand, because so many people believe that raises, bonuses and promotions are matters of either (a) entitlement (as in “I have been here 5 years; I deserve a raise”) or (b) fairness (as in “It is not fair that I don’t get paid even one half of what my boss makes.”) You’ve pegged it right: Value gets you what you want. So far, so good.

Second, you seem to miss the fact that the key to developing the value needed is right in your letter. You seek help in figuring out how to translate your value to a significant raise or other payment. However, in your letter you seem to say that what your employer values is not what you offer: (1) bringing in new business, (2) developing new clients, and (3) mentoring new employees. You, yourself, describe these three things as “their criteria.” You have told me what it is that is valued, what it is that will get you the raise, promotion or bonus you seek. On the basis of your own words, I would say that you need to consider how you might be able to develop a “reputation” at work for one who can – and does – one, two or three of these things. Negotiating takes leverage of some sort; your developing these attributes, and becoming known as someone with these three attributes, is the first and most important step in negotiating at work.

We call them “Unique Human Capital,” which is the very first step in our seven-step “QVP Method” of negotiating at work that you can read about on our blog.

Third, it’s important to understand that you don’t negotiate by words so much as you negotiate by achieving and portraying whatever your supervisors see as value to them. You need to make a plan of action to develop one, two or three of “their criteria” during the coming months, and then execute on that plan:

■ Decide that, no matter what, you will find a way to ask one potential client to lunch each month from January to June.
■ Decide that, no matter what, you will ask each of these potential clients to try your company’s services, with a goal of getting at least two – no matter what it takes – to say “Yes” by June 30.
■ Decide that you will identify two new employees to whom you will be a potential mentor over the next six months.
■ Then, be creative in being a great mentor. Lastly, find ways to make sure that your supervisors, and perhaps their supervisors, too, all know about your newly-developed “criteria” for raise, bonus and promotion.

This is the “heart and soul” of negotiating at work: creating a perception of value. After you have done that, asking for the raise, promotion or bonus you want is rather simple, requiring only a simple summary of achievement and reasonable request, indeed, for those who “meet the criteria,” often not even necessary to make the request.

Not necessarily easy, but then again, it can be more fun – and more rewarding – than you’d believe.

My very best. Thanks for visiting our blog. Please tell your friends and colleagues about us!

My best to you,
Al Sklover 

P.S.: Don’t know what to say, or how to say it? We offer a Model Letter Requesting a Raise or Bonus. To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.