Build a Business Case for a Bigger Raise


Q. I got a 2% salary increase this time last year so my annual review is coming up soon. My agency responsibilities have increased significantly in the past year, but I won’t be happy if I don’t get a much bigger pay bump this year. How do I make certain I get the best possible raise? –DP

A. You’re wise to be planning ahead of your next review, especially since you expect more than the current routine raise range between 2 and 4 percent. You must build the business case for a raise based on your specific contributions to the agency.

Many agencies have formal processes and forms for annual reviews. Others are more informal. Whatever review system exists, consider writing your own cover note with succinct bullet points highlighting your main accomplishments. Doing this before your supervisor has a chance to write your review can influence his/her eventual comments. Plus, it will send the signal that you are taking the process seriously, and that you are expecting more than a minimum increase. Don’t make salary demands in writing, just build your case underscoring outstanding performance, citing specific business results that you helped deliver.

Very often during the actual in-person review, the potential salary increase isn’t discussed. Instead, the supervisor focuses on your performance and suggestions on how you can be even more successful in your job. If salary isn’t mentioned, it is entirely appropriate to ask what you might expect in the form of a raise. This question alone can often increase the eventual raise amount. If asked, be ready with what you feel is a reasonable increase. Depending on the amount you expect, be prepared for push back based on an explanation of agency financial conditions and other factors. While staying positive, make it clear that you appreciate whatever he/she can do to ensure you are paid the appropriate amount for the role you perform.

You also can pick up helpful tips from financial website MoneyGeek’s 10-Step Plan for Negotiating Your Salary. While focused primarily on new job salary negotiation, most of these points apply to almost any salary discussion:

  1. Adopt a Positive Frame of Mind
  2. Identify Your Leverage
  3. Know Your Worth
  4. Have a Plan for the Dreaded Question
  5. Determine Your Bottom Line
  6. Explain Your Rationale
  7. Pick the Right Time
  8. Use the Right Tone and Show Confidence
  9. Prepare for the Counteroffer
  10. Consider Negotiating Perks

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