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Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise or promotion 

By Ken Tysiac 
February 28 2014

Asking for a raise or promotion requires courage, but new research shows that those who have the confidence to make such a request are often rewarded.

More than three-fourths (77%) of employees who have asked for or negotiated a pay raise have received one, according to a survey of 4,100 professionals in 32 countries by global management consulting company Accenture. More than two-thirds (68%) of professionals who have asked for a promotion have received one.

Jan Norton, CPA, CGMA, learned the value of asking for what you want in a corporate setting when chatting with the treasurer of her company years ago.

Norton casually mentioned that she would love to have an international opportunity.

“Have you told anybody?” the treasurer asked.

“Well…no,” she said.

The treasurer advised Norton to tell her boss about her aspirations. She did just that. Shortly afterwards her boss was promoted to vice president for international finance, and he promoted her. The international opportunity she’d craved was hers.

“You have to ask for it,” said Norton, who now works as a career coach and mentor through jannorton.com. “But you have to ask for it in an appropriate way.”

Despite the high success rate, many employees don’t request raises or promotions. Just 57% of the professionals surveyed by Accenture said they have asked for or negotiated a pay raise, and just 44% have asked for a promotion.

Meanwhile, frustrations with pay levels and lack of chances to advance were the two most frequent complaints amongst those who said in the survey that they were dissatisfied with their jobs. Feeling underpaid, cited by 37% of those dissatisfied, was the top frustration. And 25% said lack of opportunity for advancement was the primary reason for their lack of job satisfaction.

Asking for a raise or promotion before you get dissatisfied is important, Norton said.

“You can’t wait until you’re frustrated and then approach someone, because your approach is going to be coloured by your frustration,” Norton said. “It’s much better for you to give some thought along the way to what you would like the next step to be, and let that be a normal part of the conversation when the opportunity arises.”

Norton said tact and timing can help an employee get the pay increase or move up the organisational chart that they are craving. Her advice for asking for a promotion or raise includes:

  • Bring up the topic naturally. It’s a good idea to let the topic flow into the conversation at lunch, on the golf course or in the cafeteria, Norton said. “You have to look for those opportunities, and you have to accept the opportunities when they arise,” she said. “If you get an opportunity to go to lunch, go. If you get an opportunity to sit down next to someone who might be influential in your career, sit next to them.”
  • Mix confidence and finesse. Gradually making your desires known is better than abruptly making demands, Norton said. “Just let it be known over time what your expectations are, that ‘This is what I’d like to see happen for me,’ or ‘This is the kind of job I’d be interested in.’ ”
  • Don’t wait for your six-month or yearly review to make your request. “By the time you get to that point, the decisions are already made,” Norton said. If your supervisor has you write your own review before meeting with you, that’s a good time to highlight your accomplishments and ideas when payroll decisions are being made, according to Norton.
  • Remember that a payroll change is a forward-looking activity. “If they wanted to give you a raise, [it’s] because they want to keep you – because you’ve had these historical accomplishments and they think you’re going to give them future accomplishments,” Norton said. “But the raise is based on the future accomplishments.”

Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

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