As a former manager I’m often asked what someone can do to increase their chances of getting a raise. These questions came from my employees when I was a manager and now come from peers as I have returned to an individual contributor role.
Tips for Getting a Raise by Standing Out
The first thing I always tell someone is that you are typically competing with your team for normal promotions. As a manager I was typically given a pot of money for the entire team of which I determined the pay split. Long term raise potential might even be increased by targeting the joining of a team with good visibility and poor performing employees. In any case if you want more of the split, or if you want me to walk through the fire pit of HR and my boss to get you more money, then you need to stand out. This post is all about what you can do to stand out.
Managers are People Too
The most important thing to remember as you deal with a manager is there is fundamentally no difference between them and you. They have their own set of fears: concerns for their job safety, work stress, too much work and too little time. Their opinion of your value when it comes to a promotion or raise is largely related to how much handholding you require. Being a self starter that only asks for help when you absolutely need it will get you everywhere. Now that doesn’t mean making all the decisions yourself, as in situations you can’t solve your manager will prefer to know sooner rather then later. Digging you out later will be much harder for a manager then doing so before something is due.
Managers have Recency Bias
The second thing to remember is their view of your worthiness for a promotion is more heavily weighted to your most recent work. As a human being we all have a natural bias, termed recency bias, to view things in terms of their recent performance. I talk about this in another post, here, related to the stock market. However the same logic applies to your review and promotional opportunities. So if you are about to ask you better step up your game in the few months before the ask.
Make your Managers Aware
The third thing to remember is managers have a lot going on. A good manager has to stay in the know about what each employee is doing on their team at any given time. In combination with the above recency bias, there is a tendency to forget what happened prior in the year. As an employee, you should always keep a running log of your accomplishments for the year. This can help to show your worth when it comes time to receive that bonus. The reality is it is not good enough to be the best at what you do. You need to ensure your manager knows it. Just be sure to do it in a way so it does not sound like you’re bragging.
Your Manager is Not the Only Decision Maker in Getting A Raise
The fourth thing to remember is your manager has a manager too. Your manager’s job is to protect you, remove roadblocks, and if they are a morally upstanding person to help you develop your career. By making them look good to their manager, you can help them go to bat for you. Their manager likely controls the pot of money the manager has to allocate to raises and has veto power over their choices. Keep in mind you’re not just laying a case for your direct manager to give you a promotion, but also one for their manager to do so. All the things stated above also apply to their manager.
Managers Want You to be Happy
The final thing to remember as an employee hoping for a raise is most good managers want you to be happy. They don’t really want to be faced with an employee who will quit. It’s expensive, time consuming, makes them look bad, and potentially hurts their objectives to open the time to replace an employee. There are a few bad managers, see the reference in the first paragraph to the same fears as you, who will treat you poorly out of belief that you are a threat to them. There are also a few bad ones that will believe you are better motivated by fear, but by and large most won’t. For the bad ones you’re better off finding greener pastures as a bad boss can be sucking. Even those bad ones however do not want you to leave. Remember to ask for what you want. I don’t just mean a raise, but also where you want to go with your career, and opportunities in the organization. Your boss is not a mind reader and will never know what you want unless you ask.
How do you manage your manager? Has it aided you in getting a raise?