Boss's Fave: Personal Qualities That Will Get You a Raise
By Sara EckelYou work hard-meeting deadlines, delivering results, showing up on time. And yet, each year when raise time comes around you get the same old measly 1 or 2 percent, if that. Meanwhile, certain co-workers stroll out of their review meetings with big, Cheshire Cat grins.
Why do some people get a fat, juicy slab of the pie, while others are offered crumbs? Experts say that of course diligence and talent play their part, but if you really want to bump up your numbers you'll need these must-have qualities:
1. An Owner's Mentality
Many people go into their annual review with a list of reasons why they need more money-from the price of heating oil to the tuition at their kid's private school. But Joel Rudy, vice president of operations for Photographic Solutions, a supplier of digital-camera cleaning products, says that such pleas do not inspire employers to give raises. "I know that utilities have gone up. I know that it costs more at the grocery store," he says. He is more impressed with those who apply those inflationary concerns to the business-as if it were their own. For example, he was recently impressed with the employee who found a less expensive phone plan for the company. "Now, that's a raise-getter!" he says.
While the people who get good raises definitely know how to highlight last year's achievements, Laura Browne, a corporate trainer and author of Raise Rules for Women: How to Make More Money at Work, says the highest earners don't dwell on the past. "Forget about last year. Find out the key initiatives that your company or your president want to achieve this year," she says. For example, if the president said in the annual report that he wants to cut spending and increase customer satisfaction by 15 percent, focus on those goals. "Your work needs to be connected with what the company cares about right now," says Browne.
If you stay cloistered in your cubicle, you'll probably be disappointed when raises are announced-no matter how hard you work. "Quiet, shy or otherwise invisible types are often left behind when it's pay raise time," says Jane Goldner, PhD., president of The Goldner Group, an Atlanta-based consulting firm. To ensure that you and your hard work are seen, request projects that will get you in front of others-working with colleagues from other departments, giving presentations, even contributing to the company newsletter. This will make it easier for your boss to plead your case to their supervisors and/or compensation committees. "If your boss is in the meeting and says, 'I want to give X percent raise to Sally,' it's going to be hard to push for that raise if no one knows who Sally is. On the other hand, if you have been visibly helpful, they'll say, 'Oh Sally, She's terrific!" says Browne.
Having great ideas and lofty goals is terrific, but if you want to see them executed you also have to motivate others to rally around your initiatives. Executive coach Lisa Chenofsky Singer says these kind of interpersonal skills play a huge role when compensation is discussed. "Although someone may be competent from a technical-qualifications perspective, if their style doesn't flow well with others or they are not able to influence others, they tend to be the low-increased players," she says.
5. Tough Skin
No boss will ever say, "I love to give raises to self-promoters." So how do you draw attention to your achievements without looking like braggart? Milan P. Yager, president and CEO of the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, says that giving your boss a quarterly progress report and asking for feedback is a subtle way to get noticed. "It is a fine line, but if you can master the technique it will pay rewards since far too many managers are not good at evaluations or constructive feedback," he says. And letting your supervisors know that you want criticism will show them that you have the confidence to handle any negative comments, which makes the evaluation process a lot less stressful for them.
6. Empathy for the Boss
The highest-earning employees understand that their job is to make their boss's life easier. "We forget that," says Browne. "We get stuck in the minutia of our jobs." Think about the things that your boss doesn't like doing-running meetings, tracking numbers-and ask if it would help if you took over those tasks. It's also important to understand that your boss can't always give you what you want-no matter how great your work. "Most people get keyed up to ask for a raise and when they hear 'no' they respond really negatively," says Browne. "If you instead say, 'I understand, but when raises are unfrozen I would like to be the first in line,' you'll have a much better chance of getting the raise when they can give it."