How to Ask For (and Get) More Money During a Recession

Posted by Liz Seasholtz on June 19, 2011
How to Ask For (and Get) More Money During a Recession

Asking for a raise can be a nerve-wracking and uncomfortable experience, especially while your company struggles through a bad economy. But as employers adjust to market conditions by cutting costs and staff, remaining employees often end up taking on added responsibilities without seeing a bump in pay. If you are one of many investing more hours to keep the company afloat, you might be entitled to a pay increase.

Before you march into your boss's office and ask her to buck up, consider some of these tips for securing that rare recession-era raise.

Raise versus promotion. A raise-usually based on performance in your current position-is different from receiving a higher salary after being promoted to a new position. If you've been promoted, don't even mention the word raise. A raise is something you ask for, while a promotion should dictate a salary increase.

Carry a bigger load. One of the best justifications for why you deserve a bigger paycheck is your ability to do more, perhaps even eliminating an entire salary for the company. "Everything has to be financially justified now," says Donald Asher, author of Who Gets Promoted Who Doesn't and Why. "If you're a person that can do two jobs at once, you have a fair claim. You can make a power play."

Know your worth.
Another key tactic is to know the market rate for your position. Benchmark your salary by asking contacts at other companies or by going to sites like and "If you're being underpaid based on these comparisons, then you have a valid reason to ask for a raise," says Jason Rich, author of Get That Raise!

Show your worth. Before meeting with your supervisor, you should make what Asher calls a "brag sheet": a list of all your accomplishments, current responsibilities, and what skills you're offering to the company, and then commit the list to memory. The preparation should be similar to if you're going to an interview-you'll need to sell yourself.

It's all about timing. Knowing exactly when to approach your boss about a raise can be tricky. While the timing may depend on your organization's culture, it's best to have a face-to-face meeting with your supervisor-and not when he's on a tight deadline. An opportunistic time to ask is right after your regular employee evaluation-if it's positive.

Never give an ultimatum.
If you say you'll quit if you don't get a raise, you might just talk yourself out of a job. It's better to just present your argument and put the ball in their court.

Keep your head up.
The best thing to do if you're turned down is to ask for feedback. "A lot of people get discouraged when the boss says no, but then have no idea what it'll take to get a raise in the future," Rich says. "Ask them why you're being turned down, ask what it would take to get a raise, and get a time frame for when you can realistically get it."

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