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Asking for a Raise or Promotion Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Mark Swartz
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dear Mark: How should I ask or negotiate for a promotion if my employer is basically ignoring me? The contribution I make is very important at this stage for the company. Are there ways to ask for recognition without coming across as being a 'complainer'?

-- Asad, Toronto, Ontario
Dear Asad,

It can be really frustrating to give your all at work and feel like management doesnt notice. I once worked for a firm where my boss delayed my performance review for months after it was due which meant I couldnt get the raise Id earned yet he found time to take one of our secretaries to Canadas Wonderland during a work day. Sheesh!

There is, as it turns out, something of an art to requesting a raise or promotion. It goes in three basic stages:
  • Preparing
  • Positioning, and
  • Proposing

1) Preparing. Generally you begin by determining your employers policies regarding raises and promotions. Are there provisions for these steps in your employment contract (either verbal or written)? Can Human Resources inform you about standard procedures in these matters?

Once you know whats acceptable, youll need to gather evidence of your achievements. Start by making a list of all your accomplishments at work over the last year or so. Be sure to quantify the results youve achieved wherever possible (e.g. dollars of revenue youve generated, savings youve produced by changing processes, etc.) The goal is to show that you are worthy of being promoted and/or given a raise. Gather examples of your work that clearly demonstrate how valuable you are as well.

2) Positioning. Now its time to position yourself in your best light. Which of your achievements and projects will your boss think are most important? What can you say about yourself and why you are deserving of recognition using words that your boss will relate to best? Do you know of any techniques your colleagues have used successfully before you?

3) Proposing. Making a proposal to your boss regarding a raise or promotion is all about timing and tactfulness. Timing-wise, its best to wait until a scheduled performance review if you have one; unless its too far in the future. Otherwise youll need to consider how your boss likes to be approached when it comes to being asked for something special. Is there a certain day of the week that might be better than others? A particular hour of the day when he or she might be more available to you?

In terms of tactfulness, its up to you to set the tone of the meeting. Consider sending a brief advance e-mail message highlighting your key accomplishments. Then at the meeting itself, thank your boss for taking the time to meet with you. Share with them why you think you deserve a raise or promotion, referring to your achievements, awards and compliments youve received, and samples of your work. Then explain how being rewarded will enable you to be even more valuable to the company. Of course, if youre turned down, be prepared to either get back to working hard immediately, or else start assessing whether maybe you might be better off looking for employment where youre likely to be more appreciated.

By approaching things in a professional, carefully planned way, you greatly increase your chances of getting what you ask for. And if at first you dont succeed, make note of your learnings, then try again later. Best of luck with your efforts!

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