How to Handle Raise Requests (as the Boss)

Money. It’s the one thing people can seemingly never have enough of, and you don’t need me to tell you that. You’ve probably spent a fair deal of your career worrying about asking for raises and how it will be received, but have you given much thought to being on the other end? Dealing with people asking you for money?

A recent post explores a variety of ways that employees may come at bosses to ask for raises. This is culled from Matt Wallaert, the founder of GetRaised, whose background is as an academic psychologist. He says that “women are much more likely to make an emotional appeal. Men are more likely to come in and say, 'here's market salary, here's what I've done, let's have a numbers-based discussion.' Women, because of the way we socialize them, tend to say things like, 'I'm sending my son to college. I need a raise.”

So what do you do? Generally speaking, you should never give your worker a flat-out no. It might entice them to start looking around for other work that they feel will value them more, be it because you aren’t seemingly willing to listen or because you are seeming to cry poverty when you make so much more than they might. It’s tough to say. What Wallaert suggests is you give your employee some “homework.” Have them look at how their work has necessitated extra effort than originally expected when the relationship (or current pay rate) was established. Can you put a dollar amount on what you feel you deserve?

If they can’t do the homework, there’s no need to have the discussion go further. They’ll know whether what they’re asking for is unrealistic based on what they’ve been doing and might shrink from it. If they come at you with some bogus line of reasoning, you’ll both know it. But let’s say they make a good case.

Then you have a negotiation on your hand, and that’s a topic for a whole other post. But as you undoubtedly know, neither party in a negotiation wants to name the number first. If the asker goes too high you can insult management with your perception of self-worth. If the askee goes too low, you can risk insulting an employee for showing your perception of how under-valued their work is.

Your best bet, Wallaert says, is to include some job-hunting in that aforementioned homework. Have them “go and find some open job listings in our area that have salaries posted that you could do and go look at the government data that tells us what your wage is.”

You can read more here.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. (He also co-runs a blog behind the DePaul class, DIY Game Dev.) He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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