A Scientific Way To Ask For A Raise Or Promotion

A Scientific Way To Ask For A Raise Or Promotion

Work carries with it plenty of anxious and awkward moments, especially during adverse economic times when tensions are high in general.

Most people agree, though, that the biggest moments of anxiety and apprehension for employees occur when they meet their supervisors to discuss a raise or promotion.

No matter how many books you read on negotiation (this is a good one -> “Never Split The Difference” by Chris Voss) or how much research you’ve done on market rates (check out this resource), outcomes always seem to be uncertain.

This PayScale survey shows that when people ask for a raise, 31 percent receive a smaller raise than they requested. 

So what’s the best approach to improve your odds of getting what you want?

Turn Your Focus Outward, Research Shows

Tessa West is a professor of social psychology at NYU, and she just published an article in the Wall Street Journal about this topic. 

It’s common for people to spend time listing out their accomplishments and contributions to argue for a raise. But that’s not always effective.

Backed by her studies in social science, West contends that the path to getting what you want boils down to how well you can answer these three questions:

  • How much social status does your boss have? Put simply, is your boss respected? Does s/he have a track record of advocating on behalf of their employees? Do you have a dog in the fight, so to speak? Knowing these things is important. The more social capital that your boss has, the more you may be able to ask for (and get).
  • What does your request “cost” your boss in social capital? Learn the implications of your requests before you make them. If you don’t understand how many hoops your boss must jump through to approve your requests, arm yourself with that knowledge before you make your case. That will inform what you decide to ask for.
  • What problems does your request solve for your boss? Most supervisors want employees who make their lives easier. Keep that in mind when you ask for a promotion or raise. If you frame it in a way that makes it clear to your boss how s/he will benefit, then your chances of success will likely improve.

Establish Your Market Value

One other piece of advice is to test the waters. If you feel like you’re undervalued, see what the market says and gather data points.

Ideally, it shouldn’t take receiving a job offer from another company to get compensated fairly by your existing employer, but this is often how it plays out. Keep in mind that many employers are more willing to give you a raise in this situation. It is much harder to find, replace and train up a replacement for a role than to just give you some extra money. 

The best way to assess your value is to get another job offer. It will give you confidence when you request a raise with your current employer, and you don’t always need to dangle it in front of your supervisor to get what you want.

The key thing is that you will have the confidence in knowing that what you’re requesting is reasonable given your credentials.