Ding-Dong! My heart beat faster as an email reminder popped right in my face. It’s 15 minutes away from my meeting and I was still hesitating, should I ask for it? In case my fear betrays me in the last minute, I forced myself to reply to a couple of new emails, which suddenly became the longest emails to understand.
My company was acquired just a few months ago. A few months after the meeting, many people lost their jobs. The rumor started to spread that all promotions were suspended or canceled. During an acquisition, anyone could be called into an office to face the bad news anytime.
Time had come. I stood up and walked toward my manager’s office. “Hi welcome back! How was the trip…?”
Two months after that meeting, I was called into my manager’s office. He closed the door before handing me a big envelope. I opened it and saw a paper with the golden company logo.
There it is, my new title and new package: Global Director of Business Development. I got a promotion and a raise.
- What happened at that meeting? What did I say?
- How to ask for a promotion and a raise without looking greedy?
- How to ask for a promotion when you are worried about facing conflict?
You deserve to be recognized for your talent, dedication, and value.
This is not greedy, this makes you love your job more.
I’m here to help you get what you deserve.
11 steps to ask for a promotion and a raise:
Step 1: You have to ASK for it
Otherwise, your employer assumes you are perfectly happy.
When I was a Unilever, one day I went out with my manager for lunch. We ran into our Marketing Director, let us call her “Lucy”. My manager introduced her: “Tess, this is our Marketing Director, she is in charge of Lux, Dove and many other brands. She just got a promotion!”
“Well…you know the drill, it is that same old deal again”, said Lucy.
“You mean get extra for the same price?
“Yup, get extra for the same price”.
I thought they were referring to some promotion campaign. My manager explained, in the consumer goods industry, “Get extra for the same price” means giving an employee a promotion with extra work but the same salary.
Unless you ask for more, you will never get more. Everyone, including our employers, loves to get extra for the same price.
There is a term called “Willingness to Pay” that describes the highest price that customers are willing to pay for a certain product. Likewise, you have a “Willingness to Work”, the lowest price you are willing to do the job. It’s your responsibility to tell the company if your demand for the price has increased.
Step 2: Validate your reason for the promotion
A friend of mine has a dog, who seems to have a way better childhood experience than mine. This fella has organic pet food, dog beds in every room in the house, morning call service from my friend every day, and even a pet toy subscription service!
Well, sometimes I feel employees are like subscriptions products: the company pays a fixed fee every month. Employees deliver time and work as agreed.
You never expect to see an email titled “price increase” after two years of subscription, right?
That’s why brands emphasize added-value or premium functions when they raise prices. Likewise, you should only ask for a promotion when you can prove your added-value.
NOT valid reasons for a promotion:
- I have been with the company a couple year now. My colleagues, classmates have all been promoted, I feel like it should be my turn now
- My manager was just promoted or resigned, I think his opening should naturally be mine
Valid reasons for a promotion：
- The value I create today (revenue, profit, client number, the value of contracts, etc.) are much higher than what it was
- My responsibilities are larger than before (size of your team, number of projects under your belt, revenues that you impact, etc.)
- Evidence that shows your salary and title is under industry average for a similar level
- Your boss has just left and you’ve been doing most of the actual work. You are capable to take his role
Treat your manager like a customer, who’d like to get from you for a good bargain, even if the price is higher than before. Be creative with your pitch in that logic.
Step 3: Know Your Self and Your ‘Enemy”
As Sun Tzu says: Know yourself and your enemy, a hundred battles, a hundred victories.
1. Be clear about what you want
Is it a better title or both? Essentially, you need to be prepared to answer these questions by your boss:
- What can I do for you?
- Why should I fight for you?
- Will this give me trouble? If giving you a raise and promotion makes other team members demotivated, the impact is more than just cost.
2. Know what your manager can do:
- If promotion makes your title the same as your manager, it might not be an option. However, a company can always find a way to pay you more.
- Better avoid this conversation when the company is struggling financially and laying people off. Your manager might be more worried about his own job.
Step 4: Prepare supporting notes
Here your goal is two things: 1) convince your boss; 2) help your boss convince others, including his boss and the HR.
Doing your homework helps your boss fight for you.
Examples of useful evidence ：
1. Evidence that proves you created additional value
Make a list of projects you’ve done, highlight the results in numbers for each project. The results can be created revenue or cost saving compared to the previous year, or to the rest of the company, etc. Tell stories with numbers.
In an ideal world, a good manager knows all your achievements. However, it does not hurt to have a reminder. It sends the message that you are clearly aware of your worth and not interested in short-selling yourself.
2. Evidence that proves your increased responsibilities
This includes additional team members you lead, additional departments that you interact with every day, additional projects that you take on compared to the beginning.
3. Evidence that shows the industry average salary and position for your level
The most useful references are data from director competitors. Quoting source from headhunters sounds like a threat. Just imply the information come from your network would be sufficient. This also implies you have a good network to land a new job if necessary.
4. Evidence that shows you can deliver more
Explain what you did exactly under your former boss. If true, then explain that your manager was more directive when delegating everything to you.
Step 5: Consider your manager’s style
- If your boss is quantitative and technical, show data and charts.
- If your boss is all about relationship and motivation: tell stories, show loyalty, and dedication. Give a high-level picture of your projects and contribution. Focus on showing long-term thinking with his team and the company.
In fact, I wish I’d done better at this one. I bombasted my manager with data and slides, thinking I’m being respectful by showing him data to justify my request. But he was a good manager, of course, he knew my numbers. At the very end, he said I could have just announced what I want without any of these. Damn!