It’s never easy to ask for a raise. It’s stressful and inherently involves a sense of risk — will my relationship with my boss change if they say no? Power dynamics are always tricky to navigate, especially when money is involved.
But with everything going on with the novel coronavirus, asking for a raise or promotion has never been trickier.
If you were putting in long hours, exceeding expectations, and planning to ask for a raise right before the pandemic hit, you’re not alone. After all, before March of this year, the economy was humming along, reaching historic benchmark after historic benchmark.
Since COVID-19 hit, however, we now stand at a 10.2 percent unemployment rate, according to CNBC. Millions of people are still struggling to find a job, and the landscape remains bleak for many businesses.
So, that raises the question: is now a good time to ask for a raise?
What to Do if You Can’t Afford to Pay Your BillsRead Post
Can you ask for a raise during a global pandemic?
Yes, you can ask for a raise at any time, but whether you should is an entirely different question. Like any good question, the answer is complex without a one-size-fits-all solution. Below are three reasons why now might be the perfect time for you to ask for a raise:
- You’re working extra hours and wearing new hats. Even if you’re working from home, there may be objective reasons why you deserve a raise. For example, many of us find ourselves wearing new hats to adapt to these trying times. Others are working extra hours and taking on new responsibilities to help the company stay nimble. Aside from increased responsibility, keep in mind that your company may be saving thousands on travel expenses so that a raise may be justified and possible!
- It’s time for your annual performance review. For most employees, there’s a scheduled performance review process. This time is set aside to review your performance over the last year. Because COVID-19 has upended the way we conduct business, it doesn’t mean that yearly reviews have been thrown out the window. Many career coaches suggest that the annual review is the best time to ask for a raise. Even if your company cannot immediately provide a raise or promotion due to the pandemic, your manager or HR department will know your expectations. This means that they are more likely to accommodate you when times are better.
- You can prove you’re underpaid. There may be some situations where your compensation is less than what the local market averages. For example, perhaps you accepted a job right out of college, and the pay rate was lower due to a lack of experience. Whatever the reason, if you’re underpaid compared to current market rates, you may have some leverage for a raise, even on an off-cycle.
While these are all valid reasons to ask for a raise, be prepared to accept the answer gracefully, whether it’s a “yes” or “no.” Because of the pandemic, many employers are in survival mode and are merely trying to stay afloat. With that being said, how you ask can make a huge difference in your employer’s response.
How to Ask for a Raise Gracefully
Although there are compelling arguments on both sides of whether or not now is a good time to ask for a raise, how you ask does make a difference. Ask yourself the following questions:
How have I added value during the pandemic?
If you’re working from home, the chances are that your coworkers are working remotely as well. Instead of emphasizing the things you’re doing differently, focus on how you’ve added value. If you can pinpoint exactly how you’ve added value (for example, learning new skills or taking on new responsibilities), you may be able to negotiate a raise. Provide concrete examples of how you have added value. The most obvious point to make would be if you’ve increased revenue. Even if you haven’t increased sales, you may have streamlined or automated processes, saving the company time and money.
Do I have any specialized or technical skills?
Pandemic or no pandemic, employers are always going to prioritize employees with specialized technical skills. If you can highlight your unique skill set and point to how it’s benefited the company, you’ll be in a stronger position to negotiate.
By answering these questions, you’ll be able to make an objective case as to why you may deserve a raise. Emphasize that as the world and the company have evolved, you’ve grown with it and have shown value.
If you’re working remotely, be sure to ask for a video conversation when asking for a raise. During normal times, this conversation would have been made face-to-face. Instead of talking on the phone, a video call will help humanize what can otherwise be an awkward conversation. It will also allow you to “read the room” and see how your employer or manager responds to your request.
But even if you make a compelling case, your company may simply not be in the financial position to give anyone a raise.
20 Work From Home Jobs You Can Start TodayRead Post
What to Do If Your Employer Says No
These are uncertain times, and many companies are on tight budgets. Though there are many reasons you might deserve a raise, it can be hard to negotiate a pay increase during an economic downturn successfully.
Of course, if your employer says, “No,” it’s essential to remain gracious and understanding.
But even if the answer is no, there are several considerations you can take into account:
- You can always ask if the conversation can be revisited in the future. If you’ve made a compelling case for a raise, but your company isn’t in a financial position to do so, ask if you can revisit the conversation when things are better.
- There are other perks aside from financial perks. Instead of a raise, you can get creative and ask for other non-monetary perks. For example, parents may need a more flexible work schedule because of virtual “homeschooling” for their kids. Most companies understand that this is a difficult time. The economy may dictate your salary, but employers may be willing to work with you on other perks.
- Keep proving your worth. Just because your employer said “no” to a raise, it doesn’t mean that now you should slack off. Remember, this pandemic will eventually come to an end. Sure, we don’t know when a vaccine will be developed, but life will inevitably return to “normal.” When that happens, you will want to make sure you’re positioned for a raise when your company can financially afford it!
Rejection is hard in any circumstance. The chances are that if your employer says, “No,” what they’re saying is that now is not a feasible time. Being gracious will say a lot about your character and make it more likely for a successful negotiation next time!
How to Position Yourself for a Raise During COVID-19
Whether or not you can get a raise right now, you can always lay the groundwork for a raise in the future.
Well, the easiest thing to do is to adapt to the times. This goes beyond merely learning how to work remotely. Workflows have changed, and businesses have adapted how they work with each other. It’s never been more critical to work efficiently. How are you streamlining your processes and maximizing productivity? Keep note of the ways you are specifically helping the company adapt to these trying circumstances.
Another aspect to keep in mind is to stay visible. This is especially important if you’re working from home. Always have the camera turned on during Zoom meetings. If coworkers or managers conduct meetings over the phone, suggest using a video platform such as Zoom. Only staying visible will keep you in the mind of managers and the HR department. This can make a huge difference, especially when companies are having to layoff employees.
Finally, use these circumstances to make yourself stand out. It’s easy for employees to contribute during good times, but it’s the key players that hold the ship together during rough waters. Suppose you can continue to authentically build meaningful relationships and contribute to the success of the team when good times finally come around again. In that case, higher-ups are more likely to say, “Oh yeah, this person deserved a raise six months ago. Now, we can afford to promote them.”
Every situation is unique. I hope that this article gives you some insight into what to consider when it comes to asking for a raise during a pandemic. Again, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but hopefully, this helps guide your path. Remember, even if your company can’t financially support a promotion right now, there are active steps you can take to position yourself for a raise when the time is right!