Q: I work at a small company, so I accept whatever task is asked of me. The company owner is nice and personable. I like the work, too, which is why I put myself out for him. My helpful attitude has enabled me to take on more responsibilities, which means more work.
When an employee left, I took on her job in addition to my own so the owner could take the necessary time to find the right person for the position. He has repeatedly thanked me for not having to hire someone quickly, which could lead to a bad hire. I worked on both jobs for about two months because it showed him what I could do and how dependable I am. He trusts me, so he has even asked me to take on some tasks of his so he can focus on growing the business. I gladly accepted the extra responsibility. I am beginning to feel like his assistant, but I now think I deserve a raise.
I don't know how long I should be performing in this capacity before asking for one; I have never before asked for a raise. I always waited for the yearly increases. The thought of negotiating scares me because I don't want him to think I will leave if I don't get one. What should I do?
A: You will need to prepare yourself in several areas before you forge ahead and ask for a raise. Since you have waited passively to be given increases in the past, you have much work to do. It would not be wise to press for such a meeting before you feel prepared, confident and knowledgeable about the company's history and the owner.
Discreetly gather as much information as you can about the salaries of other employees, the issues around why others have resigned and the typical length of employment for employees. In a small, privately owned company, it is important you do not ask questions or express concerns with anyone there. Just take note of the information you hear. Be observant.
Consider how the owner spends money — both personally and for the company. Is he frugal when purchasing office supplies, business cards, furniture and more? How generous are the employee benefits? Has he held employee celebrations at a restaurant or at the office? Have parties included meals or just snacks, alcohol or soft drinks? Is he flashy in his personal life? Does he own luxury cars and boats? Small-business owners are free to spend as they wish. Some put money into the business, while others are known for taking money out, even when they shouldn't.
According to Valeria Stokes, a vice president of human resources: "You need to have the courage to advocate for yourself. Asking for a raise is based on an expanded scope of work that is not in your job description. This may be due to a special project beyond your expected work or added work that has stretched you to reach greater value through new job duties. Working hard or longer hours without a change in the job scope will not justify a raise. You will have to determine your value." Stokes says you should also decide what is most important to you — your job or the money.
Your boss trusts your work and knows he can rely on you, so he will not fire you for asking for a raise. Once you believe in yourself, you can meet with him and present your request with your reasoning. The worst he can say is no. You know him to be a good person, so he may thank you for your dedication and explain he simply cannot afford to give you a raise at this time. You will feel better for learning how to be your own advocate, and you can continue in the job you love until you decide the money is more important.
Email career and life coach: [email protected] with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com, and for past columns, see https://www.creators.com/features/at-work-lindsey-novak.
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