Better Life

Just Desserts

The Madness: Just Desserts
Deserve a raise? Our resident recruiters Peter Bonventre and John Jannuzzi to help you gut check your way to your next pay day.

Peter Bonventre

So you think you deserve a raise, huh? Okay, hot shot, pop quiz! The boss is sitting behind a sleek maple-and-metal desk in the corner office, listening to a pitch for a raise. Which one scores? A) “Hi, boss. I think you know I’m a huge Giants fan, but they haven’t covered the spread all season and I’m in the hole a few grand. And on top of that, the wife’s sick aunt is coming to live with us. I could really use a raise right now.” Or, B) “Thank you for seeing me. I hope you know I really enjoy working here, and I very much appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about my contributions to the company, and discuss my career going forward and the possibility of a raise.”

A no-brainer, right? Well, yeah. You see, exercising common sense and good judgment is half the battle in trying to get what you want at work. The other half requires tact, preparedness, self-confidence, and timing.

I hear you. Asking for a raise is often awkward and stressful, rarely more so than in these last few post-recession years when companies have been throwing around nickels like manhole covers. Even so, nailing a raise isn’t beyond your craziest dreams. Some quick lessons: First, make sure your timing is right. If Bob down the hall and Jenny in the next cubicle were downsized last month, it’s probably not a good idea to ask for a bump in pay. As the economy gets stronger, your time will come, and when it does, don’t be shy. Make sure your pitch is tied to your performance—not to your growing family or to your office mate’s salary–by highlighting your contributions and accomplishments. How big a raise should you ask for? Be realistic. 5%? 10%? If you have a mentor at work or someone you trust, seek his or her advice. If you don’t, any number of web sites—like or—just might be helpful.

Whatever you do, never give your boss an ultimatum—“I’m outta here if I don’t get a raise”—unless you’re willing to walk out the door without looking back. Oh, and don’t threaten to accept a job offer from another company unless you’re prepared to take it. Otherwise you run the risk of your boss saying something like, “Sounds like a hell of an offer to me. You’d be a fool not to consider it.”

One final suggestion: The night before you intend to ask for a raise, get pumped by listening to Robert Morse sing “I Believe in You” from the movie version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Silly, maybe. But don’t knock it till you try it!

John Jannuzzi

“Why am I doing this?” you may ask yourself while sitting in that cubicle, looking out the corner office window, or toiling away in front of a screen. Well, the answer (aside from hopeful–“because I enjoy it.”) is because you get paid. You get paid American dollars, which you can exchange for goods, services, and other fun things in America. The trick of the whole thing is to make as much as you can to have as many goods, services, and fun things as you desire. But inflating that starting salary isn’t easy. A penny earned takes a lot of work.

The first thing you’ve got to know is that nobody is going to reward you “just because” and that’s just the way the world works. People want to keep their bottom lines low, and if nobody’s asking for more (money, vacation, whatever) nobody’s going to get it. So, get your game face on and walk into that head honcho’s office with a clear mission. Know what you’re about.

You should head in there with a solid understanding of what you’ve accomplished in the past few months–how much money you’ve brought in, how many projects you’ve aced, and how utterly lost people would be without you. You’re an invaluable man! Hopefully you’ve been toiling away, dreaming of this moment for months. You’re a very important cog in this crazy corporate machine. Back up your arguments with as many facts as possible–bring hard evidence if you must.

When that seemingly painfully awkward moment to ask comes, approach it calmly and confidently–nobody wants to reward the cocky bastard who thinks he runs the joint. Also keep in mind that you’re not the first person to ask for a raise, and your boss has been in this same spot many times, so just cool it. Politely mention that you’ve been working very hard, how dedicated you are, and as such, you feel you deserve a reward. But also be mindful to ask for more responsibility–it rises hand in hand with that paycheck, and people like the guy that steps up. Hopefully you’ll walk out with some more theoretical cash in your pocket, and a pat on the back from the boss.

And remember, if you’ve done your part, the worst they can do is tell you no.