Dear Job Search Guru,
My question is about ways to ask for a raise. My sister works in a college office. A while back, her coworker was laid off and, since then, she has been expected to do both of their jobs. She asked me to help her write a letter asking for a raise and documenting why she deserves it.
What's the best way to make her case to ask for a raise? Any guidance you have will be appreciated.
Signed, Concerned About My Sister
That's a great question, and one that a lot of people who have survived layoffs will relate to. When companies do a round of layoffs, the remaining people are often expected to pick up the slack, even though they were already working at full capacity. This can set up an impossible scenario.
Add in the emotional concern about your own job security, trying to manage any building resentment about being taken advantage of, and the idea that you are supposed to feel grateful just to have a job, and asking for a raise is even more intimidating.
But when someone takes on two jobs, something has to be adjusted, whether it's more money to compensate for the time spent, or a restructuring of job expectations so you're spending your time on what is most important.
Here are the things to consider:
Understand the bigger picture of the situation.
A layoff that happens because of money and budget issues is different than one where there isn't enough work to go around. Each of these situations would require a different approach in making a case for a pay raise.
Ask yourself if it's just about money.
It's impossible for one person to do the work of two without stress or loss of quality, no matter how much you get paid. For most people who are picking up the slack of laid-off coworkers, it's more about adjusting expectations for how much work can get done.
Sometimes it is about the money.
One area where it is really about the money is if you are not being paid overtime and you should be. If you're not sure if your employer is required to pay you for overtime hours, do some online research with your state's employment division.
Would a revised and more realistic job description be possible?
One way to literally sort out how to integrate two jobs into one is by making lists of priorities and tasks for each job. Put each task on an index card, perhaps color coded to show which job that responsibility used to belong to. Note how much time each task takes each day, week or month. Now you can visually sort out what needs to be done and how long it takes to do it.
Schedule a conversation with your manager.
Some people get intimidated here, but this is a key step in this process. Email is not a substitute for a live conversation. You and your manager must be in agreement about your new job description and priorities, or you might still feel that you're expected to do it all.
Ask for a meeting by saying, "With the layoff and integrating those tasks into my day, I'm having some challenges figuring out what needs to be done first . I'd like to have your input on priorities… can we set a time to talk?"
Be prepared with information.
If you do want to ask for a raise, do your research. If you can, find out how much the person who left was paid. Check www.glassdoor.com and www.salary.com for comparisons of jobs that are similar to your newly expanded duties.
Introduce the topic of a raise with a flexible problem-solving tone.
Say something like, "I'm happy to work a more hours, and I'd like to have that reflected in my compensation, so would like to talk about a salary raise." If that's not possible, ask for non-cash compensation, like comp time or extra vacation days, or the ability to work from home one day a week.
Initiate the conversation person-to-person.
Email isn't the best way to open this conversation. Written correspondence is not interactive, and if the recipient misinterprets something you say, they will stew on it and be upset before you have a chance to clarify. You can ask for the meeting by email, but talk about it in person.
It's tough all around after layoffs, and figuring out how to restructure and approach the work with the new staffing limitations is really your boss' job, not yours.
Keep your mind open, don't let yourself get too overwhelmed before you decide it's time to ask for a raise, and remember that asking for a raise a business conversation, and you should be able to find a solution that works for everyone.
I hope that gives your sister some new ideas of ways to ask for a raise, or for clarification about her job restructure, that lets her feel valued and productive again.
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