News In Brief

8 ways to get what you want from your boss

Matt Berger Oct 1, 2010

This weekend on Marketplace Money, Alison Green of the blog Ask a Manager talks with host Tess Vigeland about how to ask for a raise, even in a recession. Just because it’s a down economy, some workers are still in a position to ask their boss for more money, flex time, or permission to telecommute.

We asked Green to write a guest blog for us offering some practical advice that you can take to the office. Here are her eight tips and suggestions. Plus, listen to the interview:

by Alison Green

Thinking about asking your boss for a raise, flex time, or permission to telecommute? Here are eight tips to maximize your chances of getting what you want.

1. Get the timing right. If your company’s stock price just plunged, or you were talked to about your slow production last week, or your boss just got served with divorce papers, now is probably not the time to make a special request.

2. Make sure you deserve it. Are you asking for a raise just because it feels like it’s time for one, or can you point to real, concrete accomplishments and increased value you’re bringing to your employer? It’s pretty easy to say no to a request from an employee who isn’t wowing anyone; it’s much harder to turn down a request from an employee who you’d be devastated to lose.

3. Build a business case for it. Ask yourself why your employer should find your proposal attractive. For instance, if you’re proposing working from home one day a week, maybe you’ll get more done because you’ll be working during the time you’d otherwise be commuting and will actually put in more hours than if you were working in the office.

4. Preemptively point out the downsides and offer solutions. Pointing out the downsides yourself — rather than waiting for your manager to do so — can be powerful, because it vastly bumps up your credibility. Suddenly, you’re not trying to “sell” your boss on something, but rather are collaborating to figure out how to achieve something. Plus, if you don’t foresee the downsides and offer solutions to them, you’re leaving your manager to resolve those downsides — which makes your request much less likely to be granted.

5. Know your own power. If you’re a valued employee, you probably have more power than you think you do. Your manager — if she’s any good at her own job — doesn’t want to lose you and is probably willing to go out of her way to try to accommodate you, if she can. (Of course, if your performance has been closer to mediocre than rock star, this goes out the window.)

6. Realize the answer might be “no” for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Sometimes your request is reasonable and your boss would like to say yes but can’t, because she’s stymied by above-her-level bureaucracy, or has to deal with five more urgent pressures first, or knows that if she grants the request for you, she’ll face a revolt from other members of your team. Be sensitive to the realities of your workplace in this regard. That doesn’t mean you need to be content no matter what her response, but it does mean that you should take a broader view than just how things look from your own desk.

7. If the answer is no, find out what it would take to change that. For instance, if you’re turned down for a raise, don’t just go stew. Ask what you’d need to accomplish in order to earn one. And if your boss can’t articulate what a raise-worthy performance would look like, you may be caught in a short-sighted company that doesn’t understand compensation, in which case you may need to look for one that does.

8. Know your bottom line. If your boss turns down your request, how will you respond to that? Is this a deal-breaker for you? If your boss won’t budge, maybe you should go out there and see what other offers the world has for you. You might find an opportunity you like a lot better — or you might decide that you’d rather stay put.

Alison Green writes the Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She’s also the co-author of *Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader’s Guide to Getting Results, author of How to Get a Job: Secrets from a Hiring Manager, and former chief of staff of a nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. *

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