Are You Ready to Ask for a Raise?

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by Sandy Hingston
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Fifteen years with the same company, and I’d never asked for more money.

Oh, there were years when I got raises. And years when I didn’t. Either way, whatever was offered, I took. I’ll do anything to avoid confrontation. But like everybody else with a job, I was doing more work all the time. Then came January’s increase in the payroll tax. I was going backward. I had to speak up.

How, though? I like my boss, but let’s face it: He’s an authority figure. And I’ve had a rocky relationship with authority all my life. Confronted by people with power—cops, referees, my dad—I get nervous, and that pisses me off, and then, often, I cry. So I delayed. But with every paycheck, I grew more resentful. Finally I asked for a meeting.

At the appointed hour, I marched into the boss’s office. He smiled. I smiled. I cleared my throat and launched into my speech, looking down at my notes. It was awful. I felt like a 10-year-old presenting a book report. The moment was the opposite of empowering. My boss was a perfect gentleman and said he’d see what he could do, but no promises. I thanked him and got the hell out of there.

Damn! Why hadn’t I pressed at least a little harder? Cringing, I took refuge in reading the newspaper and—uncharacteristically—checked my horoscope. It said, “You don’t mind getting a negative answer. That’s where your natural salesmanship and the responses you’ve taken care to prepare kick in.”

Natural salesmanship—ha! But at least I finally did ask. And so did my boss: He took my request to our company president, who has promised to consider it in the June quarter. Baby steps.

Sandy Hingston is a senior editor at Philadelphia magazine.

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Illustration courtesy of GraphEGO/

Originally published in the June 2013 issue

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