CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

How to negotiate a raise

By Shannon Jackson
Special to The Toronto Sun

My horoscope recently informed me that it would be a good day to ask my boss for a raise. After a quick laugh at the thought of all Capricorns across Canada reaching this "good day" simultaneously, I got to thinking about how employees (regardless of their astrological sign) should approach this sticky situation with their employers.

The most obvious time to expect a salary review is at an annual performance appraisal. Organizations with a structured performance achievement system will often combine the review of your performance/contribution with the analysis of your income.

However, if your company hasn't formalized the review process, you can still be considered for an increase.

The key thing to remember when approaching your employer is to keep it professional. Too many employees ask for a raise by detailing their personal financial obligations. Though your rent/mortgage, children's orthodontia/tuition, etc. may be very valid concerns that necessitate approaching the issue of salary, they do not constitute a business case justifying an increase.

The book Lifescripts (Stephen Pollack and Mark Levin, 1996) offers fantastic advice, and even a script, to formulating your business case requesting an increase.

From a company's perspective, the reasons for a salary increase are focussed on your professional contributions. You can make a strong business case if you are able to detail a significant increase in your impact on the company's bottomline.

To prove this, you should be able to document and articulate a dramatic increase in revenue or cost savings that have been a direct result of your contribution.

Another business justification surrounds an increase in responsibilities that have outgrown your original job description. As salaries are often based on the duties and responsibilities outlined in your job description, a significant growth in your role may leave you underpaid if that document is not updated.

To make this argument, you will want to prepare a list of your tasks and accomplishments that are not reflected in the job description, and take this list, with your job description, to your manager.

Lastly, you can present a strong business case if your compensation is decidedly less than the market value of your position. Researching salary surveys (i.e. the salary centre on in your region and industry will provide you with documentation of what other companies pay for similar roles.

Researching Statistics Canada websites can provide you with the annual cost of living adjustment and inflation rates in your region, justifying an annual increase if you are unable to provide any of the above business cases.

Remember, this is a business discussion. Your salary is not a reflection of your value as a person, just a measurement of what your company is willing to pay for the services of the role they've hired you into. The more you are able to keep your emotions intact and maintain a professional, rational approach, the more successful you will be, and the better your relationship with management will be maintained.

(Shannon Jackson is the national recruitment manager for Manpower Services Inc.

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