How to Ask for a Raise During A Recession

Asking for a raise at any time is usually a hard undertaking; but asking for a raise during a recession is even harder, even for those with amazing negotiation skills.  


Yet it may still be the right thing to do, especially if you feel that you are being paid far below what you are worth, or far too little for the effort you are putting in.

Another situation in which asking for a raise during a recession is justifiable is in the cases where when you were hired (before the recession really manifested) you took up a job with evidently lower pay, with a promise of a more realistic pay package once you proved yourself on the job after so many months.

Failing to ask for the raise can lead to feelings of apathy towards your job, which could result in poor performance, with the consequent tragic effects on your career. Being paid far less than you are worth could also lower your self esteem, impeding your general sense of happiness in life.

The Importance of Justifying Your Reasons for a Raise

Studies show that, during a recession, companies tend to lay off redundant or in-competent staff. But, surprisingly, employers will raise the salary of competent staff to keep up their morale. Before you ask for a raise, think about if you belong to the competent group!

Review your past work and what you have done to help advance the company. What have you contributed? Are you directly involved in the revenue-generating operations for the company? If not, can you make that connection?

It is important for you to justify your own reasons for a salary raise. The easiest way to sort that out is to relate your work to any possible contribution to your company’s revenue. Think about this creatively.

Even if you are not in the sales positions to generate direct business revenue, you can think about ways you have helped the company save money by enhancing internal efficiency or reducing man power.

This helps enhance your negotiation skills when bargaining and it helps your boss agree with your justifications more easily.

The Importance of Proper Timing

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The key to successfully asking for a raise during a recession is proper timing. You don’t start hustling your boss for a raise just as he has received a report painted in red circles. Asking for a raise is bad news in itself for your boss.

The reality of the matter is that you are a resource (a human resource) to your boss, and a raise for you means increased cost for the business. This is bad news for a manager, whose brief is to minimize costs and maximize profits.

The worst thing, then, that you could ever do then is to bombard your boss with such ‘bad news’ when he has just received some other bad news from elsewhere — and bad news for businesses is not in short supply during a recession. 

Not even excellent negotiation skills are likely to help you if you bring up the issue during a time like this. Therefore, you should try to ensure that your raise request coincides with a positive time for your boss and the company. 

The good news we are talking about here need not be good in absolute terms. Absolutely good news for businesses is a rarity during a recession. The good news we are talking about includes relatively good news, like when the business, on landing a certain deal, realizes that the effects of the recession won’t be so hard on it, after all.

The Risks

Keep it in mind that asking for a raise (even in a flourishing economy) is always a risky but often necessary. Also remember that asking for raise is sure to induce your boss to reconsider his options, at least momentarily, so make sure that you are worth the money you are asking for and that you have the negotiation skills to back it up.

In the end, a properly timed salary increase request, even in a recession, is bound to be looked at favorably, if not immediately honored.

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From the Desk of Damen Choy.
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