Martha Stewart Living Radio: The Radio Blog

Career Advice with Maggie: Asking for a raise!

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Every other week, Maggie Mistal our radio channel's career consultant AND host of "Making a Living," will answer all your burning job and career related questions! To ask Maggie a question, email her at or ask your question in the comments section below. Also, tune in to her show, today at 4:00 pm ET on Sirius 112 and XM 157.


Dear Maggie,

I feel that I've done a really excellent job at my company over the past year, and I'd like to ask for a raise. However, I feel guilty about bringing it up to my boss because of the today's economic troubles. How can I approach my boss in such a way that I come off as a deserving hard worker-- and not a greedy employee?

Deserving Dan

Regarding the raise, I want to first address your mindset around asking. It will not help your cause if you feel guilty, selfish or greedy for asking to be compensated for your hard work. Such feelings will not yield productive results. We are all deserving to be paid for the value we provide. So do this very important homework BEFORE approaching your boss and ask for that raise:

Get the big picture on the financial health of your employer. To get a context for the possibility of a raise, understand the financial state of your employer. If you work for a public company, quarterly earnings reports/calls are publicly available and can be found the company home page. For a privately-owned company, take notice of recent management activity for clues to the state of the company coffers. Overall take the pulse of your firm. Has your company held frequent emergency meetings, cut expenses, and missed earnings projections over the past year or has the firm delivered consistent profits? If your company has done well throughout the recession, there is a better chance for your raise, but if your employer has not faired well all is not lost.

Make your business case. Why should your boss give you a raise? Write down all your successes and accomplishments, be ready to explain your excellent year. Highlight goals that you've met, projects you completed on time and on budget, clients that you brought in, excellent customer service you delivered, innovative ideas that you contributed, etc. Quantify your successes. Make note of direct or indirect ways that your accomplishments helped to cut or save costs, build or maintain sales, support or further customer relationships. You need to make the financial tie of your efforts to the company's bottom-line for your boss to see the reasoning for a raise.

Recently my client took initiative to renegotiate with a long-standing vendor and saved the company more than $ $1 million in costs. Talk about directly improving the bottom line. But even if you're not at the million mark, any dollar savings or revenues you can point to will help your boss see why your raise is justified.

Just ask. Even if the financial picture of your employer is more red than black, make your case to the boss anyway. Be understanding if you hear, "Sorry but we just can't right now" but also be proud of yourself for asking for what you want. You gain people's respect when you respectfully make the case for why you deserve it. This art of being assertive is a muscle that needs to be flexed to get stronger. If you get the raise, great! If you don't get it, at least your boss is well aware that not only have you accomplished a lot for the organization but you also have a logical, reasonable bottom-line understanding of how you're contributing to the company. That is value your career can bank on!

Get more tips from my video on how to ask for a raise and tune into Making a Living today to get your career questions answered. I'll be busting a common myth that only the lucky few land ideal jobs. Join the conversation and weigh in on whether you feel it's self-indulgent or naive to think you can find work you love. A career woman turned working mom also joins me to share her compelling career change story from high-powered executive to momprenuer! - Maggie

Comments (1)

  • I found your site on Google and read a few of your other entires. Nice Stuff.
    I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

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