Dear J.T. & Dale: I’m an avid reader of your column, and now I have my own question. I am a contracted employee in the medical field for a small business. My third anniversary is coming up. At my first anniversary, my contract was simply renewed at the same rate for two years. Now, however, with three years under my belt, I feel I am overdue a raise. The attitude of the owners of the company seems to be that we are lucky to have this type of job, given the flexibility that it offers. The going rate in my field of expertise is at least $10/hour more than what I am receiving. Why haven’t I looked for a different job? The answer is that this is a rare job in my field, and I must have the flexibility that this job offers. How do I ask for a raise? – J.D.
DALE: Yes, let’s get you a raise. But to be a skilled negotiator, it’s important to be clear-eyed about the economics of your position. This is not a situation where you can gather data on rates of pay in other companies then go to your managers and appeal to their sense of fairness. After all, management thinks you’re lucky to have a job with such rare flexibility. So instead of appealing to fairness, you have to make a case for your added value.
J.T.: You start by asking yourself what additional value you bring to the organization that will save/make the company enough money to justify the cost of the increase. You mention your seniority. But how does this help?
DALE: It helps if you can say that you handle X% more cases than the rookies do, or that you take on the team’s trickiest assignments, or that you are the team leader.
J.T.: Yes, you need to think of all the ways your seniority is adding to the bottom line. Then, prior to the contract renewal, I would try to set a meeting with your boss and say: “I’d like to outline how I believe I’m helping the company enough to justify the increase. Can we talk through this together?” Be sure to stress how much you’ve enjoyed working there for three years – it’s important to show gratitude while simultaneously reminding them of your loyalty. Then, if they don’t give you an increase, you’ll be in a position to ask what it will take to earn one.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I don’t drink coffee. I like tea. My new employer has free coffee for employees, but oddly, no tea. Is it OK for me to ask them to stock tea? Seems unfair that I can’t get a free beverage like the rest of the team. – Pippa
J.T.: I’d ask your co-workers about tea before you ask your boss. This helps in two ways. First, you might find out if there’s some reason there is no tea. Second, your new co-workers are better-positioned to pass along the word to the boss that you’re a tea drinker and may be able to solve the problem for you. I think as a new employee, I wouldn’t be making requests.
DALE: When employers offer nice benefits, they resent employees who push for more – at least I did. When I owned a consulting firm, we had free coffee and snacks. Then I decided to add a soda vending machine, one that worked with tokens, so all drinks were free. A couple of employees didn’t drink soda, so they felt cheated. Cheated. One even asked if he could have the money it would cost if he drank a couple a day. I told him no, and snippily added that if anyone else asked, I’d start charging for the sodas. After all, if you came to my house and I offered you a soda, would you say, “No thanks, I don’t drink soda – just give me a couple of bucks instead.” This still annoys me, years later. So, take J.T.’s advice and approach the subject indirectly, and maybe not at all.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.