Ask HR: Should I Request a Raise During the Pandemic?

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP December 11, 2020
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Ask HR: Should I Request a Raise During the Pandemic?

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today. The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor's answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.

 

Thankfully, I have kept my job during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I've picked up a lot of new responsibilities and have been working overtime trying to get everything done in a timely manner. Is it appropriate to ask for a raise, and how do I go about it? I want to be sensitive during these strange times. –Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Your intuition is right: It's important to be self-aware and sensitive to your company's current position and business needs. While I applaud your ethic and accomplishments, quite frankly, it might not be the right time to ask for a raise.

In fact, I wouldn't.

You've heard this before, but I'll say it again: This isn't a normal time at all. Many organizations are struggling financially and have had to make or are considering layoffs, furloughs and budget cuts as a result of the pandemic.

[Join SHRM or renew your membership by Dec. 16 and receive a free SHRM tumbler. Use code: Tervis]

Even if you think you deserve a raise or promotion, your company simply might not be able to make it happen right now. But remember, just because it's not a possibility now doesn't mean it can't happen down the road once business stabilizes.  

If you opt to request a raise now—or when a better time comes—you'll need to be tactful, open-minded and, above all, prepared. In my opinion, asking for a raise is easy. The hard part is preparing to persuade your boss that a raise for you would be good for the organization, too.

Here are three tips for effectively asking for that raise or promotion regardless of when you decide to ask:

  • First, I recommend doing some thorough research. Before asking for more money, consider what you know about your organization's state of business. Have there been furloughs or layoffs? Depending on your answer, you may have to approach this situation very cautiously.

  • Take the time to start and maintain documentation of your successes and challenges. Ask yourself some key questions: How have I differentiated myself from my peers? What new skills have I learned that improved my company's bottom line? Did I take on additional responsibilities that bolstered my professional growth? If you answered yes to these, you'll be in a better position to ask for a raise.

  • Provide metrics or applicable data and examples that highlight your wins. These may go a long way toward justifying your request.

Asking for a raise can be nerve-racking. Keep up the good work, be prepared and keep your eyes peeled for the right moment.

 

I recently got a new job, and I couldn't be more excited. But here's the catch: They want me to start next week. What are the ramifications if I don't provide two weeks' notice before I leave my current employer? –Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Congratulations on the offer! And thank you for the question. Although providing two weeks' notice is a widely acceptedeven expectedpractice, you aren't required by any law to do so.

In most U.S. states, employment is at will, meaning you or your employer may end the relationship at any time, without warning, for any reason (assuming that reason is not illegal). You can quickly and easily find the conditions of your employment in your organization's employee handbook, policies, job description or even the job application. To be clear, though, there are exceptions, for example, if you signed a contract guaranteeing job security for a specific duration of time or given certain conditions, requirements, etc.

That said, it is always prudent to leave an employer and colleagues on good terms. You never know when your paths may cross again, especially if things do not pan out in your new position and you find yourself wishing to return.

As much as you might like to please your new employer by starting ASAP, I would also put yourself in your colleagues' shoes. In most cases, departures impact others on your team, especially if your team is already short-staffed. If possible, don't leave them scrambling to figure out how to complete your tasks without a transition in place.

I would ask your new employer if it's possible to push your start date back a week. Be honest and share that you have some loose ends to tie up and you'd like to leave on good terms. It's hard to imagine that the employer wouldn't understand or honor your request.

However, if your new employer is unwilling to delay your start date, brief your current manager on the situation. You could suggest a solid candidate if you know one or perhaps train someone from your team. Either way, finish what you can, and help manage the transition so you leave on the best possible terms.

We all know first impressions matter, and so I understand your desire to please your new employer. However, it's easy to forget that final impressions can matter just as much—or even more. 

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