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Ask HR: How Should I Ask for a Raise?

​Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.

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

I have been approached multiple times in the past few weeks by recruiters offering similar positions to my current one with salaries that are more than 30 percent higher than what I'm making now. I really like my current company, but I am finding it hard to ignore these opportunities. How can I approach my current employer to ask for a raise? —James  

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: As the pandemic winds down and the economy resurges, you are among many workers targeted by recruiters with inflated salary and enhanced benefits. However, being valued in your work and enjoying what you do is ideal.

You will first want to make sure it's a good time to ask for a raise. If your company is currently conducting layoffs or has implemented a hiring freeze or salary reduction, it may not be the best time to ask for a salary increase.

If now is a good time or even if you are uncertain, conduct some research on comparable salaries in your local area and industry. Salary information by job titles is readily available via the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and online job boards.

Use this data to formulate a reasonable salary range instead of an exact number. Offering a range shows you are flexible in your request and does not come across as a demand or an ultimatum.

Be prepared to brag about yourself. Compile a list of your latest accomplishments. Outline your recent performance evaluation and any recognition to corroborate your value. 

Request a career discussion with your employer regarding your salary proposal. Should your employer say "no," it may not be definite. It could simply mean, "not right now." Inquire if there will be room for salary discussions in the future.

If you aren't satisfied with the response, you'll likely want to consider other career opportunities further. Thoroughly evaluate the total compensation package, including salary ranges, bonus plans, benefits and incentives. Do not allow financial considerations to blind you to the total work experience. Look into the company's intangibles, including culture, climate and reviews. Weigh how the company aligns with your plans, goals and aspirations. If you decide to make a move, it should be fulfilling on multiple levels. Best wishes in your career and life.

As a manager at a medical billing company, I oversee a staff of 16 employees. Over the past nine months, we have lost five employees to burnout and have added only two in that time. What can I do to support my staff and prevent burnout? —Todd

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I commend you for caring for your workers, recognizing their dilemma and seeking a solution to combat burnout. To best prepare, identify the sources of your employee burnout. Sources may be workplace-driven, such as unrealistic business demands, operational dysfunction or increased responsibility. There could also be external factors at home or elsewhere that impact work. Common indicators of employee burnout include lack of motivation, error-prone work performance and increased absenteeism. As you investigate the sources, look for patterns and signs that require the most attention.

There are a host of ways to support your staff and ease workplace stress:

  • Create a supportive environment. Conduct regular discussions with your staff collectively and individually. Ask how they are doing with their work and personally. Ask if there is anything you can do to help or what challenges they are facing. Promote collaboration among co-workers when possible.
  • Distribute work demands evenly among the group. Help employees prioritize their workload and clearly communicate which tasks can wait. Probe staff for ideas on work processes that can be implemented, improved or eliminated. Acknowledge employees who consistently exceed expectations and find ways to recognize their work.
  • Clearly communicate performance expectations so employees can accurately assess their efficacy.
  • Normalize self-care. Share your stress management techniques and rituals with your team. Reach out to HR for support. They can provide literature on mental health services offered under the group health plan or through an employee assistance program. Make those resources readily available to your staff.
  • Encourage employees to take regular breaks and lunches.
  • Be positive and inspiring daily. Regularly encourage teamwork and acknowledge when workers demonstrate teamwork.

While stress and burnout cannot be completely eliminated, these steps can help relieve the symptoms and address many of the root causes. I would argue that some stress is actually good when it drives us to improve performance and rethink how we work. However, when we ignore stress and don't heed the warning signs, it can lead to burnout. I hope some of these ideas will help solve your challenges and bring out the best in your workers!