Have you spent the past few weeks, or maybe even months, building up the courage to ask for a much-deserved raise, only to have your request denied?
You're probably not alone. In a survey of more 7,000 employers conducted by compensation site PayScale, a majority of companies said that they aren't planning to provide a meaningful pay increase to their staff this year. In fact, nearly 70 percent said they plan to provide pay increases of 3 percent or less to some of their employees.
Lydia Frank, vice president of content strategy at PayScale, tells CNBC Make It that her advice for anyone who has been denied a raise is to "not take 'no' as the end of a conversation."
"I think 'no' should be an opening to ask questions."
Frank shares three questions you should ask immediately after being denied a pay increase:
If you don't understand the reasoning for why you weren't given a raise, then Frank says it is perfectly fine to dig deeper into why you were told no.
"Of course you want to keep it respectful and professional," she says. "Try to divorce emotion from that conversation because you don't want it to get heated."
As an example, she says you can ask your boss something like, "I'd really love to get a better understanding for why my request wasn't granted. Is there something I can be doing more of?" She says that this question will provide you with a clear answer as to whether or not the reasoning is related to your performance or to an outside factor, like budgeting.
"I do think it's fair to ask some questions about why," she says. "And if you feel like you're getting stonewalled a bit, then that could be a red flag."
If your employer is unable to match your request for a salary increase, then Frank suggests asking about variable pay, such as a bonus tied to a particular project. She says that even if the bonus is already part of your compensation package, you can say something like, "Hey, I know we've talked about me doing this project. If I kill it and hit these particular metrics, can we talk about a bonus?"
"I think more organizations are willing to consider that because they are only on the hook if you perform," she says. "Essentially, it's like the result is for the business and they are paying for that result. So, sometimes that's more negotiable than the base pay number. "
If a company is unable to grant you a raise or a bonus due to finances, then Frank suggests you negotiate for other benefits that will help to make your work experience more enjoyable.
"When companies are feeling tapped out, like they've spent what they can in terms of pay increases, then they sometimes look at other ways to compensate employees to keep them happy." That's why, she says, it's completely appropriate to ask about non-monetary benefits, like additional time off or the option to work from home.
"It really depends on what's important to you," she says. "Ask if there is room to do the things that will make your work situation more comfortable and satisfactory to you."
In the end, if your request for a bonus or more benefits is denied, and your boss is unable to tell you why, then you may want to consider looking for a new job. Brian Kropp, group vice president of research firm Gartner, says that workers who quit their old job for a new one see an average increase of 15 percent in compensation.
In most cases, he tells CNBC Make It, "you're never going to get that 15 percent by staying at your current job."
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