3 Quick Tips for Responding to Employees Who Ask for a Raise

Businesswoman talking to a man at the deskWhen an employee asks for a raise, there are many different paths the conversation can take. If the employee is a star performer, has proven their mettle, and is actively helping drive the company forward, the answer is often quite clear.

And, the same can be said if an underperforming employee who has missed a few deadlines or turned in less than adequate quality work asks for a bump in pay—in fact, this scenario could prompt an entirely different conversation.

But what about those employees between the two extremes? The ones who are generally good employees, show up when required, meet deadlines, and perform more or less as expected. They aren’t necessarily setting the world on fire, but they aren’t a drain on company resources either. For these employees, making a case for a raise may be a tricky proposition. You don’t want to lose a worker who is meeting the standards of their job, but if they aren’t actively engaged in advancing in their position, it can be more difficult to justify any significant increase in pay.

Don’t avoid the conversation
One of the most frustrating situations for employees is to feel like their questions and concerns are falling on deaf ears. Skirting the conversation or making hollow promises to discuss a request for a raise at a later date isn’t fair to the employee, and only delays the inevitable. In the meantime, the employee who may be just a nudge in the right direction away from becoming a top performer deserving of a raise will instead start to disengage and feel resentment, which may ultimately lead to leaving the company for a new opportunity.

Clearly communicate your reservations
It’s quite possible an employee who meets the minimum expectations for their position believes they are performing at a level that merits a raise, when in reality their leader expects more. Being up front with the reasoning behind why you’re unprepared to grant a raise not only sets realistic expectations for performance, but also helps the employee realign their priorities and start working down a path that will put them in a better position to earn a raise or promotion in the future. Open and honest discussion is key to clarifying objectives for success and maintaining an employee’s trust and engagement.

Lay down a challenge
Once you’ve had a conversation with the employee and clarified your position on why you’re not ready  to grant them a raise, it’s time to provide a challenge. This is their moment to shine and prove they are willing to put in the work to reach the next level. Based on your conversation about expectations, build an action plan with important milestones along the way that will help them achieve the level of performance that merits a bump in compensation. If an employee is serious about taking their career to the next level, they should relish the opportunity to prove themselves.

How do you respond to employees who ask for a raise? How do you follow up if the answer is no? Let us know in the comments section below.

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