How to ask your boss for a promotion

How to ask your boss for a promotion

| Career

Many people are afraid or embarrassed to ask their management for a promotion or a salary increase, preferring to wait for it to happen on its own.

This way, however, you risk wasting time and resources. To avoid a rejection, you must approach a promotion in the right way. And we have step-by-step instructions for the purpose.

Step 1. Make sure the moment is right


This is about whether your company is ready to offer you better working conditions right now. It might not be a good idea to get ready for a promotion and talk to your bosses now. It is therefore important to ensure that the company is not going through an economic crisis, is in a stable condition, and has a strong position in the market niche. Asking for a raise when the business is about to go bust, is simply irrational, to say the least.

It is also better to wait for a time when the company is not going through organizational changes, lay-offs or mergers, etc. That is, your manager does not have more pressing matters and has enough time to deal with your issue. The same applies to the personal state of the individual you are going to talk to: if the manager has health problems, their major project has failed, they are going through a reporting period and other stressful events, it is better to postpone a promotion discussion.

Note: Additionally, familiarize yourself with the company regulations. Are there any restrictions or mandatory criteria for any positions? How tightly is the promotion mechanism controlled? For example, if there are government and budgetary restrictions in place, promotion is usually given "by seniority" and it is impossible to accelerate the process.

Step 2. Assess and calculate your value

It is essential to understand what specific value you provide to this company. It is also imperative to measure your value in quantitative or qualitative terms, preferably with precise numbers and statistics. To do this, you can make a spreadsheet in which you spell out your particulars:

  • Unique occupational qualities and skills - and make sure to show how and when you demonstrated them in your work. Think of specific problems you solved drawing on them, complex situations you resolved or challenging tasks you addressed. For example, you resolved a team conflict that nearly escalated into a split, or found unique research material for an article.

  • Work accomplishments. What contribution you've made to the company and how it is measured. For example, you helped close a difficult deal that others failed to do, or you increased sales conversion by 15%. Again, it's better to have improvement numbers and indicators - that way it's much harder to challenge your claims for a promotion.

  • Your current job responsibilities and how you are or may be going above and beyond them. For example, you have recently trained newcomers to the company and demonstrated good leadership skills. Or you have taken over from a colleague certain functions that you were not originally assigned. This section seeks to demonstrate how your competences have improved over time.

Also mention the training you've received along the way, if any. Everything you've learned and done for the company is very important.

Step 3. Do market research


Analyze the current job market to better understand what exactly you can be eligible for with this skill set. The job search sites like Glassdoor or Salary are great for this. See how much people with similar competences and expertise earn right now, and compare your list to what you see. Decide what competences or proficiencies you may lack to qualify for the position you want. If those competences do exist, consider how you can acquire them before you approach the management for a discussion. Or you can consider alternative options discussed below.

Step 4. Consider alternatives

There are many alternatives to the classic increase in your salary or position. For example, your manager may ask you to run extra projects that will become a springboard for further growth and help you acquire competences in a completely new area. And you'll also receive a bonus for them, of course. From the beginning, set a "fork" of what you can agree to, and what you'll firmly reject. For example, will you accept the proposal if you are offered to continue in your current position at the current salary, but you can plan your own work schedule, work from home or get a full social package?

A promotion combined with training may also be an alternative option. For example, if you realize that you do lack some skills for the desired position, but you really need to take it right now, then it's better to agree with your supervisor that within 2 or 3 months after the promotion you'll take the necessary courses or some on-site training to start with. Be prepared to compromise.

Step 5. Make your offer

Based on your analysis, design and structure your career offer. The first sentence should be clear and precise, as it will immediately set the tone for the entire discussion. For example, "I'd like to discuss a 15% salary raise" or "I'd like to discuss my potential career trajectory to the position of Chief Administrative Officer."

You can also start the discussion with a question and thus give your employer some leeway and minimize the risk of being turned down. For example, "I would like to discuss what I need to do to qualify for the Chief Administrative Officer position." This option works best if you're not sure whether you qualify for a promotion, but you really want to grow to the position (and don't know how to do it). In this case, the employer will most likely give you - here and now - some tips and an action plan, but not a specific position or desired salary.

Note: From the outset, compile in a separate document or folder "evidence" to support your arguments why you not only want, but are actually ripe and well-suited for a promotion. For example, successful case studies, reports, statistics, fact-based emails, and the like. In the course Career Marathon with Mila Semeshkina you'll learn more about how to properly ask your employer for a promotion and what it takes.

Step 6. Seek support (if available)


If it is standard practice to ask your higher-up for a promotion rather than your mentor or supervisor in the company, if any, then ask them to help you. They can at least help you strategize and choose the right approach to your manager or share valuable information, and they can at best put in a word for you or provide important evidence, figures, etc.

Of course, they may recommend you to take your time and tell you that you are not ready yet. In that case, however, you'll still get a better idea of what you need to do.

Step 7. Start being more active in the workplace

The best case scenario is when you don't have to explain and prove anything to your manager - they see your abilities and skills in practice. That's why ideally you should start preparing for a promotion request 2-3 months in advance and in this time period:

  • take more initiative in the projects and generate new ideas and suggestions;

  • take more responsibility for tasks;

  • optimize your current work and accelerate its pace to increase your productivity;

  • volunteer to participate in internal initiatives, including informal events and meetings;

  • interact and communicate with your supervisors more frequently on other work-related matters;

  • take care of your appearance, discipline, and deadlines (if any of these have been a problem in the past).

Note: Don't go overboard - if you have always kept a low profile and have gone with the flow, your excessive zeal may make your employer suspicious. It's not about manipulation and "hypocritical efficiency", but about truly preparing yourself for a higher level of responsibility and showing your interest in your personal and company growth.

That's why you should be prepared to keep up the same work pace long after the coveted discussion.

Step 8. Meet with your manager in a relaxed environment


Choose a place and time where you and your manager can discuss things one-on-one, where you won't be distracted by external factors or other people, and when both of you have enough time available. You don't have to discuss the promotion in the office - an informal setting such as over a cup of coffee is fine. But leave the initiative to pick the place and time to the manager - most likely, they will specify where and when it is convenient for them.

During your conversation, ask as specific questions as possible, which imply equally specific answers. For example, "How many deals do I need to close to qualify for a 15% raise?" instead of "What do I need to do to earn more?"

Step 9. Watch the non-verbal behavior during the conversation

This applies both to your and your boss's non-verbal language. Not only what you say, but also how you do it is important. That is why these instructions feature so many steps: when you come for a discussion with your employer, you should be absolutely confident in yourself and the realist nature of your ambitions. This will also enable you to sound confident. Other things to keep an eye on:

  • Gestures (they tend to become excessively active when you are nervous);

  • Pace of speech, volume and pitch of voice;

  • The position of your arms and torso. For example, don't cross your arms across your chest and don't lower your head. Try to discreetly mirror your interlocutor's position - it promotes a trusting contact.

Do not rub your hair, your clothes buttons or your pen, etc. If you notice strange signals in the executive's non-verbal behavior, for example, they stamp their foot or look at their watch, then perhaps now is not the best moment for a discussion, and it is better to meet some time later. You can learn more about how to read the other person's body language and control your own in the NLP in Sales course.

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