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Maybe It’s Time to Ask for a Raise

Posted on August 24, 2017

How much anxiety do you experience just thinking about sitting down with the boss and asking for a raise? If you’re answer is, “a lot”, then you are not alone. If going one-on-one with the boss bothers you even more than public speaking does, you’re in the majority.

According to the Confidence Matters study from Robert Half, slightly fewer than half of professionals (49 percent) feel confident when asking for a pay increase, compared to 57 percent who feel self-assured when public speaking.

The discomfort around these conversations is further reflected in the percentage of survey respondents who – rather than ask for a raise – would prefer to clean their house (36 percent), look for a new job (14 percent), get a root canal (5 percent), or be audited by the IRS (4 percent).

Experiencing insecurity around asking for a raise is not new but has changed over time, according to the three-year study: Last year, only 46 percent of professionals felt confident when asking for a raise; in 2015, the percentage was 56 percent.

Robert Half's Confidence Matters research outlines workers' confidence levels and attitudes about a variety of career and salary topics. More than 1,000 U.S. workers employed full-time in office environments were surveyed by an independent research firm for it. The survey was also conducted in 2015 and 2016.

Being uncomfortable talking about money with the boss can be costly over the long term, according to Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half.

"People who are hesitant to talk about compensation may reduce their earning power – not just in their current role but also with future employers. Do your homework on current salary levels. If you're underpaid, role-play the salary conversation with a trusted mentor before scheduling time to meet with your manager."

McDonald noted that the summer season is often prime time for performance reviews. He recommends workers and managers create a lasting dialogue before and after that meeting. "Yearly discussions are not sufficient to review progress, goals, pay and morale," he said. "Schedule frequent check-ins, and don't wait for a yearly review to make a request."

A final note: The number of people who would rather have a root canal than ask for a raise has declined one percent each year since 2015. Workers seem to realize that making the case to earn more cash is less painful than a lengthy – and potentially costly – dental visit. "Let's hope confidence will continue to head in the right direction," McDonald said.