Should You Ask for a Raise During the Pandemic?
Latesha Byrd, TheMuse 340 Times 253 People

The lack of skilled IT workers is hurting the deployment of emerging technology, according to a new survey from Gartner. In areas from cloud to cybersecurity, this crisis is expected to last for years to come.

Are you feeling underpaid or way overdue for a promotion or salary boost, but the pandemic has you worrying if it’s even worth it to ask? Have you taken on additional responsibilities during this crisis that you believe should be reflected in your compensation, but no one’s even mentioned raises this year? If you feel this way, you are not alone!

The biggest question today is: Should I ask for a raise in this economy?

Since the pandemic hit in early 2020, we’ve seen mass layoffs, furloughs, hiring freezes, and unprecedented unemployment rates. It’s easy to understand why this would make you pause and ponder before putting in that request.

Figuring out when and how to ask for what you need and want can leave you feeling unsure and uncomfortable, especially at a time like this. But while things seem unpredictable in the coronavirus job market, there’s some good news: People are still getting new jobs, raises, and promotions. Take that in.

Getting a raise during a pandemic is not impossible. And there are ways to figure out whether or not you should ask for more during this time.

When it comes to negotiation, the first three questions are: Should I ask for more? When should I do it? How should I do it?

If you’re wondering how to answer these for yourself during the coronavirus pandemic, keep on reading.

Should You Ask for a Raise During the Pandemic?

The truth is that it depends. So what factors should you consider?

Taking into consideration the times that we’re in, you’ll want to be ultra-sensitive to the circumstances and timing and be doubly sure that you tie your ask back to the value that you add.

Getting a raise and deciding whether to ask for one really comes down to five main things: company performance, your role and performance, your network and relationships, timing, and your financial situation. Let’s dive into each one.

1. Company Performance

How is your organization performing? Have there been layoffs, furloughs, or hiring freezes? How about restructuring and downsizing? Did your company institute pay cuts across the board, and if so, have those been reversed? How has your industry more broadly performed during the pandemic? Do you hear leaders talking about the challenges of forecasting future earnings, performance, and recovery in the midst of all this uncertainty?

If you notice there are conversations circulating internally about business sustainability or viability, you may want to pause on your ask until the company is more stable. “It can come across as insensitive to still ask for an increase when the company is in survival mode,” says career coach Julia Rock, founder of Rock Career Development.

There are, however, many companies that have weathered the storm and are doing well—for some, their business has even increased amidst the pandemic. If your company is doing well financially—hitting revenue goals, for example, and hiring new employees—it’s well within reason to move forward with negotiating.

In short, this is the time to find out as much as you can about how your employer is doing and what leadership’s priorities are. Observation and research will do you well here. Look at recent news about your company and industry. Ask decision makers (or even HR) questions about how the company is performing.

What if your company isn’t doing well, but you’ve taken on additional responsibilities due to the pandemic? “This could be a time where you can negotiate something other than financial rewards in the interim until the company and the economy improve,” Rock says. “This could be something like a more flexible work schedule or comp time/additional PTO.”

2. Your Role and Performance

When it comes to asking for more, it’s important to be able to directly pinpoint how you’ve added value to the company and how your work impact is aligned with business objectives. If you aren’t able to pinpoint these things, you may not be ready to ask for a raise. You can also take a hard look at how your responsibilities have changed due to the pandemic.

Here are some questions to think about:

  1. Were you already in talks with your boss, HR, or other higher-ups about getting promoted or getting a raise before COVID-19 hit?
  2. Do you have healthy and consistent conversations with your boss about your career goals? Are they aware of your desire to get a raise?
  3. What have you accomplished in the last six to 12 months? How have your accomplishments contributed to the success of the company? Did you help re-envision company, team, or project strategies in the face of the pandemic?
  4. Have you received positive feedback lately on your performance from colleagues, clients, your boss, or other higher ups?
  5. Have you taken on more responsibilities or expanded your role during the pandemic due to downsizing in the team or changing strategies?
  6. Did you fill in for a colleague who was out for health or caregiving reasons?
  7. Have you exceeded expectations even despite all the stress of the pandemic?
  8. Did you help your team and company through the transition from working in the office to working remotely? For example, did you train the team on how to use certain digital tools to stay efficient while working from home? Or have you become a leader within your team, helping colleagues stay motivated and productive so that everyone can meet their goals?

If you proactively manage your career by tracking your projects, metrics of success, and wins on a consistent basis you might be ready to ask for a raise quite quickly. Keep a running list of your work accomplishments, revisiting and updating it weekly, and sharing your wins regularly with your boss so that by the time you get to asking for a raise, they’re not confused or caught off guard.

3. Your Network and Relationships

Having relationships with the right people at your company who will advocate on your behalf is essential to growing within your company. As you decide if you’re ready to ask for a raise, consider whether your network and relationships are already set up to help you or if you should consider waiting and building these up first.

Your boss is first on the list. Rock believes having regular check-ins with your manager is the key to advocating for yourself and what you deserve. If they’ve been able to hear about your career goals and see your progress and the effort you’ve been putting in, the ask will go much more smoothly.

So ask yourself: Have you been communicating with your boss even as you work remotely? Have you talked about your work, accomplishments, and goals often as the world has rapidly changed? Have you had a chance to make yourself and your work visible to other supervisors or leaders within the company? Have you been working with a mentor or sponsor from another department? Would all of these folks vouch for your performance in recent months? You don’t need all of the answers to be “yes” to be ready to ask for a raise, but the more yeses you have, the better a position you’re in.

4. Timing

What time of the year does your company normally give out promotions and raises? At some organizations, this happens at the same time as annual or semi-annual performance reviews; others decouple the two processes. And some companies are more open than others to off-cycle raises.

It’s worth consulting an employee handbook or looking back to any emails you may have received with this information in the past. You can also ask your boss, HR, or a trusted colleague how the company typically approaches raises.

If you were planning to ask for a raise and know that this time of the year is coming up at your company, then you’re right on track to start preparing and planning your ask.

If it’s not that time of the year and the review process is months away, don’t fret! You can still give it a try—if you think your company might be open to an off-cycle raise.

Otherwise, this gives you time to prepare and plan. Asking for a raise isn’t just a one and done conversation. Building your case methodically and having multiple conversations leading up to the right time of year could help you ultimately get what you want.

5. Your Financial Situation and Goals

Ask yourself: Has your financial situation changed since the start of the pandemic? Do you ultimately need more money to sustain your lifestyle and take care of your household? Perhaps your partner was laid off or you need to allocate funds for extra tutoring or educational support for children learning remotely.

While it’s not necessary to share this information with your employer it’d be good for you to know for some extra motivation before you ask. And this could also determine what other non-compensation benefits (work from home, flexible work arrangements, PTO, home office supply budget, etc.) you may want to negotiate in addition to the raise, or instead of a raise if one isn’t possible.

Do You Need a Pep Talk Before You Ask?

Here’s the real question, is there ever an exact right time to ask for more money at work? It might feel like the answer is no, but it’s yes more often than you’d think.

If you’re adding value, exceeding performance expectations, and taking on more work, and your company is performing well, then you should definitely consider asking, even during a pandemic.

Self-advocacy is one of the biggest skills you can learn to grow in your career. It’s time to shift your mindset about asking for what you deserve. Instead of thinking, “What if they say no?” think, “What if they say yes?” Think about it this way: If you don't ask, the answer will always be no!

Besides, even if your company does say no, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Negotiating for what you want is a super important and beneficial thing to attempt and learn from even if the answer ends up being no. Because now your boss and leaders know how serious you are about your growth and development at the company.

That’s never a bad thing. It also shows that you want to continue to add value and grow your impact at the company and they should compensate you fairly for that.

Just because we’re in an economic downturn, doesn’t mean your career has to be. So remember that negotiation is a conversation, not a confrontation.


Leave a Reply