How To Reject A Request For A Raise

Employees are becoming more adept and aggressive at asking for salary increases and job promotions these days.

Materials circulate online and via professional organizations that explain to employees exactly how to broach salary negotiations.

But, employers need advocates, as well. Especially if, for example, an employer is preparing for the difficult scenaraio of rejecting an employee’s request for a raise in pay.

January tends to be the month for year-end performance reviews. For firm administrators and managing partners, the following are a few tips for discussing performance-based and year-end raises. And how to refuse them.

Decide, performance review or review for a raise

Employees will expect conversations about a job well done during performance reviews to conclude in salary negotiations. However, sometimes job reviews are just that: a chance to discuss past successes, failures, and expectations for the future. No money involved.

Ensure your employees know the difference between these two conversations. If an employee believes your evaluation will lead to a possible bonus or raise, he or she will likely stay on the defensive about their work product.

Conversations are significantly less productive while one party is thinking, “ok, ok, so when are we getting to the part about money?!”

Instead, when you meet with a subordinate, explain, up front, the purpose of the conversation. Be clear so that neither party is uncomfortably on edge. If the conversation is a review about professional responsibilities, outline the steps necessary to receive a raise—if your firm offers them at all.

Be specific

If an employee is not receiving a raise or promotion, be specific about why.

Avoid vague statements, such as “it was a difficult decision,” “it was a tight year, financially,” or “this is not a reflection of the firm’s appreciation of your work.”

Generic refusals will only lead an employee to believe his or her employer is hiding something or playing favorites among associates.

Furthermore, if some employees receive a raise and others not, you can bet—despite policy against workplace gossip—the news will get out. It’s best to be specific about why Jane will advance in her career, but John will not.

Be honest

When giving bad news, it’s tempting to cushion the blow. However, in a professional environment, this strategy tends to be lose-lose for the parties involved.

Answer the following questions honestly: What has your firm decided regarding raises this year? What were the deciding factors for giving them? How large was the budget?

It’s a difficult conversation, but your employees will appreciate hearing the details directly from you. And they will also respect your honest leadership approach.

Additionally, in the event there are specific performance deficiencies in an employee, it’s important to point them out so that the individual has the opportunity to improve.

Don’t forget, in any compensation conversation, both sides should feel heard. Listen actively to your employees and consider their position sincerely. Rejecting a request for a raise shouldn’t transform into resentment or disrespect by either party.

-WB

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