How to ask for a raise

I believe there is room for salaries to improve slightly across all levels of society. Not a drastic 50% increase as proposed by Economist Lim Chong Yah, what I mean is small 10 – 15% increase, followed by active review and further refining. To get the context of the article correct, we need to clarify our position on this matter:

–    I am not suggesting that this raise should be foisted on businesses. Rather, (where possible) this ought to be a Union encouraged movement and up to the individual to push.

–    Union pressure may be useful in situations where corporations that have been turning a healthy profit, yet still have depressed wages.

–    We acknowledge that salaries have already risen over time and any sort of government/union initiated (or intimidated) increases will send signals that there will be similar calls in the future. How frequent, how intense and how crippling these calls will be, is yet unknown. This is not healthy for a business environment.

–    We understand that when spending power increases uniformly, it may cause inflation (over time) and affect the bottom percentile of society.

Now, with the foreknowledge that I will soon be met with sarcastic remarks in the comments, I now ask this: that us Singaporeans step up and boldly ask for increases where possible from our employer. Start with the first step, the easiest step. If you think you’re doing work that brings value, you have to be rightfully compensated for that value. In a modern context, no government, no union and no political party can make this first step for us. If you’re of value to your employer, they will be silly to deny your requests. If you’re not of value to your employer, maybe you want to do something about it first.

How to ask for a pay raise?

1.) It might help to note that many companies (especially MNCs) do not grant pay rises except during employee-review cycles. Many companies also include for periodical adjustments to meet inflation. If this sounds like the company you work for, chances are you’ll need to wait for their cycles before any wage increase is realized.

2.) There are many ways to present your argument. Saying “I need the money”, is not one of them. Prove that you deserve a pay raise. Emphasize your value. Document your accomplishments. Compile a list of arguments that could include some of the following:

  • Sales you’ve won for the company
  • Money you’ve saved
  • Customer satisfaction KPIs achieved
  • The list of tight deadlines you’ve met or beat
  • Solutions you’ve implemented
  • Products/services you’ve designed or improved
  • Problems you’ve solved
  • Initiatives you’ve demonstrated
  • A weak argument but maybe the extra hours you’ve worked voluntarily

3.) You could also consider asking for more responsibilities to justify your pay raise. Some positions simply do not require a staff to do any more than he/she should, but if an individual demonstrates more, there is little reason why the manager should say no.

4.) Here’s another thought: “Command a pay raise, don’t demand it”. Present a good argument and proposal for future growth instead of insisting on a pay raise for your past accomplishments.

5.) Think of a reasonable figure in mind. If you’re an admin staff getting paid $2000 today, asking for $3000 suddenly is not realistic. Remember that the employer pays an additional 20% in CPF to you – what you see as $2000, the employer sees as $2400. So remember to cater for these.

In any case, do not threaten to resign. In fact, do not make any threats at all. Everyone wants to work with a person of good integrity and character, doing either of the above are good ways to get fired instead.

I spoke with the boss of an engineering firm once. He said, “I don’t care how much your salary is. I can pay you $10k… just show my how you can help make me $20k and you can get what you want.” That just about sums up the entire reason for employment. Employment is not an entitlement. It is about you, selling your value to other groups of people. To my Singaporean colleagues, you’re on home ground. You speak fluent English (well most of us anyway). You’re likely to be bilingual. You understand the cultures, context, nuances and deep social intricacies here and throughout Asia. You are of more value and are first to be considered in any hiring situation. You are selling value – not price. Don’t see your salary as a price war, you’re a Mercedes not a Chery: so when you negotiate your salary, negotiate it like a boss.


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