Pay freeze? Ask for other rewards
Salary-review season is upon us. Most managers conduct performance reviews at the beginning of the year, and most performance reviews entail some sort of salary review. Don't get your hopes up for a raise, though. In this economy, many companies have a salary freeze, and no one's coming out of the cold any time soon.
By all means, prepare rationale for why you should receive a raise. But in the likely event that your boss cannot budge, suggest ways other than monetary that your boss can reward you for your good performance.
On the company balance sheet, a raise is very expensive. It's a fixed, recurring cost, and the additional benefits and taxes make the raise even more costly for your company. Your suggestions should be one-time expenses, which are easier to justify to the holder of purse strings. Better yet, suggest something that's free to the company.
1. More vacation days. Go for the gold: Ask for three extra weeks and bargain down from there. Take a long break now while the economy is sluggish and opportunities are scarce.
2. Flex time. You could work one day from home. Or, if you're like 80 percent of office workers and you know you'll get nothing done from home, ask your boss if you can work four long days and have one day off. This is a good time to hone your work-life balance.
3. Training. Be creative with this request. Recognize one of your weaknesses and find a top-tier class to deal with it. Try public speaking or leadership.
4. Another salary review in June. This promise is free to your boss and an easy way to get you off his back right now. Get the promise in writing, but realize that a promise for a review is still not a promise for a raise.
5. A laptop to take home. This is a good request to make if you have a crappy computer at home. Tell your boss you will work from home and this will help her justify the expense to the keeper of the purse strings. (Do not actually do any work from home, though. After all, you didn't get a raise. Instead start that pet project– see No. 8.)
6. Stock options. Stock was a joke in the '90s because it was so overvalued. But today it's not likely that you work at a company where the stock has gone nuts. (If you do, fight hard for a raise!)
7. A plumb project. Look around the company for a project coming up that will make a big impact on the company's bottom line. Ask your boss if you can manage that project. It won't get you a raise now, but it'll set you up for a big one down the line.
8. A pet project. If there's no big project you can ask for, what about conjuring up your own project? Figure out what skills you need to add to your resume and create a project that will get you those skills.
When you're negotiating with your boss for an alternative to a raise, the thing to remember is that recessions don't last forever. So instead of focusing on salary now, use this time to put yourself in a good position for when the economy improves. The raise will come a little later, but you will be in line for a bigger one.