Introducing: Lady Business

A new advice column for women in the workplace. First question: How do I demand a pay increase?

Published June 25, 2010 1:01PM (EDT)

Julie Klausner
Julie Klausner

I always hear that women are far less likely to ask for a raise than men are. I'm a highly competent employee who's been at my job for six years, and nope, I've never asked for a raise. But my question is this: How do you actually ask for a raise? I mean, seriously, do people really do this? It seems unfathomable to me. Am I just another female pushover? Or am I right to think that it's insane to ask for a raise when there's a recession going on?

Your question starts out with a disconcerting hat tip to perceived normality ("I heard that most women don't have orgasms, right?") and ends up a forlorn monologue from a low-status cartoon character who walks around sulking with his enormous bald head down like Charlie Brown around Christmas, or Ziggy any time of year.

Buck up, Uncle Buck! You've been somewhere for six years? Even college is only four years, and most of that time is spent figuring out whether you really do like the Cure, or if that's just something that made sense to you in high school, when you wore pajama bottoms and green nail polish out in public.

My point is that your commitment to your job thus far is a big, whopping deal, and you should reap some entitlement from that kind of loyalty and excellence. Why can't science work on making women more entitled in general? Or at least get us to listen to those L'Oréal ads that tell us how we're worth it? I'm, of course, joking, and that ad slogan is really just a notch above: "L'Oréal: Because you've got it coming to you." But you do deserve way more than you, and a lot of women, have the courage to ask for -- so make sure you know that, first of all.

Say it into a mirror, find out what it looks like in Mandarin and pay somebody in the '90s to tattoo it on your lower back; just learn it, because men already know that they're entitled to be treated well the way calves know how to walk minutes after they're born. They know what they deserve and how great they are, and how if they've been kicking ass at a job for six years without any increase in pay to be like "WTF, broseph?" Because that's what they call each other in comedy movies.

So, onto the rather procedural matter of how exactly to go about asking for a raise. This is what you do. You e-mail your boss in the morning and ask whether he or she has a moment to talk today. Suggest a time. Here's the whole e-mail for you to cut and paste, Sixer (my new name for you!): "Hi there, I wondered whether you had a moment to chat with me later today. Around 2:30? Thanks in advance. Sixer." Then your boss will say "sure," and you go into his or her office and shut the door and you say something along the lines of, "So, as you know, I've been here for a while, and I'm very happy here, but I wanted to discuss whether you'd (or "the Company," if you don't want to put your boss on the spot) be amenable to giving me an increase in salary, being as I've been here for half a dozen years with no raise."

Then, stop talking. If your boss says no, you can chalk it up to one of your myriad excuses for being too afraid to ask in the first place -- the recession, for example. Don't take it personally and don't think "no" means you shouldn't have asked, because it doesn't.

However, if your boss says yes, or that a raise needs some looking into, or that he or she can't believe that you've been here for half a dozen years without a pay increase, that's your cue to come back with something like, "Great! Now, speaking of a dozen, let's go get some doughnuts, because I'm starving, and nothing in the world is better than fried cake and/or yeast dough, with frosting on top of it." And, I swear to God, if the two of you don't high-five after that offer, one or both of you are robots made of scrap metal who cannot love.

By Julie Klausner

Julie Klausner is a New York City writer and performer. She is the writer of Salon's Lady Business column and the author of "I Don't Care About Your Band."

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