By Ritika Trikha
You've gotten awesome feedback all year, knocked your responsibilities out of the park, and truly earned that raise. But the economy's tight, and your boss says that he's sorry, but he just can't swing it. You're probably not alone. Forty-eight percent of small business owners did not give their employees a raise in the past 12 months, according to a recent poll by the National Small Business Association. The economic downturn is largely to blame for tight budgets and cutbacks.
If you know you deserve the raise, you have two choices: You could hang your head low and complain about how underappreciated you are, or you could push back a little and negotiate less costly perks instead.
More employers are starting to consider giving perks and work-life balance opportunities to keep employees happy. But you won't get them unless you ask. Consider some of these alternatives:
1. Working from home some days.
This costs the company nothing financially, according to Roy Cohen, career counselor and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide -- so you have a good chance of receiving this perk.
Come up with a schedule that better suits you and explains how the cost will be zero for the company. Explore and suggest telecommuting tools, such as Skype for video conferencing, Campfire for virtual group chats (great for team environments), Dropbox for synchronizing files, and smartphones for mobility.
2. Classes or training.
Asking for further education or training is actually the best pay raise alternative you could ask for, because empowering yourself with more training and education can benefit not only your career but also the company. "Education offers you the exposure to new information and ideas and it also demonstrates your ambition and your commitment to self-improvement," Cohen says.
During tough economic times, employers are more apt to reward the most valuable employees -- and education is a great way to "position you for a more substantial role in the company," he says.
3. Attendance at conferences.
Industry conferences give you opportunities to immerse yourself in your field and come back with valuable knowledge to help the company -- similar benefits to education, but less comprehensive. In fact, Cohen says conferences are a tax write-off for the company, and they'll make you a far smarter and more valuable employee. "It also offers the potential to gather competitive information when you network with colleagues from other companies in the same industry."
4. More vacation days.
When negotiating more vacation days, "as long as the extra time off happens when the business is typically not busy, the request is reasonable," Cohen says. Be prepared with solid reasons why you deserve more vacation days, such as consistently high performance under high stress.
Just as you would negotiate your salary, overshoot the number of vacation days you'd like so that your employer won't try to lowball you. Offer to spread out your vacation days rather than going MIA for a giant chunk of the year.
5. A higher-ranked title.
Promotions without a raise are a growing trend among businesses. If you've really knocked your responsibilities out of the park, you might want to consider discussing a promotion without pay. Sounds a little absurd, right? But taking on more responsibility can give you a bigger payoff in the long run -- compared to staying stagnant in the same position and at the same salary.
If you do the work without pay temporarily (while you look for a company that will actually match your deserved salary), you will build your resume and position yourself for a higher salary in the future.
Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, salary information, and a free career happiness assessment.
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