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Ask for what you deserve: How to secure a raise during the Great Resignation

If your coworkers are leaving, leverage your position to negotiate that overdue pay raise.

Sarah Tew/CNET

America is in the midst of what's being dubbed the "Great Resignation." The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a record high resignation rate of 2.9% in August 2021, with 4.3 million workers quitting their jobs -- and this phenomenon is predicted to continue through 2022. But if you aren't planning to leave your job, you may find yourself in a unique position. If your workplace is experiencing a mass exodus, can you leverage your status for a raise?

For the first time in a while, employees have an edge to ask for what they want, including more money. But how should you approach negotiating your salary and what factors should you consider? I sat down with Alexandra Carter, Columbia Law professor and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Ask For More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything, to discuss how to approach negotiating a raise during the Great Resignation. 

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1. Know your value, including your replacement cost

When negotiating your salary, you want to emphasize the contributions you've made, remind your manager of the value you bring to the table and review the salary data for your role. In the current climate, you should also know that you may already be saving your employer money by not leaving. That's because it's costly for companies to look for new talent, interview candidates and train new employees. 

Carter explains, "Turnover is expensive, both in terms of time and money. An employee making $36,000 costs about $12,000 to replace -- and if you're making $150,000? Your company will need to spend $50,000 finding your replacement and bringing them up to speed."

It can be hard to enter salary negotiations without another job offer on the table, so if you know that sticking with your company saves them tens of thousands of dollars, it can be a powerful impetus. 

2. Time your negotiation for maximum effect

It's always important to time your salary discussion right. One strategy is to take advantage of "high-leverage" moments -- successes and victories you've delivered on behalf of your company -- to share your compensation goals with your supervisor. 

Carter also emphasizes that most salary negotiations aren't a single conversation. "Think of it as a political campaign," she suggests. "If performance reviews are in March, you don't start your campaign then. Put your ask on the table early, while the company is making budget decisions and allocating dollars for the coming fiscal year.

"Speak to people who might be allies and advocates for you, and request their advice on how to frame your ask to your manager. When it comes to decision day, what you want is for your manager to hear not just your voice, but an 'echo chamber' of people saying how valuable you are."

3. Consider what you need most from your job this year

A Harvard Business Review study of the recent wave of resignations suggests that, for many people, factors beyond money are just as important, if not more, to their overall career satisfaction. The study hypothesizes that resignations were precipitated by pandemic-related circumstances surrounding burnout, mental health and the reality of remote work life. Further, a report by Glassdoor shows that company culture and values, quality of senior leadership and career opportunities are the strongest predictors of employee satisfaction. 

Carter suggests making a list of your career needs for 2022. "For some, compensation will be paramount. For others, flexibility is of the utmost importance." Essentially, she says, determining what takes priority will help you strategize your approach. Before your negotiations, take time to think about the specifics of what you value the most, whether it's the flexibility to set your own hours, the ability to work from home or benefits such as additional paid time off.