How to Ask for a Raise: A Guide for Office Managers

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Office managers play a critical role in millions of businesses around the world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 300,000 active office managers in the U.S. alone, and according to salary.com, the median salary for an office manager as of November 25th, 2019 was $78,309 (with salaries typically falling between $66,660 and $90,619). 

As with any other occupation, salaries can vary depending upon the cost of living and the overall financial health of a given geographical location. For instance, office managers in New York City and San Francisco on average make over 20% more than the median salary. Surprisingly, office managers in Dallas and Miami make just less than the median U.S. salary for office managers. 

Another core factor in the salary of an office manager is their experience and overall impact on their given company. The role of an office manager is comprehensive and ever-changing. As an office manager, you’re not only required to be a beacon of stability, consistency, and productivity within your organization, but you also have to be a master of improvisation as you solve the many problems that can occur within an office environment. 

Office managers are often the first go-to when anything goes wrong, a task needs to be completed, or a decision needs to be made in an office atmosphere. This is a lot of pressure to place on one person’s shoulders and yet, the list of responsibilities for managers of an office has only grown in recent years. 

While technology is established to simplify our work, office managers are tasked with sourcing and understanding all of the various HR, Finance and Martech tools that their companies may utilize. This means that they will also be held accountable for successfully implementing these tools and continually training and aiding coworkers when technical issues arise. 

There’s no denying that office managers play an integral role within their organizations. However, an employee's salary doesn’t always fall on the talent of the employee alone. In order to enhance your chances of having a raise proposal accepted, you’ll need to research YOUR value, consider timing, optimize your approach, and perform at a level that warrants your ideal salary.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Raise

Before we dive into the steps you can follow to ask your boss for a raise, let’s address the “stigma” of asking for a raise and the overall employee-employer dynamic. Employment isn’t just a one-way exchange. Employees receive a salary, but companies then receive labor that (directly or indirectly) generates profits. Employment is a MUTUAL relationship and one that deserves equal respect from both parties. Employees should not feel indebted to their employers, but rather, grateful and satisfied.

By shifting your mindset from the outset, you’re much more likely to enter a salary negotiation with the confidence to successfully ask for the salary you deserve.

Are you ready to negotiate a higher salary for your role as an office manager? Follow the steps outlined in this guide. You’d be surprised by what can happen when you strategically ask for something you can prove you deserve. 

When to Ask for a Raise

Time can be a useful benchmark for establishing an ideal moment for asking for a raise. However, once you’ve identified that a salary increase is appropriate, there really is no bad time to ask for a raise. If you’re good at your job, your employer should never be offended by a busy and dedicated member of their team asking for a raise.

Don’t assume your employer won’t grant your raise request simply because they haven’t already offered. When you’re considering the timing of your proposal, also consider the context: From your employer’s or manager’s perspective, your recent performance, qualifying events, and the health of the company could all have an impact.

The circumstances of your raise proposal will set the tone for future negotiations, so you don’t want to sell yourself short. Even a one-time salary increase of $5,000 can accrue to significant gains if invested and managed properly.

If one or more of the following scenarios is true for you, consider it a green light to ask for a raise:

  • You have a life event that requires more income 
  • You have been with the company for a set duration
  • You have taken on natural increases in demand or responsibility
  • You are working on or have already added new skills or education
  • You’ve increased your number of direct reports or vendors to manage
  • Your role became more public-facing or high pressure for any reason
  • A colleague’s position was dissolved and now you’re doing double
  • You’ve never been offered one and it feels like the right time - Your "Aha! moment" may not be big and momentous. It may not come in the wake of a major milestone, or a big win. The confidence you display in asking for what you feel you deserve may be all that is needed to reestablish your value to your employer.

How to Show That You Deserve a Raise

While time spent with a company creates familiarity, which allows managers to optimize their workflow and better understand how to motivate their colleagues, it’s a passive approach towards acquiring a raise. Office managers that are eager to raise their base pay will want to take action to ensure their proposed salaries are accepted.

The ideal employer would be intuitive to the desires of their top employees and (proactively) reward their hard work and loyalty with fair and regular raises. However, this may not be the mindset of your manager. Bosses are busy, and at the end of the day, companies are going to place more focus on finding ways to make more money than spend it.

This is where taking it upon yourself to increase your value to your organization (unprompted) is a great way to grab the attention of your supervisor(s). When you ask for your raise, your manager shouldn’t be wondering whether or not you’ve earned, but rather, why didn’t they think of it first. 

An office manager's day-to-day responsibilities don't always directly correlate to company profitability to help justify their value. This is why it’s especially important to make note of your impact and influence within your organization at every chance you can get. Collect the data you can to make your best possible case when entering a salary negotiation. This may require you to get a little creative.

Here are a few impactful ways to show your company that you’re worth every penny of your requested salary increase:

  • Take on more responsibility unasked
  • Mentor junior employees (even if they’re not direct subordinates)
  • Demonstrate leadership and decision-making capabilities
  • Collect case studies of your work and impact - How has workplace efficiency increased since you’ve been with the company? What touch points do you have with leads and clients? Did that new software you suggested lead to overall cost savings for the company?
  • Become more vocal in meetings and on calls
  • Demonstrate your value to other departments
  • Complete your tasks in an orderly way without monitoring or prompting
  • Recount high-impact projects and consider your input

How Much of a Raise to Ask for

No two salaries are achieved equally. Timing, location, industry, and who and what you know, all dictate an employee’s salary. Not all of these elements fall under the control of office manager candidates and employees. This can, unfortunately, lead to office managers feeling underpaid or even under-appreciated.

Before your salary concerns develop into resentment, look into what a reasonable salary is for an office manager in your unique placement. This research will inform the raise amount that you push for in your negotiations. 

When discussing your salary, research is 90% of the work. Rather than basing your raise on some general rule of thumb, your salary should reflect your specific working situation. Plus, entering the meeting with your supervisor(s) with hard data that supports the salary and benefits package that you’re requesting will give you an edge if your supervisor(s) are initially hesitant to accept your proposal.

While you’re not technically limited in the number of times you can ask for a raise, it’s important to take salary negotiations seriously, or you could risk undervaluing yourself or coming off as unreasonable. 

As you compile information to inform your raise request, consider the various elements that could vindicate your ideal raise amount. Weigh each of these factors appropriately to create a clear picture of the salary you truly deserve and why: 

  • Where does your salary fall in the average range for the role?
  • How large is your company and team? 
  • Where are you located and what’s the cost of living there?
  • When was your last raise? How much did your pay increase then?
  • If known, are other team members being granted raises or promotions?
  • How much do you need or expect?
  • Aim reasonably high - make room for negotiation 

You’ll also want to think about what benefits, other than a salary increase, would be valuable to you. Examples could be - better PTO, childcare benefits, commuter stipend, paid education, or greater schedule flexibility. These alternative benefits are tremendous bargaining tools, especially if your raise request is initially denied.

How to Ask for a Raise

The stigma around asking for more money from your employer has complicated the simple task of asking for a raise. It’s so much easier to find reasons to ask for less, or not ask for a raise at all, then it is to request a salary that’s reflective of your value. One (or several) of these statements may be crossed your mind as you’re reading this article:

  • “I haven’t been with the company long enough.”
  • “The company doesn’t have the funds.”
  • “If I deserved a raise, my boss would have given me one.”
  • “I’m no good at negotiating.”

Whatever your concerns are, don’t let them cloud the fact that you’re worth what you’re worth. Whether it’s $100 or $10,000 per year, the raise you request is going to matter far more to you than it will your company. Keep this in mind as you take the steps to ask for a raise:

  1. Set up 1:1 time with your immediate supervisor first 
  2. Get their buy-in by demonstrating value and coming prepared
  3. Present the facts - what you’ve accomplished, how long it’s been, why it’s needed
  4. Rather than demanding or proposing, ask for feedback first 
  5. Heed supervisor feedback and enlist them to help you speak with HR/higher management
  6. Document your case further - make it professional, collect evaluations from your team, and be certain list out ALL of your responsibilities (you’d be surprised how many employers there are that don’t actually know what a given employee’s day looks like)
  7. Present your case to final decision-makers
  8. Prepare to further validate your claims, express your worth, and present data 

Consider ways to augment these steps to better suit your particular company. You know what’s valued within your organization and by the decision-makers that would be involved in approving or rejecting your raise. This will inform who you approach (and how) at the different steps in this process. It will also inform the type of data you collect and present to validate your ideal salary requirements.

What to Do If Your Raise Request is Approved

Congratulations! You’ve not only done an exceptional job within your office manager role to warrant a raise, but you’ve also taken the time and effort to ask for it. All of that hard work paid off and now you’ve upgraded your personal finances in a significant way.

Whether your raise comes with new responsibilities or is simply a reflection of how much you have meant to your organization, there are still steps to take following the acceptance of a raise request to finalize the process.

First, follow up with a thank you letter or another form of recognition to all deciding parties. This may be a quick, personal conversation, a letter, in the form of a gift, or you could take your supervisor(s) out to a nice dinner to show them your appreciation. 

Next, make sure that you follow up a raise by living up to your (new) value. This could mean taking on additional responsibilities, or it could mean maintaining your consistent level of excellence. Go out of your way to show your gratitude. Whatever the case may be, don’t leave any room for your employer to question whether or not they made the right decision to honor your raise request.

Finally, take time with friends and family to celebrate your big win. Getting a raise is not just about the money. It’s a reflection of the pride you place in your work. Soaking up your salary increase will help boost your appreciation and gratitude towards your company and career.

Remember the steps you took to achieve this successful raise request, apply what worked to future salary negotiations, and learn from what didn’t. You never know how your career or the general market for office managers will change. Your next salary negotiation could be just around the corner.

What to Do If Your Raise Request is Rejected

All is not lost. Having a salary request rejected can be embarrassing and even frustrating. However, going through with requesting a raise displays your drive and is a huge learning opportunity, if you take the right steps following a rejected raise proposal.

Before you accept the rejection, follow up strong with a counterproposal for either less money or more benefits. Your initial request should have left some wiggle room where a smaller raise doesn’t feel like a compromise. You may also find that alternate benefits like company stock, paid fitness classes, travel stipends, free books, etc., work just as well to increase your work-life satisfaction.

If it comes to pass that you’re not going to receive a raise or increase in benefits, the next best thing is to start gathering information. A simple no isn’t an acceptable answer to a raise request. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t leave the meeting until your raise is accepted, but rather, you shouldn’t leave the meeting without knowing what needs to be done in order to achieve your desired salary.

If you’ve done your research properly, your requested salary should be well within reason for your company to afford, given your role and experience. If there’s something else they need to see from you before they give you the salary that you feel you deserve, find out explicitly what it is.

Work with your supervisor and upper-management team to create an improvement or growth plan that enables you to reach your desired salary. This creates accountability on both sides to display traceable progression that warrants an increase in pay, or equivalent alternative benefits.

Combine any new insights you’ve gained with the initial research you conducted to price out your raise request to push forward. Now that you know the gap between your perception of your value and your employer’s perception of your value, take steps each day to close that gap.

No matter what, continue to demonstrate your value to your company at a high level. This will ensure that if you’re with the right employer, your work will eventually be rewarded. However, at some point, you may need to consider that your current employer may not have the bandwidth to sustain your trajectory of growth. If this is the case, continue working hard and repeat the steps you took to prepare for a raise proposal. Research your value, collect data on how you’ve benefited your current employer and present this information to companies looking to hire office managers at your desired salary.

Negotiate a Higher Salary as Your Value Increases

For 33% of office managers, negotiating compensation is either a top concern or one of their top concerns. With how integral office managers are to businesses, this number should be 0. However, if you feel that your current salary doesn’t reflect your true value to your organization, don’t sweat the raise request process. The most important person to believe in your worth is you! 

Use your talents as an office manager to organize the steps you need to take to research your worth, and effectively pitch your raise request to your employer. 

You spend way too much time working to not love what you’re doing and who you are doing it for. If you feel like you aren’t being compensated fairly as an office manager, use this guide to ask for the raise you deserve from your current employer or to successfully negotiate your base salary with a new one!

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