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Asking for a raise

One of the most frequently asked career questions is, “What is the best way to ask for a raise?”

Not surprising, a frequently asked management question is, “What are best practices when it comes to employees asking for a raise?”

Answers to these two questions actually have a lot of overlap. Think about the times staff members approached you for a raise. When did they make a good case, and when did their request lack justification?

It’s important to remember these conversations because when you approach your boss she or he is evaluating your pay raise request in much the same way.

Armed with information

Career coach Marie McIntyre recommends that you first know the worth of your job. “Every job has a market value,” she explains. You can research yours by networking with peers in similar positions or checking out salary comparison websites.

McIntyre cautions against simply comparing job titles because the same title can mean different things at different organizations. With this in mind, make sure you compare job responsibilities.

Geography can also be a factor. A medical office manager in New York City will likely command a higher salary than a medical office manager in rural Mississippi. can provide you with salary information based on geographic location, years of experience, education level, and practice size. You may have to search several different job titles to find the one that matches your position responsibilities.’s “physician practice operations manager” job description is a good fit for many medical office managers.

There and here

What others pay is only one element of the equation, however.

Your practice has its own pay practices. Depending on the size of the practice, these may be formal or informal.

Formal pay practices mean there are salary ranges in place for each position. These are typically based on the factors considers when establishing its ranges.

Informal pay practices adhere to less stringent guidelines. In a small office, these practices may be as simple as the managing physician allocating a total dollar amount for salaries and benefits.

Regardless of how your practice operates, it’s important to realize there is a system.

Timing matters

In addition to assessing pay practices, McIntyre recommends choosing your timing wisely.

“The best time to ask for a raise is when you have just completed a big project, solved a major problem, taken on new responsibilities, or done something else that was noteworthy,” she says.

It also helps if your request coincides with positive changes at the practice. Has revenue recently increased as the result of a successful marketing campaign or more effective billing procedures? Is the managing physician happy about the outcome? If so, the stars could be aligning for your salary increase.

At the same time, it helps to know how strictly the practice adheres to its budget. If your boss won’t budge on the budget, make sure you request your raise in connection with budget planning.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to put off having the conversation. But recognize that you may get turned down because the money isn’t in the budget.

If this happens, all is not lost. Ask if a salary increase can be included as part of the next budget.

If your boss agrees, follow up in writing. This is especially important if budget season is months away. Your boss may not intentionally forget about your raise, but it won’t be top of mind for her like it is for you.

Salary caps

What if your salary has reached its limit for your position? It happens, especially when a person has held the same job for many years.

Indeed, you may have staff members in this situation. They do a great job but you can’t keep giving them raises because the positions don’t justify high pay rates. Your boss may view your position the same way.

If you have reached the top salary for your position, consider asking for a bonus.

“Bonuses do not commit the company to a permanent salary change, so sometimes they are easier to get,” McIntyre says.

Bonuses may be an option for certain staff members as well.

When all else fails

What happens if you ask for a salary, get turned down, ask for bonus, and have that suggestion vetoed?

“If you get that ‘no,’ don’t slink away in embarrassment,” McIntyre says.

“Instead, just smile and say that you understand it isn’t possible now, but you would like to know when your request might be considered or what you would have to do to merit an increase.”

The answer will provide you with what you need to know about your earnings potential, should you choose to stay in your current position.

Adding it up

Remember, your annual pay is only one component of your total compensation.

Make sure you compare medical benefits, paid time off, pension plans, and other benefits when considering other job opportunities.

Total compensation is also something you will want to bring to your staff’s attention during salary conversations. Although it won’t increase their income, it will provide them with a more accurate understanding of what the job is worth.

Related reading:

Jobs in healthcare plentiful, according to report

Make these your 2 top goals for this year

How to conduct fair and effective performance reviews









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