Should You Ask for a Raise in a Bad Economy?

by Staff - Original publish date: October 7, 2013

Leading up to Salary Negotiation Week, we surveyed more than 1,000 people on several different topics related to salary negotiation. We had readers answer some questions regarding their experiences asking for raises, and what they're afraid of when it comes to negotiating salary. Here is input from an actual reader, and our subsequent advice.

Job Title: Director of Creative
City: Durango
State: CO
Current Salary: $48,000
Last Raise: 10/2011
Company Size: 50

What is motivating you to ask for a raise? I negotiated my starting salary but have not asked for a raise since. I have proven results across the board from finishing projects ahead of schedule, to developing new initiatives and bringing excellent results to our clients in my tenure with the company.
What concerns you about asking for a raise? The status of the economy and the company’s bottom line. Response

Dear Durango,
We are ecstatic to hear you negotiated your starting salary, but are surprised you haven’t negotiated since. The salary we earn is crucial to both our professional and personal growth, so it may be time to try asking for a raise. When negotiating your salary, it’s important to prepare information on yourself and understand your company. We’ll walk you through both.

Research on You
We looked at similar job titles based on “Director of Creative/Media Production” in Durango, Colo. (25-50 employees in the Media Industry) on According to our findings, a Media Production Manager mid-point is $49,402 and a Media Production Director mid-point is $86,229. The median salary for an Art Director is at $61,219 and a Creative Director $69,796. With this data, and depending on your daily job duties, you are either really underpaid or right on the money. This range shows why it is so important to use to understand what the market can bear for your job. When doing your research on, make sure you look at the job description and not just the job title, as that will help guide what job best matches your actual responsibilities.

Once you have a grasp on what is a fair salary range, start outlining your value. For example, demonstrate what you bring to the job, what you have accomplished, where you have increased the bottom-line, etc. You have to be able to succinctly state how your performance has directly impacted the business using factual data points.

Research Your Company
You mentioned “the economy and the company bottom-line” as reasons for concern. We assume you mean, “the economy is lousy” and “my company isn’t doing that great.” For starters, leave the economy part out of this and focus on your company. Ask yourself, what did 2012 look like? How was Q1 and Q2 performance? Your company should be open about business performance, and if not sharing the exact numbers at least giving indicators that revenues are steady, up or down. Also, find out when merit increases happen (you can ask HR if you are not comfortable asking your manager). If the company is not meeting revenue goals, your salary request will most likely fall on deaf ears. But, if the company is growing and you have contributed to that growth, it’s time to ask (plan a meeting with your boss at least one month prior to merit increases). Remember in 2010, 90 percent of companies were on salary freezes. However, in 2012, only 10 percent of companies were on freezes. Overall, salary increases are coming back and it’s time to understand the value of what you do.

Before you meet with your employer, carefully select the percentage increase to negotiate. Although salary freezes appear to be over, keep in mind that salary increase percentages have remained flat at around 3 percent. There are three ways to think about this percentage. Based on your research:

  1. Are you looking to bring your salary up to a fair market value?
  2. Are you looking for a performance-based increase?
  3. Both

It’s rare to see a percentage increase more than 10 percent without an equity adjustment (which is meant to bring someone in-line with market value), promotion, job change or relocation. These criteria will help you select a percentage that is fair and feasible.

Last but not least, set a meeting to ask for the raise. Make sure you remain measured and data-focused. You are selling yourself and your performance, and in many cases prepping your manager to make a salary increase request up the ladder on your behalf. While we certainly can never promise the desired outcome, we can give you salary-related advice to empower you to understand the value of what you do. Good luck!

Do you have an upcoming salary negotiation? If so, be sure to check out these important tools:

  •'s new & improved Personal Salary Report
  • Salary negotiation tips for every situation