A creative pay raise

I came up with a bold but sensible request.

by Anna Gelbman Edmonds


It was time for my annual review, which I knew would go well. However, I wasn’t sure how much of a raise I’d be getting, though I was confident one was coming.

The problem was that I not only wanted a raise, I wanted to work fewer hours.  How could I finagle that?

I had a good reason for wanting to work less than 40 hours. I was telecommuting as a copywriter and was on my laptop all day. My eyes were burning out and too tired to do any leisurely reading when I was off the clock.  As an hourly employee I had to get in my eight hours every day. Worse, all that screen time left me too exhausted to pursue freelance writing and editing gigs that paid three times what I earned at my full-time job.

The problem was compounded when my boss phoned me up and basically did my review over the phone and let me know he was giving me a 10 percent raise.  I listened with my heart racing, not sure how to respond. I wanted to present my case to him, but he’d beat me to the punch.

I somehow managed to thank him and let him know how generous that was, but I had been thinking in more creative terms. He agreed to give me a few days to formulate my plan and then meet.

A friend who’s more skilled with figures than I helped me come up with a bold but sensible request. I told my boss  I didn’t want a raise. I wanted to make the same amount annually but work only 30 to 32 hours per week and maintain my benefits, including my semi-annual bonuses. I explained why I needed fewer hours and assured him he’d get the same quality work out of me and probably better. I sat back and smiled. My boss just stared back at me and blinked.

Then he smiled and said, “Let me think about it.”  That was the scary part. I knew my plan of dividing  my current average annual earnings by 32 hours weekly was tantamount to a 23% raise in my hourly rate ­– more than double what he’d offered. But I also knew two other things:  1) he valued me as an employee and 2) he new the value of a dollar.

Within two hours he gave me his approval. I never asked for another raise during the next two years I worked for him. But, because I now freelance for him on occasion, he pays the much higher rate I charge all my clients!

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