10 Ways to Avoid Pay Freezes and Negotiate More Money During the Recession

Published May 05, 2009

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Many of the nation's employers have turned to pay freezes to save money and avoid layoffs. This has left more than a few employees feeling short-handed. If you're one of them, you don't have to take the situation lying down. Although it can be difficult to avoid a pay freeze and negotiate a pay increase during a recession, it is possible.

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Find Out How Much You're Worth

The first thing you should do is find out your market worth. There are a number of sites online that will help you do this. Salary.com is a good one to try. This site's Salary Wizard can create free and fee-based salary reports that determine a salary range based on your job title, job location and the job duties you perform. You can cross check this information by contacting the competition, searching job ads and obtaining stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Make Yourself Worth More

Making yourself more valuable to your employer is one of the best ways to receive performance based compensation. You can do this through initiative, education, training or certification. Other ideas include tackling new projects and helping out in other departments. Cross-trained employees are always more valuable to employers regardless of industry.

Document Your Success

Saying you deserve a raise in the middle of a pay freeze or recession isn't enough. You need to have documentation that backs up your claim. This documentation should include facts and figures that detail your level of performance over a six-month period (a one-year period would be even better.)

Find a Way to Save Your Company Money

Finding a way to save the company money is a sure-fire way to free up funds for pay raises and other employee benefits. Start by looking within your department--review everything from the amount of money spent on paperclips to the annual cost of labor. Then, think company-wide. There are always ways to cut corners and save. The more money you free up, the more you can ask for in return.

Take On More Responsibility

Getting a promotion isn't a guaranteed way to earn a higher salary, but it certainly doesn't hurt. If you can't get an official promotion within your company, give yourself one by accepting your current duties willingly and taking on extra responsibilities. Also, be ready to help out in other areas whenever necessary

Come Up with a Incentive Proposal

For some employees--those in management, human resources, sales, marketing, advertising, etc--it is easier to get incentive pay than it is to get a straight out pay increase. Employers often budget for incentives and may be more open to incentive-pay than other types of increases. If you decide to try an incentive proposal, come up with something smart that is a win-win for you and your employer.

Don't Ask for Money

Getting extra cash in your paycheck is always nice, but there are other ways to get more money from your employer. You can ask for more paid vacation, additional sick days, personal days, better insurance, tuition reimbursement, travel benefits or a car allowance. Often times, these negotiable perks are easier to get than a pay raise--particularly during a recession or pay freeze.

Be Confident

It's a known fact that employers can smell confidence. If they don't smell it on you when you're asking for a raise, you'll be out the door before you finish your request. It is absolutely essential that you maintain a confident demeanor when asking for more money. Remember--you aren't asking for anything you don't deserve. There is no reason to be shy or mealy-mouthed.

Leave Your Home Life Out of It

Although you may need a raise for personal reasons, it is better to leave your home life out of the negotiations. Employers may feel bad that your spouse is laid off or that your mortgage rate is now higher, but they aren't likely to give you more money because of it. You will be much better off making a performance-based request for more money.

Find Your Own Breaks

In some circumstances, it may be impossible to get an employer to lift a pay freeze or pay out more during troubled economic times. If you find yourself in this situation, don't give up on the idea of more money. Instead, find your own breaks to put extra cash in your pocket. There are a number of tax deductions you can take advantage of. Many hourly and salaries workers deduct commuting expenses, job search expenses, the cost of work clothes and other items. Talk to an accountant to see if you can take advantage of any of these tax breaks. You can also try using the knowledge and training you do have to make money on your own. Self-employed workers--even those who are only self-employed part-time--can deduct all sorts of business expenses.

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