two women having an online meeting
Ensuring that you approach the situation with grace and are also prepared to make your request virtually are just a few skills to keep in mind when asking for a raise mid-crisis. — Getty Images/AJ_Watt

Merchants around the country are still grappling with the economic fallout from COVID-19. As some states struggle to reopen, small businesses are cutting back with hiring freezes, unpaid leave and even layoffs.

However, this is also the moment when a raise can make a big difference in your life. If you’re supporting other family members or facing other new pandemic-related expenses, a raise can change everything. And data shows that only 17% of firms are expecting to cancel pay raises. It’s not the worst time to ask for a raise. Here’s how to do it.

[Read more: Offering Employee Benefits? Here’s How to Afford Them]

Approach the topic gracefully

Start by acknowledging that times are tough. “You should say, ‘I know it’s not a conversation to have right now, but here’s what I’ve accomplished so far,” says David Ginchansky, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.

Don’t go into the negotiation expecting an immediate yes. Instead, treat the initial ask as an open door: Put your raise request on your manager’s radar so they know you’re interested.

Monique Mollere, senior vice president of Talascend, told Yahoo News that timing is everything. “The request should be based on [one of] the following: your performance review has come up for consideration if on a regular schedule; your role has changed and you have taken on additional responsibilities; you have met or exceeded the goals/performance expected of you over the last year; or you have obtained additional education or certifications that add value to your role and the company.”

It’s probably a bad idea to ask for a raise just after layoffs or furloughs. Read the room before you broach the subject.

Build a business case

Have you learned a new skill during lockdown? Have you managed remote employees through this crisis? Prepare a few reasons why your work warrants a pay raise. Highlight how your work has led to specific business results. For instance, an IT manager can show how migrating files to a secure cloud platform has allowed the business to keep running remotely without the risk of a cyberattack. Or, a sales representative can show how building an e-commerce platform during COVID-19 has sustained income for the company.

Learn what skills you have that are in demand during a pandemic. What talent do you have that’s indispensable during this time? Part of building a business case is also learning how much to ask for. Current job openings can tell you a lot about what companies are seeking. “Research salaries for someone with your responsibilities, education, and experience,” said Fast Company.

In addition to helping your company plan for the future, you can also ask for short-term wins that give you confidence that the business is still invested in you.

Keep it future-focused

It’s possible that the immediate answer will be no; in which case, you will need to have a Plan B. Consider what your company’s goals are as you begin building your case. “Would your promotion enable your boss to offload tasks that would free up his or her time for more strategic activities? Look for voids that you might fill or problems you might alleviate,” wrote Fast Company.

In addition to helping your company plan for the future, you can also ask for short-term wins that give you confidence that the business is still invested in you. For instance, if you can’t have a pay raise, ask for a bonus, a new position title, expanded benefits or professional development opportunities. Alternately, if you hear a no, ask if you can revisit this conversation at a later date. “No” is not the same as “never,” so don’t get discouraged!

Learn how to negotiate virtually

There’s a good chance you’re going to have this conversation with your boss or manager from a distance. Asking for a raise virtually is a little different than having the discussion in person.

“While there are some challenges to virtual negotiations, such as difficulty building trust or potential for misinterpretation, not being in the same room as your boss can actually bring distinct advantages,” said Fast Company.

For one thing, a virtual appointment makes it possible for all stakeholders to be in the discussion at the same time. You, your boss, your manager, and any other decision-maker can all join a virtual call easily. And the power dynamic is equal: Everyone is meeting in the same virtual chat room, rather than in the impressive (and intimidating) CEO suite.

You also need to make sure the connection is stable and everyone can hear you. “Try to meet on a virtual platform where people can see your face. The fact is that in negotiation, the more we can see, the more we trust and it really helps to not do it over the phone,” one expert told Yahoo News.

[Read more: Expert Advice on How to Support Your Employees During a Crisis]

For more resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published July 16, 2020