Once you're convinced that you deserve (as opposed to "want" or "need") a better-than-average raise, obtaining it is primarily a communication problem.

The thought: "John deserves a really good raise" must be transferred from your mind to the mind of the person who decides how much money will be in your paycheck. Unfortunately, that other person is likely to resist your idea because he's rewarded for controlling costs, not for recommending or approving better-than-average raises.

Overcoming such resistance will require determination and patience. And it will be a many-step process. The idea will have to be planted, for instance in the Head Butler's mind in installments over a period of time. Forget about winning him over in one dramatic confrontation where you do a brilliant selling job. Most really good raises are won through organized campaigns, not by brief displays of verbal dexterity at evaluation time.

While you plan your campaign, keep these two points in mind: 

  • You are more likely to win by working within the established evaluation/compensation system than you are by trying to get an exception made in your case.
  • If your methods of lobbying for a raise are so intense that they strike the Head Butler as "pushy," you may never get what you want. In fact, you could end up losing ground.


These cautions aside, there's no time like the present to start making your case for a better-than-average raise. Yes, there are some pitfalls to avoid, but the sooner you start toward them, the sooner you'll be able to step around them and go on down the road toward your goal.

Surveys confirm that the core issues for most people below the upper levels of management are advancement opportunities, pay, and respect. Yet these are precisely the issues that most people have trouble discussing with their employers. That's why employers so often have no idea that someone is dissatisfied until they're given two weeks' notice.

Of course, firing your boss sometimes works out the best for all concerned. But more often a little assertiveness in discussing job issues or money will produce a better result, an appropriate resolution or increase, a rededicated employee, and an employer who doesn't have to worry about finding and training a replacement. Looked at in this way, communicating about money is actually a helpful act, something that you can do for your employer, as well as yourself.

But let's be honest. Negotiating about money is at the very top of the discomfort zone on most assertiveness scales. Still, anyone who wants to live with relative satisfaction in the private service world must learn to do it, coolly, calmly, and with goodwill. And like anything else, negotiating for money becomes easier as you gain more experience doing it.


Here's how to proceed. Ask questions to learn as much as possible about the compensation policies of your family.

  • What is your family's pay plan?
  • What is the maximum raise given?
  • How is your performance evaluated?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement?
  • What do you have to do to qualify for those opportunities?
  • When are raises given?
  • What do other positions make? (this information is difficult to obtain. However, check out The Guild's info pages on the web.)


Let your actions show that you deserve the raise you want. Find out what standards your boss, or the Head Butler uses for measuring performance. Concentrate on the achievements he values. Only accomplishments that your boss appreciates will motivate a raise. Concentrate your efforts in the areas (projects, skills, abilities, work habits) that the Head Butler particularly values.

This may be as good a place as any to point out that your own judgment that you deserve a raise won't, by itself, get you one. And working hard doesn't necessarily earn raises either. If you have to work hard to accomplish what others do more easily, you may be admired for stretching, but you probably won't receive a raise right away. Consider yourself in a training program for easier, quicker performance, and a future raise.

Keep a log of your progress. Note special accomplishments and particular victories. Quantify improvements where you can. "I followed up on the Cuisine delivery problem and saved the family a lot of money while you were on vacation." "I completed the advanced course in FoxPro." "I've taken over the purchasing responsibilities for the Chef and saved the family more than $20,000 in the last quarter by negotiating better prices from four of our suppliers."

Ask for a raise. This is absolutely basic, but it's amazing how few people actually do it. Sometimes people don't want to put the boss on the spot, or run the risk of being turned down. But if you don't ask, everybody thinks you're satisfied. Research shows that women ask for raises even less frequently than men. Natalie Eldridge, a career counselor at the University of Texas, says: "Women don't ask for a raise as often as men simply because they don't usually think of it. Though they think they're worth a raise, they wonder if they're worthy of one. But if you put your request in non-threatening terms, the worst that will happen is that you won't get your increase, but if you don't ask, you'll never get one."

If you've never asked for a raise and aren't sure you have the self-confidence to just flat out do it, a simple (and usually disarming) way to approach the matter of money is to tell the Head Butler, "I'm interested in asking for a raise. How would you do that if you were me?" More often than not this both breaks the ice and leads toward a friendly conversation about your compensation.

Still not sure you're ready to talk to the Head Butler? Get out the tape recorder and practice speaking your piece. Say the words over and over again until you're satisfied with the way you sound on the tape. This is an effective, proven way to prepare for your meeting with your boss.

Don't say you need a raise. Give reasons you deserve a raise. If you have salary survey information that indicates other employers pay more for similar work, you might mention that to the Head Butler. Point out the significance of your work. Emphasize the symbolic meaning of a raise. "What I am paid tells everyone, including me, what I am worth." Name a specific amount that is the highest figure you can justify. You can always negotiate downward, but don't jump at the first offer you get, you can usually negotiate that upward.

Incidentally, if you really believe your job should be reclassified within the pay plan, pursue that possibility with the Head Butler. But be ready for a tussle: that's typically a tough battle. Often it's easier to move into a position that already has a higher classification.


It's really the best way to clarify what each of you expects of the other. And the subjects of money and career advancement that may seem threatening as one-time discussion topics can become reasonably comfortable if they are part of a continuing dialogue.

But even so, you may have to be patient. Most families operate within established policies regarding when salaries are/can be raised and by how much. Head Butlers are not free to dispense raises when their staff members deserve them, and in these days of low inflation, even the biggest raises may be capped at five percent.

Nevertheless, the bottom-line advice has to be: don't give up. Keep working, patiently, to convince the Head Butler that you do indeed deserve a better-than-average raise. Once you've done that, you'll have gained a powerful ally in persuading the family to give it to you.

If you aren't given the raise you want right now, try to find out if or when you might expect it.

Ask what you need to do to earn more. If the Head Butler appears to agree that you deserve higher pay, but he can't grant you a raise right now, ask for further training, a membership in a professional association, or some other benefit. Often, even when the salary budget is zapped, there's money in the training budget or the Head Butler's own discretionary account.

Whatever happens, keep your attitude and demeanor businesslike. Win, lose, or draw, stand up and smile, shake hands and express your appreciation when the discussion is over. "I appreciate the time you've taken to explain why the family can't give any 10% raises right now," or "I appreciate your willingness to take my request to the family. I'll prepare a written statement explaining why I think I deserve an ten percent raise this year."