Hot-Seat Conversations

Hot-Seat Conversations

Strategies for snagging that raise, promotion, or time off.

You have a couple more months of 2013 to thrive and strive, but my guess is you’re already thinking about the year ahead. Perhaps year-end involves reviews for yourself or your employees. With that come thoughts of dollar signs, bigger titles, and maybe even some extended time away from the office. Make this process easier on everyone by being more intentional. Here are some tips for your approach to these wish-list items.

The Raise

Do your own assessment of strengths and accomplishments from the year—both yours and your team’s. When you have these accomplishment highlights top-of-mind, they become easy to draw on to lay the groundwork for a compensation conversation.

Use a clear and active voice to showcase your wins. Know your audience. If your hot-seat conversation is with someone who is data-driven, be sure to have documentation to support your requests.

“Employers want to know what you have done for them,” points out Executive Recruiter Marni Hockenberg of Minnetonka-based Hockenberg Search. “How have you increased revenue? How have you decreased operating costs? What new customers did you bring in, and how much revenue was realized through business development successes?” If you’re the boss, make it obvious to your team what you expect to see and hear when they want more moolah.

When you do ask, do so with intention. State the figure you have in mind with confidence. Do your homework on all possibilities. This may include thoroughly understanding your company’s financials as well as researching what other, similarly situated people are asking. And remember: “Take your emotions and put them on the shelf,” Hockenberg says. “This is a business conversation.”

Your pay raise conversation may bring to light financial constraints within the company. Perhaps you already knew about some, but others are a surprise. Know what you might accept instead of money. Part of your prep for these hot-seat conversations includes listing acceptable alternatives (see below) to increased pay. I suggest you keep that list to yourself and only reference it should you need to.

The Promotion

As an alternative to or in addition to a raise, your hot-seat conversation may involve a promotion request. Be intentional. If you have done the prep work, you have already visualized not only this conversation, but also the next steps in your own professional timeline. A promotion at this stage may be the best scenario for the year ahead. If the company isn’t giving raises, suggest revisiting dollars during the first quarter of 2014. For now, try to land the promotion or better title.

Once again, it’s important to remember your audience. What are his, her, or their motivators? Discuss the future with the decision-maker, suggests Bob Cannon vice president of U.S. sales for Medtronic’s Gastro/Urology Therapies. Cannon is responsible for 280 salespeople across the country.

“The most persuasive conversations are focused not only on the contributions you’ve already brought to the table, but also on the successes yet to come. How will you help the organization win moving ahead? And do your past successes lend credibility to your plans?” The more data points you know about the decision-makers, meshed with your clear vision for how you can contribute to the organization’s future, the better equipped you are to accomplish your goal.

The Sabbatical

Another approach, especially if your company is experiencing financial challenges, is to find out if a sabbatical could be a win-win. In exchange for some time away from the office, set some business growth ideas for which you return with gathered data. You might even have a proposal for how the company could use your research for future revenue.

Use concise language as you describe your proposal. If you’re facing a sabbatical request from an employee, consider the benefits to your entire team as you make the decision. During a sabbatical, the employee can refresh, but also learn new skills. That new knowledge could benefit everyone on the team once he or she returns, and could enrich the entire company.

Gratitude and Celebration

A few words about good words: Take the time to thank those involved in your hot-seat discussions. And by all means, celebrate your results when your intentionality pays off.

Roshini Rajkumar (on Twitter @RoshiniR and Facebook at is a communication coach, host of News & Views on WCCO Radio, and author of Communicate That!

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