Asking for a raise is one of the toughest conversations to have in the workplace. Talking about money is awkward and the idea of requesting more of it from your company sounds terrifying. Understand that most people feel the same way.
Also, note that asking for a raise is expected from managers in all companies. In this post, we’ll share tips to help you ask for a raise and increase your odds of getting it.
Waiting for a Raise vs Asking for a Raise
Let’s discuss waiting for a raise vs asking for a raise.
Companies may recognize when someone has been working hard and putting out quality work. In time, a manager may give their hard-working employee a raise. In an ideal world, all companies and teams would operate like this.
However, it’s often the case that your managers are not thinking about giving out raises.
I’ll share two views:
The first is a cynical view of the company you work for. At a high level, the goal of a company is to maximize the value of the firm for shareholders. To do that, they have to extract all profits they can.
One way to extract profits is to keep payroll from rising. To keep payroll from rising, management will refrain from giving out raises when they can. If the employees aren’t asking for a raise, why give it to them?
The second view is that your manager is a busy person. She may be managing a team of a dozen individuals. She is in charge of her own duties and well as monitoring the duties of the team.
With all that goes on, you should be understanding to the possibility that your boss may not even know it has been 15 months since you’ve had a raise. She may not even sense that you are looking for a raise.
In either of the two scenarios, waiting for a raise could lead to you waiting indefinitely. By being assertive and asking for a raise, you can bring attention that you 1) want a raise, 2) deserve a raise, and 3) have not received a raise since x months ago.
What’s at Stake if You Don’t Ask for a Raise
Realizing what’s at stake if you don’t ask could motivate you to ask as soon as possible.
By not asking for a raise…
- Your salary will advance much slower.
- You let the company take advantage of your work.
- You hurt yourself financially.
- Your mental health may take a hit from less financial stability and feeling like you are not valued by your employer.
- You decrease the potential salary raise you could get if you leave for another company in the future.
- Ex: If your salary with your current employer is $50,000 and another company hires you for a 10% raise, your new salary would be $55,000. However, imagine you received a raise 6 months ago from your current employer and have a $55,000 salary. Now, when that new company hires you for a 10% raise, they hire you for $60,500.
Tips on How To Ask for a Raise
We’ll offer tips you can use for the before, during, and after of the whole process.
The most impactful things you can do to improve your chances take place before you actually ask for a raise. Thus, it’s natural that most of our tips help you with the foundation and preparation that must happen prior to asking.
1. Realize it is normal to ask for a raise
First of all, asking for a raise is completely normal in the workplace. If you have grinded away for 12 plus months and haven’t seen anything result from it, asking for a raise is reasonable.
On the other hand, if you received a raise 4 months ago, you probably shouldn’t be asking for a raise again.
It might seem like no one around you has asked for a raise, which may make you hesitant to ask yourself. Since most individuals in the workplace keep their financial matters to themselves, it makes sense why you wouldn’t hear about it. Odds are that they have been asking though.
2. Deliver value in the preceding 6 to 12 months
If you anticipate asking for a raise at a specific point of the year, do your best to deliver any value you can to the team. By delivering value in the preceding 6 to 12 months of your ask, you will accomplish things that will build your case on why you deserve a raise.
If you haven’t done anything new or valuable since your last raise, don’t expect to walk in, ask for a raise, and get it approved.
Just because a year has passed does not mean you are entitled to a raise. It’s what you have done in that year that qualifies you.
3. Document wins and praise
Keep a spreadsheet or journal and document your accomplishments and the praise you receive. When you do this, it will be easy to refer back to when you begin building your argument on why you should be paid more. Keep track of the dates, the situation, and the impact of that situation.
A bonus would be quantifying the impact you had in terms of dollars. Then you can show tangible value that resulted from your actions.
For example, you could create a spreadsheet like this:
4. Put significant thought into the timing of when you ask
I can’t stress enough how important timing is to your odds of success.
Making your request at one time can improve your chances, while asking the same exact way at a different time will lead to a definite no. Let’s dive into the different timing considerations you should think about.
a) At or after certain events
A great time to ask would be during an employee review. These typically take the form of a year-end performance review, but some companies do this quarterly.
Often, raises are awarded during this meeting, but if your meeting ends without a raise, this would be an optimal time to ask.
We have talked about delivering value. If you have busted your butt on a big project that just concluded, you have some positive PR going for you. Take advantage of that and ask for a raise while your manager is still impressed with your recent performance.
b) State of the team/company – workload
The workload of the team and company is something you should consider before asking. If your manager is swamped with work, you shouldn’t ask for a raise at that time. It’ll only add to their stress. Or, they may just deny you to avoid having to stress about it.
It’s better to make your request when the office is slower.
c) State of the team/company – financials
Think about the financial state of the company you work for. Have you guys had a big year? Is the budget looking healthy? Did money just come in from some deals closing?
If so, it’d be an opportune time to ask for a raise. If your company has been underperforming and laying people off, asking for a raise will likely lead to a “no.”
d) Manager’s state of mind
You want to ask your manager when they are free and in a good mood.
This improves your odds of success because them having free time means they can take time to consider your raise request. They also have time to think of alternative options in case they can’t give you what you want.
When they are in a good mood, they are going to be more open-minded to hearing your case.
To boost the odds of catching your manager in a good mood, consider the day of the week you ask and the time of day you ask.
e) Day of the week
Fridays are the best day to ask for a raise. On Fridays, everyone is a little more relaxed and cheerful because the weekend is on the way.
Stay away from Mondays. Trust me, one of the last things a manager wants to hear on a Monday morning is that someone wants a raise.
f) Time of the day
Everyone’s managers have different schedules and personalities. Think about what time of day is best to ask. Pick a time where work slows down and they tend to be in a good mood.
For example, my boss is fairly busy from 9 am to noon. I would not schedule a meeting to ask for a raise during that period. However, I know his afternoons tend to slow down, so I would schedule a meeting around 4:00 pm. In this example, 4:00 pm on Friday would be optimal.
5. Create an argument to prove your value and why you are deserving
When you request a raise, you are going to need to make an argument on why you deserve one. Walking in and throwing out a number to your manager would only work in a fantasy. Here are some things you can do to build a case:
a) Compile a list of value you have added
Go back to tip 3 where you documented your wins and praise. That list will be used to prove your case to your manager.
List out the value that you have added to the team. Value isn’t solely about increasing revenues to the company. Other forms of value include:
- Reducing costs
- Improving processes and efficiencies
- Taking workload off your manager
- Reducing your manager’s stress and headache
Sometimes managers need to be reminded of these other forms of value as well. When you point these out, it can open their eyes to how valuable you are to them.
b) Present the value you anticipate bringing in the upcoming year
After you have covered past value you have added, you can present the value you anticipate bringing in the new year.
If you have insight into the type of work or projects you will be working on, you can show that you are going to be bringing in even more value than you have in the past.
It’s logical to believe that if someone is bringing more to the table, they should be paid more.
c) Focus on why you deserve a raise and not why you need it
The base of your argument should be focused on why you deserve a raise, not why you need it for personal reasons. Your struggle to pay your bills or desire to buy a new home does not give you grounds to request a raise.
If you bring up these personal reasons during your request, you will come off as desperate. Keep it about your work.
d) Research what your position is paid (or what someone who does similar work is paid)
Another key to your argument is showing what other people make that have your same position.
Imagine you are a financial analyst in Los Angeles. Here’s what you would do:
- Research the salaries of financial analysts at similar companies in Los Angeles.
- Research the salaries of financial analysts at similar companies in other cities similar to Los Angeles.
- Create a range. Show the mean.
- Then show where you are versus that mean. If you are below the mean, you are technically underpaid.
- Keep the sources for these numbers on hand in case they are questioned.
In some cases, your position and your workload may be entirely different.
If your team has been piling extra work and responsibilities on you, your work may actually be more aligned with someone in a higher position than you.
For example, you may officially be an Analyst but do the work that an Associate would do. In this case, gather the duties and responsibilities of an Associate and compare them to your duties and responsibilities.
If they align, you can make the case that you should be promoted and/or paid as an Associate. Then, you would research the salaries of an average Associate and request that salary.
6. Go the extra mile and create a presentation
One way to go the extra mile and improve your chances of success is to create a presentation to show during your meeting.
Make a PowerPoint or some other form of presentation you can walk your manager through. You can present this to them on a computer screen, a projector, or through printouts. Whatever seems most reasonable for your situation.
For inspiration, your presentation can have the following slides:
- Title slide
- What you are requesting (a raise)
- Why you are requesting a raise
- Why you deserve a raise
- Value you have added
- Value you anticipate adding
- Comparisons of your salary versus the salaries of others in similar positions at similar companies in a similar geographic region.
Not only will this help you communicate your thoughts more clearly, but the act of creating the presentation can be enough to impress your manager.
7. Have responses and fallback options in case you receive a “no”
You have to be ready to hear a “no” from your manager. When your request is rejected, here are some paths you can take:
- Ask why not.
- Ask if there are other options your manager would be willing to accept.
- Negotiate other perks and benefits outside of a salary raise.
- Ask what you could do more of to get the raise you desire.
It’s rare that a manager will outright deny you without trying to work to some form of compromise. They want to keep you on the team and keep you happy. Work with them and lay out alternatives they can consider.
8. Practice your pitch and anticipated questions and responses
Once you have mapped out your argument, begin practicing your pitch.
- What will you say to start the meeting?
- What part of your case do you start with?
- What will you say if it’s a no? Or if they counteroffer something lower?
- What will your tone of voice be?
- What will your body language communicate?
These are a few things you should consider while practicing. Write out some bullet points to use as a script as you practice. Once you make progress, ditch the bullet points and practice from memory.
Talk to yourself in the mirror so you can see what you look like as you speak. Ask a friend or colleague to role play with you. Have them respond to what you say and practice responding back while on the spot.
90% of the work has been done up to this point. Now all you have to do is deliver.
9. Enter the meeting confident, yet warm and approachable
Enter the meeting casually as you always would. Act natural, but be confident, warm, and approachable. You don’t want to come in looking like you are demanding.
Enter smiling with relaxed body language. Go through the typical small talk that takes place before meetings officially start.
10. Be direct, specific, and respectful
Once the small talk is over, be direct in what you are there for. You can say something similar to the following:
“So thanks for taking the time to meet with me today. I feel that I have been working hard and have added value to the team and to the company. I would like to respectfully ask you if you would be willing to give me a raise?”
It’s short, sweet, and respectful. There is no need to beat around the bush with a long intro.
It is unlikely that your boss will say yes during that first meeting. In most cases, they will ask for time to discuss it with other decision-makers and get back to you.
After you hear the initial response from your manager, offer to show them your presentation on why you deserve a raise, from tip 6.
11. Make your manager see it as an investment and a benefit to them
As the meeting progresses, try to communicate to your manager that this raise would be an investment and something that would benefit them.
Your manager will want their life to be as easy as possible. If you are someone that enables that to happen, they will invest in you to keep you around.
12. Don’t immediately concede if you receive a “no”
If you receive a “no” do not immediately concede. You should have prepared responses for this scenario, so think back to them.
Here are some responses you could say:
- “May I ask why it’s a no?”
- “If you can’t raise my salary to $___, is there somewhere in the middle we can meet?”
- “Aside from a pay raise, are there alternative perks or benefits you can offer that would substitute? Maybe an increase to my bonus percentage, or help paying for a certification, or more paid vacation time?”
- “What would I have to do to receive the $___ salary I am requesting?”
13. Continue working hard as you did prior to asking
After you ask, continue working hard and delivering quality work, as you did before. Go even further if you can.
As your manager thinks it over, you’ll be on their mind more than you were prior to the meeting. Demonstrating your value can help them arrive at the decision that you are in fact deserving of a raise.
The worst thing you would want to do is let your foot off the pedal. This would show that you were only working hard to make yourself look good before making your request.
14. Give your manager a week or two before following up
Your manager may have the decision-making ability to grant you a raise. More likely though, they will have to go to their bosses and make the request. This is especially true in a big corporation.
With this in mind, give your manager a week or two before following up. You don’t want to bother by pressing about it each day. After time has gone by, you can stop in your manager’s office and simply say the following:
“Hey [Boss’s name] – I just wanted to follow up and see if there is any update to my raise request.”
If You Get the Raise
15. Don’t just talk the talk; walk the walk
If you got your raise, congrats! Now it’s time to back up the case you made to get it.
Show gratitude to your manager and work to the level you promised. This continued development will set you up for the next time you ask for a raise.
Mustering up the courage to ask for a raise can be difficult. Understand that asking for a raise is normal and that your boss expects this to happen sooner or later.
Go about the process in a thoughtful manner. Use the tips in this post to make everything as calculated as possible to help improve your chances of having your request granted.