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If you are reading this article, then there has never been a better time than now to ask for a raise. It’s as simple as that. If you are looking for tips on how to ask for a raise, then this is your place. I have asked, and been asked, for raises so many times that I have lost count. There are effective ways to do this that will increase your chance of getting that pay bump.
Are You Ready for a Raise?
One thing to keep in mind is that if you are asking for a raise, you should ensure that you are delivering top performance before, during and after the time you request an increase. If you are not sure if you are performing at a top level, then you must seek that information from your supervisor or mentor prior to asking for a raise.
You should be engaging your supervisor at least monthly in a formal sit down. This is something ingrained in many corporate cultures; however, it is up to you to ensure you make it happen. Get on your boss’s calendar. Ask to talk about future expectations and insight on how you can improve. If you do this, you will know when you deserve a raise.
Top Tips for Requesting a Raise
Alright, now that you have made it this far you know that you deserve a raise. You have been engaging your boss and understand that your performance has been at a high level. It’s time for that next pay band. Below are a series of tips from my own experience, on ways to improve your chances.
Note: These tips are not one size fits all. Rather, they are guideposts for helping you to think critically through the process.
1. Quantify What You are Worth
Whether you work for the government, the private sector or a non-profit, there is an amount of compensation where it does not make sense to keep you on the payroll. Understand that you and all the decision makers involved in this process are people with feelings, hopes and dreams but the organization you work for must balance its budget.
It’s important for you to understand the quantitative value of your work. You need to fundamentally understand how much a high performer in your job role expects to make and how much your business or organization can afford to spend on you before they have hit the inflection point on value. There is no point in asking for a raise if you are already at the top of a range… at that point you should consider moving up the ladder… but that’s a topic for a different article.
Personal Anecdote: As a young professional, I was widely regarded as an expert in my field. This designation took time and effort well beyond what my peers were willing to invest in their career. I felt that I deserved a raise, but I didn’t understand that at some point, no matter how good I was at my job, my company would no longer have a profit incentive to keep me on the payroll.
I was already the highest paid engineer on staff, however, I believed I deserved more… and I probably did. However, after pitching my case to my program manager I was told quite succinctly that for the pay I had requested, the company would be losing money on my employment. Thus, to pay me as much as I was asking it would be considered an ‘Investment.’
I was not successful at getting a raise, but the experience did give me key information: my company was not looking to ‘invest’ in its employees because of its specific business model (Government Contractor). It was not a malicious decision… it was a business decision. If I didn’t like it, I would be forced to move to another business… which I did in fact do.
So how does one know what they are worth? Research! Talk to people at work, at other companies, look online. Websites that advertise various income levels for various professions can be quite off, so make sure you keep those numbers as a very loose figure (often on the lower end).
Always make sure you look at total benefits packages. Being paid $110,000 with a 6% 401k match ($116,600 Total Compensation) is not as much as someone who makes $105,000 with a 15% 401k match ($120,650 Total Compensation). Benefits matter when doing this type of analysis.
If you work for a large company, there is a chance that an app called ‘Blind’ may have a community for you. The app allows employees to chat anonymously after verifying they have specific email addresses, to talk about how much money they make.
Since this app is anonymous, I have found that some compensation numbers seem outrageous, but with a little common sense it should shed insight into what a common compensation package looks like.
2. Time your Request Thoughtfully
Choosing the proper time to make your pay raise request is incredibly critical. There are several factors in play, but probably the most important is making sure that you understand how your request fits into the companies regular ‘pay raise cycle.’ Here is a list of timing factors to be aware of for navigating your request:
- Pay Raise Cycle: Don’t ask for a raise close to or near (before or after) your company’s normal raise or promotion period. Doing this will likely highlight that you don’t understand or are not in tune with corporate policy.
Additionally, asking for a raise during a pay raise cycle makes it easier for your manager to naturally ignore your request. It will allow them to highlight that you can make your case for more money soon or should have had the opportunity recently.
On a more positive note: If you are about to be considered for a pay raise due to an annual cycle, now is the time to make sure you submit any required assessments or documents. Keep engaging your boss highlighting the value you bring to the organization and hopefully your accomplishments will translate into the raise you were expecting.
- At the End of the Fiscal Year: Each business has a fiscal year (it may be different from company to company). Try not to schedule your request around this period. Often managers are swamped with paperwork and trying to report their costs and profits up the chain. Adding in additional costs because of your request when trying to complete their full year financial reporting is probably not the best time.
- During the Holidays: Another bad time to request a pay raise is during the holidays. Any long weekend is bad, but during the Thanksgiving / Christmas / New Years’ time frame is particularly bad.
Usually, HR departments are short of staff or gone completely. Your bosses’ supervisors or other approving authorities might be gone on vacation. Not to mention that depression is often highest during the Winter months potentially putting your request up against a usually unmotivated and pessimistic mental backdrop
3. Ask the Right Way
The next tip for asking for a raise is to ensure that you have thought about how the actual encounter will go. Most of your preparation will have been in providing stellar performance over the past year or so and ensuring that you have been engaging your boss at least monthly.
By this point, the actual encounter to make your request should be brief. What you bring to the table should be self-evident since you have already done the hard part. Asking for the raise is just the ‘uncomfortable apex,’ of a longer narrative.
Provide a short list of reasons why you believe that you have increased the value you have been providing to the organization over the last period.
Be clear about the exact number you are expecting. Whether that’s a percentage increase, or a specific dollar amount… don’t leave your supervisor left to their own devices.
One thing you should NEVER talk about in your meeting with your boss about a raise (or ever) is about why you might ‘need,’ the money. You are requesting the increase based on performance and the value provided to the company, not because you are a charity case looking for a handout.
We all work to provide for ourselves and our family. An increase in pay can make the financial part of life easier and thus may drive an emotional desire that results in anxiety. Hide these emotions when it comes to talking to your boss… it won’t help the situation. Don’t make your request based on the fact a spouse lost a job or you want a new boat.
4. Be Prepared to React
Hopefully by the end of the meeting you will be given a hard ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but in my experience, the answer is usually some sort of ‘maybe.’ This can be very frustrating but is usually unavoidable. Even if your manager or supervisor is on board to getting you a pay raise, they generally don’t that type of direct power… they must petition either their higher ups and / or HR. Thus, you need to be prepared with how you will respond to each situation:
- They say ‘Yes,’: Keep calm. It worked! Your hard work has paid off and you have been rewarded for both your performance and courage to ask for more. But don’t sound surprised. Highlight that you are excited that you have been rewarded for hard work and the things you continue to plan on doing for your company.
Now may be the time to bring up a new additional role that may help you continue to increase your value to the company such as acting as a mentor for a new hire.
- They say ‘No,’: Obviously, this will be heartbreaking, but if the answer is ‘no’ then you need to keep your cool as well. Transition the conversation to asking what the things are that you could do to eventually warrant the salary you asked for.
You will want to steer clear from further clarifying what you have done and start talking about what comes next. If you are given pointers or new performance metrics, then make sure you visibly right them down and try to sound enthusiastic about the opportunity to expand.
- They say ‘Maybe,’: This should be expected. Likely your manager doesn’t have the authority to hand out raises (even if they don’t admit it). In some industries, compensation is highly regulated. In fact, a government contractor I used to work for had to give 2 employees a raise when only one of them had earned it. This was done to maintain the regulatory requirements associated with fair pay for their particular job.
What you don’t want to happen with ‘Maybe’ is to allow it to be a cop out for indecision or for a manager who won’t tell you ‘no’. Ask for a time that you can sit down to talk about the matter further and get it on the calendar… they should reasonably be able to get to a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ within a week or 2.
If 3 weeks go by without clarification (and you have reengaged the topic) it may be necessary to look for other employment. You deserve to have an answer on the topic. If your company respects you as a person it owes you a clear cut answer to a clear cut question regardless of how uncomfortable or inconvenient it may be.
5. Believe in Yourself
This is by far the most important tip. The most important thing you can do is believe that you deserve a raise. If you don’t believe it then why would anyone else? This is a 0-sum game: for every dollar that you ask for in a raise someone else will not get a dollar.
If you don’t believe that you should get a raise, then stop where you are at. You absolutely should not ask… you don’t deserve it. Why don’t you believe it? Maybe you secretly know that you haven’t been putting in the work. You have been taking longer lunches or rarely volunteer to do the gritty part of the job.
Whatever is holding you back from believing in yourself will also, ultimately, hold you back from getting a raise.
This is where you go back to the top of the article. Put in the performance first. Ask your boss what that looks like. What do they want? Then do everything and ask your boss, “I’ve done what you’ve asked… what else can I do?” Then you will be ready to ask for a raise… and you will have earned it rightfully.
6. Be Looking Elsewhere
This may sound unexpected, but to prepare more fully to ask for a raise you need to have an exit strategy. You may have no intention of quitting your job… but this is a very necessary step. You need to go out on the market and figure out if other folks are willing to hire you. If they aren’t then you need to understand that your bargaining power may be limited.
On the other hand, if you go out and apply to several jobs and find that some of the positions offer you other ways to excel, possibly with greater opportunity and compensation then you may be able to gain some hard bargaining power. If you do receive an offer and wish to use it to negotiate your raise, make sure of 2 things:
- You are willing to quit.
- Your offer is valid, not contingent on anything and in writing.
As mentioned above, your company may not actually have the money to give to you more for financial or regulatory reasons. If you show that you have an offer somewhere else and you are not granted a raise, you must leave even if you are not forced to. Your career and any future bargaining power will have run its course at your current company, and it will be time to move on to greener pastures.
Asking for a raise can be terrifying… but only those who have the guts to actually do it will be successful. If you are thinking about asking for a raise, then you must make sure you have been putting in the work. You must be in lockstep with the expectations of your manager or supervisor. But, if you deserve it, it would be a waste to not be fairly compensated for the effort you have put in.
If you find your company is unable or unwilling to pay you a fair amount, then it’s time to look elsewhere. This is not a sign of failure… this is a sign of growth. Keep your head held up high and go get what you have been working for.
All that said, I hope you enjoyed this article. I have asked for a raise and been asked many times. I’d say the success rate was about 50%. Most of the time I wanted to give raises but was hamstrung by HR. When I asked for raises, I was always prepared with a competing job offer and did have to jump ship once or twice. In all cases it was the right decision. I had put in the work… I deserved the pay. I always love hearing reader comments, but this topic is definitely one close to my heart… post them below!