How to Ask for a Raise

Money Talks

If the thought of sitting down with your boss and asking for a raise seems highly intimidating, you aren’t alone. Although it’s not always an easy conversation to have, when backed by some research, key talking points, and a little confidence, the discussion becomes a lot less scary. Just remember, you and your employer are a team, so approach the conversation accordingly!

Plan Your Timing

Perhaps one of the biggest questions people often have about asking for a raise is timing. While there is no universal time to ask for a shift in your compensation, there are a few situations in which it just makes sense. For starters, it’s best to avoid asking during a sensitive time. If your department just reported low numbers or your company recently went through a round of layoffs, it’s best to table the conversation. On the other hand, it may be more favorable to ask for a raise around a performance review, at the end of the fiscal year, or if you’ve recently taken on more responsibility or have had a shift in job duties. Reflect on your company’s pay increase practices, and plan accordingly.

Come Prepared

graphic illustration of male worker discussing a raise with his boss

To increase your odds of successfully receiving a raise, it would be wise to have a few things prepared. It can be helpful to determine if you are currently being paid fairly. The easiest way to do this is to use online tools to evaluate how your salary stacks up against others in your market when factoring in experience, job duties, location, employer size, and other benefits. In addition to providing some market research, it can also be helpful to remind your employer of how long you have been with the company and some of your major accomplishments from the last six months to a year. The last piece to a well-rounded compensation conversation is to not just talk about what you’ve recently accomplished, but also your plans for the future. Present your boss with your goals for the next year, and explain how those objectives would benefit the company.

Know Your Numbers

Now that you have some clarity on when and how to ask for a raise, you may be wondering how much is appropriate. In general, the standard pay increase is around 3% with 5% often being seen as exceptional. That being said, if your role has drastically changed and you’ve taken on a lot more responsibility, 10-20% could be warranted. During the conversation, it is important to remain professional and express gratitude regardless of the outcome. Give your boss time to consider the request, and know that they may have to get the change approved by another entity or individual. If that is the case, allow a few weeks to pass before revisiting the conversation. You also need to be prepared to receive a no. If that happens, ask your employer what you can do to improve your chances for better compensation in the future. A good manager will be transparent about their reasons.

What is the key to having a discussion about compensation run smoothly?

“Build a case to support your request for a salary increase before you enter the conversation. Research market rates for similar roles, and be ready to highlight a few of your significant accomplishments. If the budget doesn’t allow for a monetary raise, be prepared to negotiate for additional benefits, like extra vacation time or the flexibility to work from home.”

What is your top tip for having a challenging conversation with your boss?

“Entering any challenging conversation with transparency, diplomacy, and options for potential resolve is key to getting the desired results. Understand that in the absence of communication, there could be unchecked perceptions that become one’s reality that may not necessarily be what’s true. In a CEO or leadership role, having a focus on the overall organizational health is often more common than a granular focus, and organizational leaders often have some context that others may not. Those are, at times, the missing pieces that need to be discovered. Typically, through question asking there are new discoveries on both ends which could yield solutions to challenges.”

What is the key to having a discussion about compensation run smoothly?

“Understand how and why your employer sets compensation for its employees. Who is the person who actually determines your compensation and can authorize an increase in your salary? Start your conversation with, “Why am I paid the salary I am paid?” Then go on to explain why you believe your work for the company is undervalued. If you fail to get to the compensation level you desire, ask what you can do to achieve the desired compensation and when the topic can be revisited."

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