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How Should I Ask for a Raise?

Do you think you should be making more money? Well, who doesn’t?

Asking for a salary raise at work is far from casual and it’s probably one of the most nerve-racking discussions with your boss.

Talking about money is taboo in our culture and can be intricate - because of this, many of us feel uneasy about salary negotiation. Research shows that one of the most common reasons for not negotiating salary is feeling uncomfortable asking for additional income. But doing the right research and preparation can make you feel more confident and better set for success.

How you prepare for a salary discussion can include getting a sense of salaries in your industry, finding ways to demonstrate your performance, and checking in with the bigger picture – including what economic conditions are like.

With this in mind, it’s important to set up a meeting with your boss or manager. Ideally, you want to do this privately and in person, but a video call is an option. Ask to set up a short meeting to discuss your salary, rather than bringing it up at an unrelated meeting or without notice.

How to Ask for a Raise

Before you even begin to craft your pitch for the pay raise you so deserve, you need to have the knowledge to back up your claims and to consider the mood and environment you’re walking into.

Here are some of the best ways to ask for a raise:

Know your company’s raise and budget cycles - If you work for a company that generally gives raises once a year, pay attention to when that normally happens. At some companies, it might be around the anniversary of your start date. Others might assess everyone’s salary at the same time, like each December, often tied to your employer’s fiscal year and budget process.

Do market research. You want to have some facts or data to back up your request. One good resource for this is O*NET where you can pull salary information for specific roles (and you can even drill down by your specific geography). You’ll want to focus on benchmarks in your industry vs. leaning on something personal such as “I need more money”.

 Request a meeting - Ask your boss when they might have a block of time free to discuss a question regarding your salary. You might even see if they are available for a meeting, which might be a more comfortable setting in which to have the conversation.

If an in-person conversation isn't feasible, a private video discussion would be an alternative.

 Start with the positives about your role and what you’re proud of - It helps if you set up a folder on your computer or in your email account to store all those notes from clients, your boss, and your colleagues in which you were commended for a great job. It is so important to constantly conduct regular self-evaluations. These are regular reviews you do of your work in addition to any formal annual review or performance review you and your boss might have.

 Talk about your achievements - With your self-evaluations, you're keeping a detailed track record of all your past achievements and recent accomplishments. This information is the "glue" to your request because nothing speaks louder than data and facts.

 Know what to say if the answer is “no” or “maybe” – If your boss doesn’t give you a firm yes and instead says he will think about it or will get back to you, that’s totally fine. Lots of managers won’t say “yes” on the spot. But if you get a “maybe”, make sure you’re clear on what next steps are. And if the answer is a “no”, this is a perfect opportunity to ask what things could take you to earn a raise in the future. A decent manager should be able to explain to you what you need to improve or to do to earn more.

 Be ready for questions – If you’ve asked for a raise at a good time and given evidence that you deserve to be paid more, you should expect your manager to give your request a careful consideration. Further, you can expect them to ask you follow-up questions or they may object. You can also expect there would be some negotiation from your initial requested salary, listen carefully on how your manager responds and if you feel unsettled return back to your evidence to strengthen your case.

 Thank your manager – It is always a good gesture to thank your boss regardless of how the conversation about your pay request went through. End it by thanking them for their time and do not express any negative reaction.

How Not to Ask for a Raise

Don’t ask via email or other means of messaging. Although it’s acceptable to schedule a meeting via email, you really should have the conversation about getting a raise in person. It’s the best way to show that you’re serious and will also allow you to gauge your boss’s reaction to your request.

 Know the right timing. Use common sense when you approach your supervisor about the possibility of a raise. If your boss is particularly stressed and overworked, it’s probably not the best time to bring up the topic. If you can, wait it out and ask during a lull, or at least when you see that your supervisor is in a good mood.

 Don’t give a deadline unless you’re willing to lose the job. Be careful about how you propose the topic. You don’t want to come across as too demanding. Of course, be confident and assertive in your request, but be aware of your tone and focus on being patient, professional, and understanding.

 Never use information about colleagues’ salaries as a reason why you should get a raise. Avoid bringing office gossip into your discussion. Even if you know someone makes more money than you and you think that you deserve a salary that’s equal or higher - it’s advisable not to mention it.

 Don’t focus on too much personal information. Ideally, you should try to craft your proposal in a way that focuses on the reasons why you deserve an increase in salary, rather than why you might need one. Some things are better left unsaid when you're talking about a pay increase. Unless you have an exceptionally familiar relationship with your supervisor, it’s a good idea to avoid citing personal reasons.

If you feel you’re not being compensated fairly and aren’t making any progress with your current employer despite all your achievements and contributions, consider looking for another job.