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How To Ask for a Raise at Work (And How Not To)

Asking for a raise at work can be a stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to be. How to ask for a raise is an important skill you should learn because it will significantly impact the trajectory of your career and your overall financial well-being.

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t earn enough and have been wondering when and how to ask for a raise at work, you’ve come to the right place. Learn about asking for a raise, from how to time your request to the dos and don’ts that will set you up for success.

When to ask for a raise

Timing is crucial when it comes to asking for a raise. You want to avoid catching your boss off guard or approaching them at the wrong time. To give yourself the best shot of having your request approved, here are some moments when it makes sense to make your request:

During performance reviews: One of the most common times to discuss a raise is during an annual performance review. When your achievements and contributions are fresh in your supervisor’s mind, it’s logical to ask them to increase your compensation to match the value you’re providing.

When your company plans its budget: Companies typically plan their budgets for the upcoming year in the fourth quarter of the previous year. This makes the fourth quarter another great time to make your case for a raise to ensure your higher salary is baked into next year’s budget.

After significant achievements: If you’ve recently accomplished something meaningful at work, like landing a major client or completing a successful project, use the momentum to your advantage. Your achievement will be top of mind for your boss, which increases your negotiating power.

When you take on more responsibilities: If your workload increases significantly or you’ve assumed new roles and responsibilities, requesting more money to match your workload is reasonable.

After hitting performance goals: If you’ve consistently met or exceeded your performance goals, you’ve built a strong case for a salary increase.

Remember, timing is critical. You want to choose a moment when your achievements and contributions are evident and well-aligned with your company’s goals. The more you demonstrate that your performance will continue to improve as your salary increases, the greater the chances that your request will be approved.

How to ask for a raise at work

Review the steps to approach the conversation effectively now that you’ve identified the right time to ask for a raise.

Request a meeting

Before you sit down with your supervisor to discuss your compensation, it’s important that you formally request a meeting. Don’t surprise them with your request. Instead, send an email or approach them in person to explain that you’d like to discuss your compensation.

Tell your boss you believe it’s an appropriate time to have this conversation, considering your contributions since your last raise. By scheduling a meeting dedicated to compensation, you’re respecting your supervisor’s time and avoiding catching them off guard.

Dress for success

Regardless of how casual your workplace may be, your appearance may affect how your request is perceived. Dressing for the role or level you want reinforces that you’re a professional who takes your career seriously.

Do your research

To make a compelling case for a raise, you need to research and be prepared. Here are a few steps to gather the information you’ll need:

  • Research salaries online: Websites like Salary.com, PayScale, Glassdoor, and Comparably offer great insight into salary ranges for thousands of jobs. You can use these platforms to read salary reports and compare your current compensation against industry standards. LinkedIn also offers a comprehensive tool with compensation data based on specific job titles and locations.
  • Analyze current job postings: Browse job postings within your industry or field and note any available salary information. This will give you an up-to-date sense of the salaries offered for similar roles in different companies.
  • Consider localization: Salaries vary by location due to differences in the cost of living, so remember that whatever numbers you find online may need to be adjusted to match your local employment market.
  • Document your findings: As you do your research, create a summary that outlines the average salaries for your role, both nationally and locally, and any other relevant data that supports your case for a raise. Bring this to your compensation meeting and present it if you need additional data to support your request. Being prepared in this way reinforces your professionalism and demonstrates that your request is based on industry standards and real-world data.

Focus on offering value

Center the conversation on the value you bring to the company, not your individual needs or desires. The fact that you want or “need” a raise is not a sufficient reason for your boss to give it to you. Emphasizing the value you offer your company is a far more persuasive approach.

Here are a few ways to keep the conversation focused on the value you offer as an employee:

  • Align your goals with company goals: Highlight how your contributions and achievements have directly contributed to your company’s success. Emphasize how your work has improved the company’s bottom line and ability to execute its strategy.
  • Quantify your impact: Whenever possible, use quantifiable data to illustrate your impact in the workplace. Have you increased sales by a certain percentage, streamlined processes, or improved customer satisfaction ratings? Use these numbers to prove your value and make your case for a raise more compelling.
  • Emphasize your long-term commitment: Explain how continuing to invest in your professional development will benefit your company over time. This approach shows that you’re focused on the organization’s future success and plan to stay with them for a long time.

Be prepared for questions

During your compensation meeting, your supervisor will likely challenge you with some pointed questions. Here are two common questions your boss is likely to ask that you’ll want to prepare for:

  1. What additional responsibilities or projects will you take on if your request is granted? Your boss wants to know that increasing your salary will positively impact the company, not just increase its expenses. Be ready to discuss specific ways you’ll further contribute to help the company reach its goals.
  2. How do you see your role evolving within the company over the next few years? This question assesses your long-term commitment to your company. Explain how you envision your role contributing to the company’s growth and success and how increasing your salary aligns with that future.
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How not to ask for a raise

Learning how not to ask for a raise is as important as knowing how to ask for one. Here are a few pitfalls you should avoid:

Avoid email requests

A common mistake some employees make is asking for a raise over email. Email lacks the personal touch and nuance required for such a significant conversation, and it may not convey the seriousness of your request.

Instead, opt for a face-to-face meeting or a video call if you’re working from home or an in-person meeting isn’t possible.

Avoid giving ultimatums

Using ultimatums as a negotiating tactic is risky unless you’re ready to leave your job. Threatening to resign if your raise request isn’t met can have immediate negative consequences.

First, it can strain your relationship with your employer and create an uncomfortable working atmosphere. But it can also lead to your boss accepting your resignation, which may not match your long-term career goals.

Instead, it’s more effective to focus on the value you bring to the organization, your achievements, and your long-term dedication. This is more likely to get you the desired outcome without risking your professional relationships or job security.

Avoid negative language

Like ultimatums, using negative language or adopting a sour attitude during a raise discussion will hurt your chance of success. Not only will your approach overshadow your achievements, but it will also leave a lasting impression on your boss after the meeting. Even if your raise request is granted, your employer may remember the negative tone of the discussion, which can affect future interactions and opportunities for career advancement within the company.

Maintaining a positive and professional demeanor throughout the raise discussion will make it easier for everyone. Steer clear of hostile language, complaints, and a confrontational attitude. A positive and collaborative approach will be more helpful.

Avoid comparing your raise to colleagues’ raises

Comparing your raise request to what your colleagues have received is often counterproductive. Every employee’s situation is unique, and factors like performance and responsibilities can vary widely across team members.

Rather than making comparisons, focus on your individual contributions and the value you bring to the organization. Highlight your achievements and how they warrant a raise based on your merits.

Ask for a raise with confidence

Asking for a raise is an important skill to develop to get the most out of your career. Timing matters, as does doing your research and focusing on how you can provide value to your company (not the other way around). Go in prepared so you can anticipate the questions you’ll be asked. Try to avoid common pitfalls like giving ultimatums.

If you’re considering taking a new job for a higher salary, read more about whether you should switch jobs for the money.

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