When and How to Ask For a Raise at Work

Two employees meeting in professional setting.

Feeling underpaid? It may be time to ask for a raise at work.

Asking for a raise can be a stressful proposition, but there are steps you can take to relieve your anxiety and increase your chances for success. If you're interested in earning more money, here's how to prepare for the big ask. 

Self-evaluation: Do you deserve a raise?

Of course, we all want to make more money. The question is whether or not you deserve to make more money. And while that may seem like a cold way to look at things, your ability to plead your case with actual facts and figures will go a long way. So, do you have a good case?

Before you make your request, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you meet and exceed the expectations of your job description?
  • Are you known as a person who gets things done?
  • Do you take on additional responsibility outside the realm of your job description?
  • Do others look to you for advice and leadership?
  • Are you constantly increasing your knowledge of your industry?
  • Would at least one person at work describe you as indispensable to the company?
  • Do you deliver consistent or exceptional results?

If you can convince your boss that many or all of those statements are true about you and your work, you'll be that much closer to getting your raise.

Tips on asking for a raise

Even if you feel confident about the quality of the work you do, asking for a raise can be intimidating. Following are some tips to help the process go smoothly.

Know your worth

When asking for a raise, it’s important to know what you bring to the table. Make a list of your accomplishments and contributions to help strengthen your case.

  • Show quantifiable success (for example, the percentage you have helped increase sales or the amount of money you have helped the company save by implementing a certain procedure). Consider the success of projects you've supported. Provide clear numbers if possible.
  • Highlight your unique skills and experience. What can you do that no one else can?
  • Provide positive peer feedback. Emails from coworkers and clients praising your work can serve as social proof that you are worthy of a raise. Did you get a great work review last year? Use it to help show your established history of quality work.

Do your research

Consult with others in your industry and conduct research online to find out what the going rate is for your position. Be sure to consider your level of experience, education, and city of residence as all of these factors will have some bearing on salary.

Pick the right time to ask

Before asking for a raise, consider your organization’s finances. It's often less expensive for a company to pay slightly more for an employee who already knows the job than it is to hire and train a new employee.

That being said, there are certain times when your company’s finances are tighter than others, and there are times when the budget is more receptive to change. Be sure to take into consideration your employer’s financial outlook when planning to ask for a raise.

Leave your needs out of it

You may have extremely valid personal reasons for why you want or even need to get a pay increase, but those reasons should rarely be part of the negotiation process. Raises are primarily rewarded based on merit and past success. No matter how much your boss may want to help support you, they'll have a hard time justifying a potential raise if you haven't earned it in some quantifiable way.

Have your answers ready

Expect follow-up questions. Your boss may want to ask questions about the numbers you provide, the projects you cite, the salary comparisons you use, and anything else that may come up as part of your pitch. Be familiar with any claims you make so that you're prepared in the even that your boss wants a deeper discussion on those items.

Think win/win

The relationship between employee and employer should be based on mutual benefit. When you discuss your salary with your employer, try to keep this balance in mind. Be assertive in asking for what you think you deserve, but leave ultimatums like “give me a raise or I quit” out of the discussion unless you are really ready to move on to a new job.

Remember that if your company cannot grant your request for a raise right now, increased benefits and vacation time are other “wins” that your employer may be willing to discuss in lieu of a higher salary.

Example script of asking for a raise

You should feel free to speak in your own manner, but it may be helpful to practice your pitch ahead of time. You may even want to write it down if that helps (although I wouldn't recommended reading a prepared statement as part of your pitch).

Here's a basic template to help you get started:

I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me. I wanted to discuss my recent performance and the possibility of a salary adjustment.

In the past year, I've worked on a number of major initiatives that have increased revenue and improved efficiency. My work on [project name] helped us [achievement], and my contributions to [project name] resulted in [achievement].

Considering my expertise, skills, and years with the company, as well as comparable salaries in this region, a salary increase of [desired increase] is fair. Can we make that work?

What if your employer says no to a pay raise?

Your employer may decline a salary increase for a number of reasons, which is why keeping the relationship amicable when you are discussing a pay raise is important. A “no” now is not necessarily a “no” forever. Strive to enhance your worth at the company by increasing your knowledge of your industry and broadening your work responsibilities.

Need help balancing the rest of your budget? Work with a certified counselor for free.

Tagged in Earning extra income, Budget tips, Negotiating bills and fees

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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