How to ask for a raise

How to ask for a raise

Approaching your employer for a pay increase is, without question, one of the most angst-inducing experiences in the workplace. No matter how well prepared you are, the psychological aspect of having your request rejected can impact both your subsequent motivation to do the job and your feelings toward the boss and the organization. The following guidelines will increase your chances of a positive outcome.


Raises are typically based on a combination of merit and tenure. They may also reflect external influences on the corporate infrastructure (i.e., a merger) or an increase in profitability (i.e., the award of a government contract or an unexpected boost in sales). Although you don’t have control of external factors, they can and do play a role in the company’s bottom line budget. The more familiar you are with your employer’s economic profile, the more likely you can gauge whether a salary increase is consistent with current or projected revenues. This involves looking at annual reports, paying attention to consumer trends pertinent to your line of work, and honing your observation skills regarding new hires and lay-offs.


The areas over which you do have control are your length of tenure and the quality of your performance. Presumably, you’ve produced results, initiated improvements, and demonstrated that you’re an asset to the company during the time you’ve been around. If you’ve only been on the premises for a week and a half, though, it’s too early to start asking for more money. Most companies expect their workers to learn the rudiments of a new job during a probationary period.

This not only gives the employee a chance to see whether he or she likes the environment and responsibilities but also gives the hiring authority the chance to observe aptitude, attitude, and potential for future growth with the organization. The feedback can either be in the form of formal, written evaluations that “grade” one’s skill levels or a one on one verbal consultation. Be sure to keep copies of all of your performance reviews and/or notes from memory based on conversations with your supervisor.

These will serve as backup in the presentation you make for a raise.
Wanting a raise “just because” is not a compelling argument. Your supervisor will want to see well-grounded statistics that demonstrate you have saved the company money, that you have generated additional business, that you have improved company efficiency or that you have been an effective leader or trainer of your fellow employees. It is also important to research what employees in comparable positions are making in your region.


If you have a fairly casual relationship with your boss, it shouldn’t be that difficult to schedule a time to talk about money. It can even be brought up in the context of him or her providing the opening line, “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Your response: “Speaking of my being indispensable…” If you go the spontaneous route, of course, never do it in front of fellow employees or customers. People never like being put on the spot in such matters!

If your company is more structured and formal, you’ll need to request a meeting time to sit down and make your pitch. Whether you ask for this time in a memo or by email, be specific in identifying what the topic is going to be. Be prepared for the possibility that your boss could reply, “We don’t have any money for raises this year. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?” It would be counterproductive to try to convince him or her of something that simply isn’t going to happen. If you do get a green light, make sure you’ve already done your homework and can identify why a salary adjustment is merited.

Keep your paperwork results to a tidy minimum; if you walk in with reams of documentation and testimonials, it may look as if you’ve spent more time trying to justify your existence than doing the job for which you were hired. Never base the rationale that you need more money on the fact that you’re getting married, getting divorced, buying a house, or complaining, “You gave your idiot brother-in-law Larry a raise last week so I should get one, too.” A raise is a reward, not a right.


Hopefully, you will have presented a solid enough case that your request will be taken under consideration and the pay raise will be approved.
But what if the boss says no? If the company stance is that it simply can’t afford to make any increases, there’s not a lot you can do to contest it. You then have the choice of continuing with the status quo or seeking employment elsewhere.

Under no circumstances should you make a scene or fling a resignation letter in your boss’ face. Even if you’ve already started looking around, your exit should be based on leaving for an opportunity that is better, not leaving just because you didn’t get your way. The best thing you can do is graciously thank your supervisor for listening and considering your request.


It’s entirely possible that your employer recognizes your worth and, in an effort to keep you from straying, will put forth a compromise. Let’s say, for instance, that you’re not getting the raise but you’re offered a larger office, a new computer, or an upcoming, coveted account. Maybe the perk will be the opportunity to telecommute or to trade up for a better parking place.

Such offers shouldn’t be treated lightly as they represent the boss’s interest in keeping you happy and keeping you on the team. Your maturity and ability to recognize these gestures will subsequently be remembered at such time as extra money does become available.

Such offers

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