Ask For a Pay Raise
If you feel like you have been doing an excellent job at work, don't be afraid to approach your employer for a raise. Many people are afraid to ask for raises even though they know they deserve them, making excuses like, "The economy is so down right now" or "I'll never find a good time." If this sounds like you, then it's time to stop getting in your own way and to start making a game plan for getting the higher salary you deserve.
- Make sure you have leverage. Getting a pay raise in most industries is hard to achieve unless you have some leverage. Leverage can consist of such things as getting another job offer performing above and beyond your job description consistently, effectively, and regularly.
- If you are a "star employee," a good company will often be able to find a bit extra to keep you satisfied. Be aware that it is a fairly standard tactic to tell you that the business is already over its annual budget, to try to deter you from asking. This means that you need to know your worth as assessed against objective criteria (see below) and be persistent.
- If you've already negotiated a pay deal with your boss, it may be harder to ask for more. Your boss assumes you're happy with the amount you're getting and isn't not likely to be favorably disposed to adding more financial burden to the company without good reason.
- Be careful about using another job offer as leverage. Your boss may call you on it; it's important to really have such a job offer and be willing to take it if you're rebuffed by your boss. Be ready to walk that plank!
- Have realistic expectations. If your company is already "over budget" and suffering as a result of the recession, cut-backs, or any other reasons, you might be better off waiting until later. During a recessionary period, some companies will not be able to provide pay raises without also endangering your job. However, this doesn't mean that you should use this as an excuse to delay asking for a raise indefinitely.
- Know your company's policies. Read the employee handbook (and company intranet, if you have one), or better yet, talk to someone in Human Resources. Here are some things you should figure out:
- Does your company require annual performance reviews to determine your salary?
- Do salaries advance according to a fixed schedule or rank?
- Who can make the decision (or ask for it to be made)?
- Know what you're worth - objectively. It's easy to believe you're worth more, especially if you feel as if you're giving 110 percent every day, but you need to demonstrate this objectively by assessing your worth against that of others in the same industry. Many employers say they don't give a raise until the employee does 20% more work than he did when he was initially hired. Here are some things you can take into account when you consider your worth:
- Your job description
- Your responsibilities, including any management or leadership tasks
- Years of experience and seniority in the company's line of work
- Your level of education
- Your location
- Gather some market data for similar positions. While this may be something you took into account when you first negotiated your salary, your role and responsibilities probably have changed. Look at similar levels in the industry to see what others are being paid for similar work. Determine the usual salary range for those who do what you do in your region or area. Getting market data for comparable positions can empower you by helping you be and feel more knowledgeable when you talk with your boss. You can check out comparable positions at Salary.com, GenderGapApp, or Getraised.com.
- While these things will be helpful when you build your case, they should not be used as the principal argument for getting a pay raise; they simply inform you about your potential worth, not your boss.
- Keep abreast of the trends in your industry. Subscribe to and read at least one trade journal regularly and make it a point to discuss the future with your colleagues.
- You should also keep your eyes on the horizon and regularly envision the path ahead for your company and for the industry. Make it a point to consciously set aside time at the end of each month to critically examine the path ahead.
- The very act of anticipating needed actions will serve you well in day-to-day operations and in salary re-negotiaon: You will be leading the way into the future and enhancing the company's ability to capitalize on the changing market.
Building a case
- Prepare a list of your accomplishments. It is best to use accurate performance measures such as quality improvement, customer satisfaction, and, especially, growth in profits. The list will remind you of your own worth, make it concrete, and provide an objective basis for your demands.
- While some people believe it's helpful to write down accomplishments to present to your boss, others believe your accomplishments should already be evident and you should only need to highlight those to remind your boss of what he already knows and reinforce that knowledge. It depends on what you know about your boss's preferences, your relationship dynamics with your boss, and your own level of comfort with reciting your accomplishments verbatim.
- If you choose to convince your boss verbally, memorize the list.
- If you choose to present a written copy to your boss for his or her reference, have somebody proofread it for you first.
- Review your work history. Pay particular attention to projects you've worked on, problems you have helped solve, and how business operations and profits have improved since you started. This is about more than just doing your job well, which you're already expected to do, but about going above and beyond the duties of your job and, ultimately, it boils down to improving the company's bottom line. Some questions to consider when developing your case include:
- Did you complete or help to complete a tough project? And get positive results from it?
- Did you work extra hours or meet an urgent deadline? Are you continuing to demonstrate this type of commitment?
- Did you take initiative? In what ways?
- Did you go beyond the call of duty? In what ways?
- Did you save the company time or money?
- Did you improve any systems or processes?
- Did you empower others with your support and guidance or training? As Carolyn Kepcher says, "A rising tide lifts all boats," and a boss wants to hear that you've helped facilitate team members and make them stronger, more positive forces for the company.
- Consider your future value to the company. This indicates to your boss that you see the larger picture and are positioned to help the company identify and capitalize on opportunities as they arise. You will always be one step ahead of the others in thinking about where the company is headed.
- Be sure to identify specific long-term goals and objectives that will benefit the company in the future.
- Keeping an existing employee happy is also less of a hassle than conducting interviews and hiring a new one. While you don’t want to say this outright, emphasizing a positive role in your company's evolution which helps assure the company's future success will definitely resonate with your boss.
- Decide what level of pay raise you're looking for. It's important not to appear greedy, but rather to remain realistic and reasonable.
- If you feel comfortable with your position, tie the salary increase to the increased revenue or profit that is tied to your past successes and expectations for the near future. If you anticipate being able to bring home a lucrative project or contract in the next few months, that may well fund your pay raise (and more). The implication that the next ten months of your year are all bottom-line profit does not have to be stated explicitly, but, if the case is made convincingly, the conclusion is inescapable. If your boss sees an easy way to justify the salary increase to superiors, you are in a strong position, indeed.
- The usual tactic of negotiating from a much higher point isn't as good an idea with salary increase requests because your boss might think you're trying to milk the company and push the boundaries.
- You can break the numbers down so they seem less imposing. For example, you can explain it as being an extra $40 a check rather than $2,200 for the year.
- You can also negotiate for more than just a pay raise. Maybe you're happy to take other things in lieu of money, such as shares in the company, a wardrobe allowance, rental assistance, or even a more prestigious title. Ask for a company car, or for a better one. If appropriate, talk about increased benefits, more conspicuous job titles, and modifications to your responsibilities, management oversight, or assignments.
- Be prepared to compromise and haggle. Even though you haven't given your boss an unrealistic figure, you should expect some bargaining to go on if your boss is receptive to the request.
- Don't be afraid to ask. Though it can be hard to get a pay raise, it's worse to fall into the mindset of not asking for a pay rise, ever.
- In particular, women are often afraid to ask for a pay raise due to a mindset that does not want to appear demanding or pushy. See this as an opportunity to show that you care enough to develop a career trajectory that favors your workplace as well as yourself.
- Negotiation is a learned skill. If you are afraid of this aspect, take some time out to learn it and practice implementing it in a variety of contexts before approaching your boss.
- Choose the right time. Successful requests are all about good timing. Ask yourself what you have done within a demonstrable time period that has made you more valuable to the firm or organization. It doesn't make sense to ask for a pay raise when you've not yet demonstrated anything amazing for the firm -- regardless of long you've been there.
- The time is right when your value to the organization is clearly high. This means seizing the iron while it's hot and asking for a pay raise off the back of excellent successes such as holding a highly successful conference, getting fantastic feedback, getting a big client signed on, producing outstanding work that outsiders have praised, etc.
- Don't choose a time when the company has just posted major losses.
- Asking for a pay rise based purely on "time done" is dangerous because it makes you appear like a timekeeper rather than someone interested in the company's progression. Never say to your boss: "I've been here for a year and I deserve a pay rise.” Your boss will be likely to respond, "And so what?"
Asking for a raise
- Make an appointment to talk to your boss. Set time aside. If you just walk up and ask for a raise, you'll seem unprepared -- and come across like you don't deserve one. You don't have to give too much advance notice, but do seek privacy and a time you know you won't be interrupted. For example, when you walk in to work in the morning, say: "Before you leave, I'd like to speak with you."
- Remember, a face-to-face request is far harder to turn down than a letter or email.
- Try to avoid Monday, when there will be a million things to do, or Friday, when your boss may already have other things on his mind.
- Present yourself well. Be confident, not arrogant, and stay positive. Speak politely and clearly to better maintain your composure. And finally, keep in mind that it probably won't be half as bad to ask as it did to work up the nerve! When you talk to your boss, lean in a bit if you're sitting down. This will help project confidence.
- Start by saying how much you enjoy your job. Being personable will help make that human connection with your boss.
- Follow up by discussing your achievements. This will show your boss why a pay raise matters to you.
- Ask for the raise in specific terms and then wait for your boss's response. Don't just say, "I want a raise." Tell your boss how much more money you want to make in percentage terms, such as wanting to make 10% more money. You can also talk in terms of how much you would like your yearly salary to increase. Whatever you say, be as specific as possible, so your boss sees that you've really thought it through. Here are the things that can happen:
- If it's an outright "no," see the next section.
- If it's "I need time to think about this," try to pinpoint a future time for reopening the discussion.
- If your boss agrees immediately, say something like, "Don't say yes unless you mean it" as a means of reinforcing it in his or her mind and then proceed to "hold your boss" to it (see below).
- Thank your boss for his or her time. This is important regardless of the answer you’ve been given.You can even go "over and above" by giving your boss more than they're expecting from you, such as a thank-you card or lunch invitation to say thanks. Consider sending a follow up email as well even if you've said thank you person multiple times.
- Deal With a Boss Who Makes Promises But Never Delivers. If the answer was yes, the final hurdle may be actually receiving the raise. Back-pedaling – or even simple forgetfulness -- are always possibilities. Don’t jump to conclusions if the raise does not go into effect right away. Things do go wrong: your boss might encounter resistance from the higher-ups or face budgetary problems, etc.
- Making your boss feel bad about reneging (for example, mentioning someone you know who asked for a pay raise only to have a boss take it back and how staff morale plummeted). This will have to be done subtly and with tact.
- Ask when your boss will implement the pay raise. A subtle way of doing this might be to ask if there is anything you need to sign to put it into effect.
- Go one step further and tell your boss: "I guess that you'll have this arranged by the end of the month after you've approved the paperwork,” etc.; this puts a plan into action so that he or she doesn't have to.
Dealing with a refusal
- Don't take it personally. If you allow the rejection to sour your attitude or affect your work, your boss will probably feel like (s)he made the right decision. If you develop a reputation for having a bad attitude or for not accepting feedback, then your boss will be even less likely to give you a raise. Once your boss gives his final verdict, be as gracious as possible. Don't walk out of the room and slam the door.
- Ask your boss what you can do differently. This demonstrates your willingness to take your boss's opinions into account. It may be that both of you can agree on increased responsibilities and activities over a certain time period that gradually leads to a new role and a pay increase. This will also demonstrate your commitment to your job and your ability to work hard. Your boss will see you as a go-getter and you'll be on his radar the next time raise season rolls around.
- If you are a star employee, keep performing excellently and ask again in a few months time.
- Send a follow-up email saying thank you. This provides a dated, written record that you can remind your boss of in future negotiations. It will also remind your boss that you're grateful for the conversation that you had and shows him that you have follow-through.
- Be persistent. Your desire for a pay raise is now out in the open and your boss should be concerned about the possibility that you are looking for work elsewhere. Set a date for when you will ask again. Until that time, be sure to kick your work into high gear. Don't slack off just because you're disappointed that you won't be getting a raise yet.
- Consider looking elsewhere if the situation doesn't change. You should never have to settle for less than you deserve. If you're shooting higher than your company is willing to pay, maybe it's better to apply for a different position that has a higher salary -- either with your company or another one. Think this possibility through carefully; there's no need to burn bridges just because your conversation with your boss didn't go well.
- It's better to stick with it for a little while longer to try to work for that raise. But if months have passed and you haven't gotten the recognition you deserve in spite of your hard work, then don't feel bad about seeing what other companies have to offer.
- Look at your current job responsibilities and expectations. Ensure that you're doing all of these fully and without reminder or having others cover your back. From there, try to identify areas that could be done more effectively with modifications, systematization or changes to procedures. Remember that managers view a pay raise as a reward for excelling not for time put in doing the minimum standard.
- Follow the chain of command when asking for a pay raise. For example, if your immediate boss is a supervisor, don't go over your boss's head to the department manager. Instead, approach your immediate boss first and let him or her tell you the next step.
- Prior to asking for any raise or increase in compensation, be sure that you've handled any and all projects, jobs, and issues on your plate. Asking for a raise in the middle of something you're currently working seldom works. Remember that timing matters!
- Improve your qualifications, if you can. You don't have to wait around or make your case on seniority alone. Better qualifications mean that you can offer more to your employer. Take a class, get a certification or license, or take the initiative to learn new skills on your own. Then, use these achievements to demonstrate that you're worth more than you used to be.
- Many companies subscribe to industry salary surveys. Ask your boss to consult that information when determining your new compensation, especially if you think your pay has lagged behind that of your peers. It will lend credence to your well-researched comparisons.
- Consider asking for more responsibilities to justify your pay raise. That will go over better than simply asking for more money, especially if your current responsibilities don't require you to do much above the call of duty and your employer thinks that you're adequately paid.
- Have a reasonable figure in mind (e.g., from salary surveys) and prepare to negotiate. Be nice but firm when negotiating, and don't get emotional. (Remember, it's business, not personal.) If your employer doesn't grant you a satisfactory pay raise, try negotiating concessions such as performance-based bonuses, or extra paid time off, perks or benefits. Whatever you succeed at negotiating, ask for it in writing with authorizing signatures.
- It's not a good idea to justify asking for a pay raise by simply stating, "I need the money." It's a much better idea to prove that you deserve a pay raise, by emphasizing your value to the company. Documenting your accomplishments is a good way to do that. For example, you might include your accomplishments in a "presentation" to show your boss, a "cheat sheet" to refer to while negotiating your pay raise, or a letter asking for an appointment to discuss it. Be specific; use quantified examples.
- Check your employee policy manual (or similar document) for information related to asking for a pay raise. For example, if a policy states how to go about it, then follow it to the letter. But if a policy unconditionally states that your employer will not grant an out-of-cycle pay raise, it might be a good idea to stick it out until your next review and request a better-than-usual pay raise. Asking for such a pay raise will probably go over better than trying to buck the system.
- Command a pay raise, don't demand it. For example, you might tell your boss that you'd like to know what you can do to increase your salary or hourly wage in the near future, instead of insisting on a pay raise for your past accomplishments.
- Think twice about threatening to quit if you don't get a pay raise. It rarely works. No matter how valuable you think you are to the company, don't make the mistake of thinking that you're indispensable. Eager beavers willing to learn your job for less pay are almost always waiting in the wings. If you do quit later for lack of a raise, be careful what you say in your resignation letter so it doesn't bite you down the road.
- Keep the discussion focused on your work, and your value. Never use personal issues, including financial shortfalls or other problems, as the reason for needing a raise. This is business and that demonstrates personal weakness, not something you want your boss to know. Talk in terms of the value of your services.
- Recognize that your boss has deadlines and budgets to contend with.
- The fact is that employers have much more experience in the field of negotiations. This is the reason why the biggest mistake an employee can make is being unprepared for the negotiation.
- Stay positive. Do not use this time to gripe about management, coworkers, conditions, or anything else. And do not drag other co-workers into the equation for comparison. This will seem like sour grapes even if you're praising them. If you must raise a concern for some reason, present it politely and come equipped with remedies and suggestions at a time different from asking for a pay raise.
- Say No To Your Boss
- Ask for a Promotion
- Develop Your Personal Elevator Pitch
- Prepare for a Behavioral Interview
- Analyze Your Skills and Job Options
- Make a Resume
- Write a Status Report
- Write a Resignation Letter
- Get a Promotion
- Improve Your Job Performance
- Get the Pay Raise You Deserve
Sources and Citations
- BBC News, How to get a pay rise, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/2947990.stm
- Carolyn Kepcher, Carolyn 101, pp. 129-130, (2004), ISBN 978-0-7432-7034-2
- Carolyn Kepcher, Carolyn 101, p. 126, (2004), ISBN 978-0-7432-7034-2
- Carolyn Kepcher, Carolyn 101, p. 130, (2004), ISBN 978-0-7432-7034-2
- Carolyn Kepcher, Carolyn 101, pp. 130-131, (2004), ISBN 978-0-7432-7034-2
- Ken Langdon, Cultivate a Cool Career, p. 49, (2004), ISBN 978-0-399-53338-9
- Emine Saner, Why women won't ask for a pay rise, http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/aug/27/women-wont-ask-pay-rises
- Carolyn Kepcher, Carolyn 101, p. 129, (2004), ISBN 978-0-7432-7034-2
- Mark Palmer and Scott Solder, You need this book to get what you want, p. 251, (2010), ISBN 978-1-84737-704-3
- Mark Palmer and Scott Solder, You need this book to get what you want, Chapter 16, (2010), ISBN 978-1-84737-704-3