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In this article, you’ll learn how to ask your boss for a raise (without being awkward)!
A recent study by PayScale surveyed over 30,000 workers about their experiences asking for a raise. They found that 43 percent had asked for one, but less than half of those who asked got the amount they wanted, with a quarter of people not getting a raise at all. Among the 57 percent who didn’t ask for a raise, 28 percent indicated that they would be uncomfortable asking.
Now, these stats don’t look great. Which is why we took it upon ourselves to create a guide to asking your boss for a raise. We spoke to a number of HR experts and founders and pulled actionable insights and steps for you to use. We cover the best time to ask, how to practice your pitch, tactics to avoid, and more!
Evaluate the market and your strengths
Like any business proposal, preliminary research is needed before you deep dive into the work. You need to first determine whether your company is in a position to give a raise by looking at financial reports and following business or industry news. Deb Feldman, the co-founder of Grey Scalable, recommends looking inward and evaluating your performance against the financial health of the company.
If upon evaluation the two factors don’t line up, wait for a more opportune time for the company, or when you can better provide quantifiable reasons for a raise. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com recommends “implementing raise-worthy behavior in your daily work life well before approaching your boss.”
Pick a time
Career experts don’t recommend asking during review time, as it will be difficult to stand out among coworkers who make similar requests. Instead, make an appointment with your boss or manager right before you take on new responsibilities or after you’ve done something valuable for the company.
Cyrill Hill, COO of SourceResume.com suggests meeting your manager while they’re in a good mood. He says “if the energy in the air is positive, jump in while you can.”
Having said that, find out what your company’s policies are regarding raises – there may be a certain process or time of year when raises can be requested. Katie Espinoza, the Brand Manager at Rebrandly.com, recommends being tactful with timing:
If you know that your manager is working on delivering a crucial project, wait until you know you will have their full attention.
Find out how much you make in relation to your peers. Government census data, professional associations, Glassdoor, and Payscale are great resources to use. If data isn’t available for your region, networking within your profession would be your best bet.
Additionally, research salary trends for your industry, qualifications, title, and responsibilities. Then come up with a specific number. According to Kiplinger, the average salary raise is between 1 to 5 percent.
Feldman notes that:
It's also OK to ask for a raise if you're not underpaid, but are looking to be recognized versus your peers - if you're a strong performer.
An assertion of strong performance is most effective when backed by evidence, which brings us to our next point - proving your worth.
Determine what your company values the most and collect anything you’ve done to advance or perpetuate that. If it’s customer satisfaction, bring in a testimonial from a time you went above and beyond. If it’s growing company revenue, collect stats from a project you did to boost the bottom line.
Another way to demonstrate value is by detailing any training you have undertaken since you were hired, whether for hard skills like Excel or soft skills like leadership. Sacha Ferrandi, founder & Head Principal of Source Capital Funding, explains:
By discussing these details, you will not only show that you are proactive about growing your knowledge base, but it also allows you to allude to the fact that you may be outgrowing your current position and are ready to take on more responsibilities.
Jamie Lee, a Negotiation and Leadership coach, says, “Facts and figures will stick in the mind of the listener, much better than a vague, ‘I worked really hard…’ Everyone can say they worked hard. Only a few (two to be mathematically precise) can say they brought in 45% of total revenues.”
“Especially in bigger companies, the HR staff and managers may not always be aware of your additional contributions”, says Jacob Dayan, CEO and founder of Community Tax. Start with your most recent project and work your way backwards. On the same note, be sure to pivot the conversation to any future projects or responsibilities you are or plan on undertaking.
Practice your pitch
Practice, practice, practice. Out loud to yourself with a recording device, or with someone you trust to be frank with you. Pay attention to any points you could improve or condense. Try to anticipate any questions you may get, and plan a response. By role-playing in advance, you’ll reduce any anxiety you may have about this conversation. Try practicing your pitch with this script pulled together by the team at She Negotiates.
Remember, confidence is key. Body language can be one of the biggest giveaways that you are nervous, and an important factor in how your boss perceives you. Try to keep your nerves under wraps by thinking positive, keeping your posture in check, and presenting yourself as confident and self-assured.
Maureen Frank, founder of Emberin and career progression expert, says: “Be assertive. State what you want, why you want it, and look them in the eyes.” She continues,
Don't be shy or humble, you need to sell yourself in order to succeed in your career.
While most career experts say that in-person negotiation is the best practice, a written request is a great alternative if you need to evict any stomach-residing butterflies. The Balance created a handy sample letter you might find useful to kick things off.
Plan your response to ‘No’
The great part about asking for a raise is that the worst thing your manager could say is “No.” Greater still, is that the conversation doesn’t have to end there: Is there something you’d accept in lieu of a raise? Perhaps there is wiggle room by way of bonuses, stock options, flexible work hours, or professional development opportunities.
Another option is to request an interim performance review with clearly defined goals and salary adjustments before the next annual review. Find out what will push the needle next time and go from there.
James Rice, Head of Digital Marketing at WikiJob, has an interesting perspective:
Aim for an initial no. Sounds like strange advice, but you want to pitch a raise higher than you would expect to get (though not unrealistically high) so that you then have room to negotiate something in between your current salary and the first salary you pitched. Ideally, you want to come to an agreement whereby both parties feel they have done well.
- Create your own side-project. This is a great way to a) show that you’re committed to growing the company; b) develop a new skill set by trying something new.
- Solve problems alongside raising issues. This goes in tandem with the previous point. Not only do you become the man or woman on the ground for upper management, you are also proactively finding solutions.
- Proactively communicate your wins. This will keep you in the habit of regularly tracking the contributions you make to profitability. Having a file of achievements is handy if you’re ever asking for a raise or looking to jump ship.
- Become the best performer in your position and make it go without saying. Setting yourself up to be rewarded by doing your best versus great results, is a surefire way of keeping you motivated.
As this can be an emotionally charged discussion for some, there are certain tactics or topics you should avoid, such as:
- Using ultimatums or complaints when asking for a raise. Your boss or manager will be on the defensive and, therefore, less likely to give you a raise.
- Using another job offer as leverage. While it seems like a good way to show your manager how much you’d be worth to another team, it may remove any favour you had in terms of plum assignments, job training, and promotions. Put simply – if your company knows you’re not invested in them, then why should they invest in you.
- Using your job title as the only yardstick. Dr. David M. Kopp, an educator and management consultant, says that “requests for an increase should be based on how highly effective you are in this position versus just being competent at the job.”
- Framing the raise as something you need versus something you deserve. While increasing personal expenses may be a compelling reason for you, it ultimately isn’t your bosses’ responsibility to cover that.