How to Ask for a Raise

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Almost everyone thinks they’re worth more money, but many people are reluctant to ask for it. Asking doesn’t guarantee that you will get a raise, of course, but not asking may insure that you don’t. These conversations can often be uncomfortable and unproductive, so it pays to prepare. Here are a few helpful suggestions.

1. Know the worth of your job.

Just as everything in the store has a selling price, every job has a market value. Learn the value of yours by networking with your peers at other companies or checking out salary comparison websites. Be careful about cross-company comparisons, though. The same title can mean different things at different companies. So you need to compare responsibilities.

2. Research your company’s pay practices.

Companies vary in their willingness to openly publish pay scales and compensation policies. Look for any available information on your company’s website or in the personnel manual. If none is available, talk with your HR manager. HR folks are usually willing to explain how things work and give you some idea of the pay range for your position. They are likely to talk about internal and external pay comparisons, which will be a helpful thing to understand.

3. Ask for your boss’s criteria.

It’s helpful to learn in advance about your boss’s criteria for moving you to the next level. Well before you intend to request more money or responsibility, ask your manager what the criteria would be for getting a raise or promotion. If your boss has never thought about this before, your question may stimulate some helpful discussion.

4. Don’t wait for your performance review.

Although you might logically believe the performance appraisal discussion is the best time to ask for a raise, that’s often not the case. In many companies, salary decisions are made before appraisals are discussed with employees, so you want to get your request on the table before review time. If your organization does appraisals in January, for example, you should make your raise request in November.

5. Choose your timing wisely.

The best time to ask for a raise is when you have just completed a big project, solved a major problem, taken on new responsibilities, or done something else that was noteworthy. But if you have recently blown through your budget, fallen short of your goals, or had a major screw-up, forget about that pay increase for awhile. And if your boss was just called on the carpet by the CEO or if your company recently had a major layoff, that’s obviously not a good time

6. Focus on selling, not begging.

You will only be given a raise because of the value you bring to the company through outstanding ability, attitude, or both. The fact that you have five kids or are deeply in debt is completely irrelevant. So don’t beg for more money because you need it. Sell your boss on the fact that your performance makes you worth it.

7. Consider what works with your particular boss.

If you’re smart enough to deserve a raise, you’re smart enough to figure out the best way to ask your boss. Would your manager respond better to an aggressive sales pitch or a data-driven presentation of the facts? Present your case in the manner that is most likely to succeed with your particular boss.

8. Believe in your worth.

Imagine a car salesperson saying, “I don’t know if you’ll like this vehicle or not, but it’s pretty good, so I think you might want to try it.” Would that convince you to buy the car? Probably not. You’re more likely to be sold by the one who says “This is a great model. It’s highly reliable, fun to drive, and comes with a variety of options. In fact, I drive one myself!” Confidence sells. If you don’t believe you deserve a raise, why should you expect your boss to think so?

9. Be realistic.

Just as you would not pay a Mercedes price for a Chevrolet, a company will not pay a lawyer’s salary to a receptionist. Every job has a maximum worth, and once you have exceeded it, additional raises are only likely if the market value for the job increases.

10. Just do it!

Many people become quite anxious at the thought of asking for more money. If you are one of them, just suck it up, rehearse your request, convince yourself that you’re worth it, and take the plunge. The worst thing that can happen is that your boss says no. But most managers will not be surprised or offended by the request.

11. If you get turned down, ask what it would take.

If you get that “no”, don’t slink away in embarrassment. Instead, just smile and say that you understand it isn’t possible now, but you would like to know when your request might be considered or what you would have to do to merit an increase.

12. See if a bonus might be possible.

In some companies, your boss may be able to grant you a one-time bonus if a pay increase is not possible. Bonuses do not commit the company to a permanent salary change, so sometimes they are easier to get.

13. Be willing to temporarily take responsibility without money.

Some foolish people refuse to take on additional duties because a raise is not attached. This is short-sighted. One of the best ways to get more pay is to be able to show that you are already doing the work. But once you take on those responsibilities, be sure that a raise does follow in a reasonable period of time.

14. If you can’t get the raise, go for the title.

Should your boss say that more money is not available, see if a title change is warranted for your position. If you can get a better title, then you will be able to compare your pay with that of people in the higher-level position at other companies. Of course, you must be sure that the title does match the work you do.

15. To up your leverage, get another job offer.

Unfortunately, the best way to get a raise is to be offered a job elsewhere at a higher salary. Of course, your employer has to value you highly enough to want to keep you!