Thinking of asking for a raise? You’re probably feeling apprehensive and this is normal: talking about money is still taboo, and many of us feel uneasy about salary negotiation. The only way to overcome those nerves is to prepare, prepare, and PREPARE some more! Learn when and how to ask for a raise, then build a strategy that will help you achieve the best possible outcome.
Even if your manager says no, you’re not likely to damage your relationship by making a reasonable request. A raise is recognition that you’re contributing at a higher level than when your salary was last set. A raise isn’t a favor or a gift; it’s a way for employers to pay fair market value for your work and to keep you around — because otherwise, you’re eventually going to want to find a different job that does pay you competitively.
First, know it’s OK to ask. You’re not greedy or entitled by wanting a raise. Assuming your manager is reasonable or has experience managing people, they know this is a normal process. Unless you work somewhere truly dysfunctional, it’s understood that you work for money and over time will need more.
How good are you at your job? Make yourself indispensable. If you’ve been making a lot of mistakes or your boss hasn’t seemed pleased with your work, a request for a raise isn’t likely to go over well, and you risk more open questions about your performance. Make sure you’re ready for negotiations well in advance. Tie up loose ends, unfinished projects, and tasks you’ve put on hold. What has changed in your position description since your last review? Have you gained new responsibilities or more duties? Have you acquired new skills that are relevant to the job?
Know your worth. If you don’t know what the market rate is for your work, find that out before you ask for more money. Look at different job descriptions similar to yours, talk to recruiters in your field, and connect with others in your industry to ask about the standard range for your position.
Proactively communicate wins. The most important thing you can do is to consistently exceed expectations in terms of your current role and job responsibilities. Manage your projects well, take on more than is expected, and proactively communicate your accomplishments. When you are ready to request for a promotion, your manager will already know you deserve what you’re asking for. As Muhammed Ali said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” Share your successes early and often.
Consider your company’s salary structure. Once you have a good idea of the going rate for your work, factor in your understanding of your own employer’s salary structure, too. It’s useful to know how your company generally handles raises so you can create a reasonable action plan.
Choose your timing. Generally speaking, if it’s been a year or more since your salary was last set and if you’ve been doing excellent work during that time, it’s reasonable to ask to revisit your pay. If your salary was already increased sometime in the last 12 months or if you haven’t been in the position for a year, then expecting a salary increase isn’t realistic — unless the job turned out to be wildly different than what was discussed when you were hired.
Practice your pitch. You can never anticipate the precise nature of the exchange, but conversations in which you are asking for something always go better if you've rehearsed in advance and considered the many possible responses. After practicing, you’ll be infinitely more at ease for your side of the actual conversation.
Share your goals and ask for feedback. Let your boss know that, while your first priority is to excel in your current role, your long-term goal is to advance and that you want to make sure you're doing everything you can to set yourself up for success.
Talk about the future. Show you’re invested in the company. Start the conversation on a positive note and explain how much you like working for your manager and the company. Then explain what you want to do in the future and how you plan to contribute to the organization’s growth.
Outline why you’ve earned a raise. Illustrate that your responsibilities and/or the level of your contributions have increased. Think about the quantifiable workplace results and certified qualifications you can bring to the table. These include training and qualifications, anything awarded by industry bodies like the CIPD or by academic institutions, high sales figures, new clients won or financial savings gained, and any new software, systems, or management structures you helped introduce.
Highlight your market value. Demonstrate any specifics about your industry, region, or job that make you hard to replace. These can enhance your market value. Consider the realities of market demand: if you work in hospitality, information, and communications or construction in particular, these fields currently face major skills shortages, which means your employer will be keen to keep you — and keep you happy.
Industry reputation. Show your boss that you are respected in your field. For proof of this, look to things like publicity and professional social media profiles. Are your professional tweets widely followed and shared? Can you show how your professional influence is valued in your field? Have you been head-hunted or had contact from recruitment consultants or rival businesses? These are all things you can use for reputation leverage with your employer.
Name your price. If you have a specific dollar figure in mind, it’s fine to voice it. It’s also OK to start out without naming a specific figure, but you should nonetheless be prepared to be asked what you’re hoping for.
Focus on your work accomplishments, not your finances. You might be asking for a raise because your rent went up or you want to save more for retirement, but these reasons shouldn’t be part of your case to your boss. Instead, stick to the contributions you’ve made and your value to your employer. Too often, people argue that a raise is important because of very real costs in their lives, but most employers look to give raises based on performance.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Resistance. Be prepared to fight your corner — but don't overdo it. Try to relax and deal with the response as it comes. It's unlikely you’ll get an answer right away, and though you shouldn't try to rush things, it's reasonable to ask to be kept up to date. If you have a job offer on the table, you could give your boss a deadline for their answer. This applies pressure and may make them more likely to act. Be careful though — they might call your bluff.
The answer is no. If you don’t get the pay increase requested, it doesn’t have to be the end of your negotiation. Request an interim performance appraisal with clearly defined goals and salary adjustment before your next annual review.
The answer is maybe. If you get a “maybe,” make sure you’re clear on what your next steps are. It’s OK to ask when to check back.
ALTERNATIVE EXPECTATIONS — PROMOTIONS, BENEFITS AND PERKS
Improved working conditions are a raise in disguise. According to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, most workers today care more about meaning and fulfillment than money. Discussing a pay increase can be a great time to talk about career progression or work-life balance. Even if it’s all about cold hard cash, you may find you get more value from benefits outside of your base salary.
If your boss can’t offer more money, they may be able to improve your working life in other ways, so be open to discussions about workplace development or work-life balance.
Other aspects up for negotiation can include new responsibilities, performance-related bonuses, pension contributions, company car use, travel allowances, and healthcare.
Read WAGER’S handy guide to all the things you never knew you could and should negotiate for.
WHAT NOT TO SAY!
"I haven't had a raise in years." Even if this is true, the concept of the annual raise has gone by the wayside in many companies. And when annual raises come, they tend to be quite modest. Instead, focus on your value to the company rather than your sense of injustice.
"I know that my coworker earns more money than me. That seems unfair." It's important to speak up if you discover that you're underpaid but choose your wording carefully. Rather than talking about fairness, shift the focus away from your coworker who earns more money and back to you and your value.
"I know you're in a rush, but…" Timing is critical when asking for a raise. Rather than surprise your manager with an abrupt request, try to make it a collaborative process. Focus on their needs. How are you making their life easier? How are you making the performance of the team more successful?
"I'm about to buy a house — I really need a raise." There's no doubt that salary impacts our personal lives, but that's not a viable reason to ask for more money. Keep this on the level of a business transaction. What are you offering, and why is it worthwhile for the company to invest more money in you?
“I’ll quit!” Ultimatums often backfire: there is a very real possibility that your employer will seize the opportunity to accept your resignation!