How and When to Ask for a Raise the Right Way

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how and when to ask for a raise

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Is there anyone in the working world who doesn’t think they deserve a raise? Probably not. But how and when to ask for a raise can be a delicate issue. The thought of broaching such a sensitive issue often sparks fear and dread among employees and employers alike. Whether you are the one asking for a pay increase or the person deciding whether to grant the request, it’s wise to perform some footwork before tackling the issue.

Most career experts agree there are three main factors influencing how and when to ask for a raise: rationale, timing, and approach.

RATIONALE

Telling your boss you need a raise because you need to make more money is perhaps the worst mistake you can make when asking for an earnings bump. Instead, do your homework and prepare your argument in the same way you would if you were pitching a project or proposal for consideration.

Here are some things to consider when putting together your request:

Document the reasons you believe you should be paid more. List times you have taken on additional work pursued training, and developed expertise in additional areas. Note your accomplishments and achievements, and highlight specific examples of how you’ve added value, increased efficiency, saved money, or contributed to the company’s success. Longevity and reliability are other worthy mentions.

Research what others in similar positions in your geographic area are earning. Be prepared to show the average market rate of pay for your particular skills and job duties in the area where you live. However, don’t compare yourself to specific individuals in your organization or assume you should be making the same amount of money as certain co-workers. Doing so could rub your supervisor the wrong way and leave a bad taste in their mouth.

Know how much you want to make. When asking for a salary increase, have a number in mind. Make sure it’s reasonable and in line with your position, industry, and geographic market. Whether you present the figure as part of your pitch or hold onto it in case you are asked, it’s best to have a solid idea of the income you want to be making.

TIMING

When asking for a raise, timing can be everything. Take the following steps to determine the best time to request a pay increase:

Assess the health and direction of your company. If your organization is adding capacity and jobs, experiencing sales growth, or showing other signs of fiscal health, it could be a good time to seek additional compensation. Conversely, if your place of hire is down- or right-sizing or even just maintaining the status quo, it might not be the best time to seek a salary boost. Company mergers, leadership changes, and political instability could also signal it’s not a good time to rock the boat.

Schedule a formal meeting. It’s probably not a good idea to make your demands while waiting in line to use the break room microwave. Instead, arrange a set time to visit with your supervisor about the possibility of a pay raise. Providing advance notice will give them time to prepare, indicate you are serious about the matter, and set the stage for a professional conversation. Try to avoid deadlines or other times when your boss might be under more stress than usual, both professionally and personally.

Consider your organization’s compensation policies. If your employer has a structure in place to award salary increases, it’s probably best to adhere to that schedule. Otherwise, carefully prepare a plan of action to support the reason you are seeking additional pay outside of the compensation timetable.

APPROACH

How you handle asking for more pay could make or break the outcome. I know of one situation where an employee ambushed her supervisor with a request for more pay without so much as even making an appointment to meet. If that wasn’t bad enough, the employee didn’t bother to do any legwork to make her case and behaved arrogantly and immaturely during the impromptu meeting. Needless to say, the outcome wasn’t favorable for the employee but it did provide a good teaching moment for the supervisor. Here are some other factors to keep in mind:

Be professional and courteous. Approach the conversation with a positive attitude and remain professional throughout. Express your appreciation for the opportunities you’ve been given and your enthusiasm for continuing to contribute to the company’s success.

Keep your options open. Your employer may not be able to meet your salary expectations immediately, but they might be willing to meet your request in increments over time. You might also be offered other perks or benefits as a compromise. Consider the alternatives you’re willing to accept and be prepared that you might be asked to up your game even further as a result.

Maintain control. If the answer to your request is a firm “no,” take a deep breath and remain calm. Never threaten or give an ultimatum because you didn’t get the outcome you wanted.

Instead, ask for specific feedback on what you can do moving forward to turn the negative response into a “yes.”

If handled properly, asking for a raise can be a positive – albeit nerve-wracking – experience that not only ensures you are fairly compensated but also helps you become your own best advocate.

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