How to Ask Your Boss
For a Raise (and Get It!)

Once in a while there comes a moment in your career when you think that you deserve a raise. The two obvious choices of action are to wait for one or to ask for it.

But asking for a raise is awkward. Even if you’re sure that you’re worth more than what you’re getting at the moment, you don’t want to sound greedy or entitled. And the time never feels right.

So how do you actually start the conversation with your boss in order to actually get that pay raise?

Make sure there’s no elephant in the room

Before you proceed, rule out the possibility of the elephant in the room. Go over the past few months of working in the company and think of any obvious obstacles to getting a raise at this particular moment. If you’re on probation or performance review, you demonstrate time management issues and have two strikes for being late — it’s not the best moment to ask for a raise.

With all the silliness of this point, it’s not unusual for people to ignore the obvious. According to the Glassdoor portal, employees are very often surprised when instead of a raise they’re facing disciplinary measures.

Don’t talk about what you need

Another preparatory step is to talk about what NOT to do. One of the typical mistakes in raise negotiations is when employees focus on what they need instead of what their company needs.

“I can’t make my card payment”, “I need to send my kid to a better school”, “I want to have more financial freedom” — these are all legitimate reasons to ask for a raise, but not to give one. Sadly but true, it’s not your employer’s problem that you’re in need of additional funds. And after all, it’s not in their interest to get their hand in their pocket each time people ask for a raise.

Present your case

The key to successful raise negotiation is to properly present your case, show your value to the company and convince your boss that you deserve a raise.

First of all, get ready for your pitch. What you need to show is how your individual contribution affects the company’s bottom line, so gear up with data.

Get your hands on any piece of analytics that you can find. How has the social media campaign that you ran affected conversions? How many bugs compared to other developers the QA team finds in your code? How fast do you deliver reports? Do you volunteer to work overtime when it’s all hands on deck? Gather all the ideas and put them together in a deck for better visualization. Even if you don’t use it at a meeting, it might help you get more confidence in yourself.

Ask for feedback and be proactive

A conversation with your boss about a pay raise should not turn into your monologue. To demonstrate that you’re open for discussion and seek their advice, ask for feedback. Be honest, but let your supervisor know that, even though your main goal is to excel at your current position, you still want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to succeed.

Don’t stop there. Ask your boss about the ways you could exceed their expectations of you and what you could do to move up the pay ladder. When those recommendations are implemented, it will be a solid argument in favor of a raise.

Don’t hesitate to take on more responsibility. Your proactiveness is what shows your dedication to success. Ask your supervisor about the areas where your help would be appreciated the most. For example, you could help them with reporting or onboarding of the new employees.

Do your homework

Be reasonable in your expectations. For that, conduct background research to determine your actual market value. Study reports on salary trends for professionals in your geographic area and industry with similar qualifications, title and responsibilities.

You can use sites like Glassdoor or Salary.com to determine how much professionals like you are making. Also, bear in mind that a traditional annual raise varies between 1 and 5% — you don’t want your proposition to sound completely unfounded.

Demonstrate loyalty and gratitude

Quite often a conversation about a pay raise kicks off with an employee handing in their leave notice. Being effective with some employers, ultimatums are not the best way to start the negotiations. Nobody likes feeling forced to make an immediate decision, and surely your boss won’t like it either. If you still wish to have that conversation, don’t go into the meeting without a backup plan: if you’re bluffing, and your boss says: “Okay, leave the company” – you might end up with no job whatsoever.

Instead, focus on the positive things: your achievements, met expectations, your goals within the company etc. Demonstrate that you’re connecting your future with the company and want to make everything it takes to succeed there.

Practice your pitch

If you’re not an experienced public speaker, be ready to hear your voice tremble once you start talking on such a sensitive subject. If you don’t want to sound unconfident, practice your pitch before you take it to your boss. You can use a peer’s help or simply rehearse it in front of the mirror. Just make sure to sound friendly but confident in your own value to the company. After all, if even you don’t believe it your boss won’t either, so make sure to be your own biggest advocate.

Be ready to hear “no”

Regardless of all the work you put into starting the conversation, it might still end with a “no”. It doesn’t necessarily have to do anything with you. There might simply be no budget in the company right now for additional financial motivation.

In this case, you can ask for other perks, which are many apart from the actual cash. Having a Friday afternoon off, working remotely several days a week, flexible schedule, additional vacation days – there are many options to choose from.

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