How to Ask For a Raise

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Come to the Negotiating Table Confident and Prepared

There are a number of times when it's appropriate to have a conversation with your boss about adjusting your compensation. Asking for a raise can feel awkward or even intimidating; however, if you arm yourself with statistics and take a confident approach, you can make a strong case for why you deserve to be paid more.

Gather Information

Do your research before asking for a raise. Consult resources such as the U.S. Labor Department Occupational Outlook Handbook, which tracks salary ranges for various positions. While salary ranges fluctuate based on an individual’s work history and education, as well as the size and location of the employer, this will give you a good starting point for collecting comparable salary figures.

Consider Your Workload

Are you still doing the same tasks you were assigned when you first took over your job or position? If your workload or responsibilities have increased significantly, it's appropriate to ask for additional compensation. Make a chart that demonstrates ways in which your job has evolved. For example, are you doing more projects than in the past? Have you taken over responsibilities for a staffer who was laid off or terminated? Do you supervise more employees than you did when you last discussed salary? Have the parameters of your job changed to such a degree that it requires reclassification and a reevaluation of compensation structure? Having this information on paper will help you be confident and straight-forward in making your request.

Choose the Right Time

Some employers have a review policy in which you undergo a periodic performance evaluation, and this is often a time managers use to discuss raises. Consult your employee handbook or human resources manager to find out what company policy is in this regard. Some businesses will offer cost-of-living adjustments or periodic raises based on satisfactory performance. This regularly-scheduled review presents a good time to discuss a raise.

When Things Change

A variety of things can happen in an organization that result in a shift of workload and responsibility from one employee to another. Perhaps the company downsized or merge departments and consolidated positions. Any significant and permanent change to your workload presents a suitable time to ask for a raise. Again, document specific changes and added responsibility to present to your boss as part of the negotiation process.

What's Fair?

The issue of salary and compensation is a nebulous one, simply because there are various factors at play. Some companies look at the national economic condition, overall corporate performance, operating budget and strategic long-term initiatives, and set salary ranges accordingly. Others set competitive salaries to attract and retain top talent. Still others tie pay to individual or corporate performance metrics. Understanding how your company operates can help you decide the best approach to take when asking for a raise.

How to Make the Ask

To be successful in asking for a raise, be calm, collected, confident and professional. Make your case, present your evidence and then stop talking. Examples:

  • “I’ve done some research, and as you’ll see in this analysis, editorial assistants typically earn about 25 percent more per year than I’m currently making. I know the company prides itself on offering competitive pay, so I ‘m requesting a raise of 25 percent.”
  • “In the last year, I’ve taken over four major clients from two colleagues who left the company. This has significantly increased my workload, but I’ve been able to handle it, and in fact, have increased sales levels. I’m requesting a raise that reflects both the added responsibilities and the increased earnings for the company.”
  • “In January I started supervising two additional people in my department, and developed a mentoring program for junior executives. I also developed an in-house energy savings program that has decreased the company’s power consumption by 13 percent. I feel my contributions warrant a compensation review."

Overcoming Common Objections

Just as you’re seeking a raise, your boss is charged with keeping payroll as low as possible, and may object, negotiate down or otherwise deny your raise request. Here are some common objections and responses:

Objection: “We don’t have it in the budget.”

Response: “Can we put it in the budget for the next fiscal year, with the raise being retroactive to today’s date?”

Objection: “I can’t give you a raise without giving everyone else one, too.”

Response: “I’m not asking for a raise for everyone, I’m focusing on my own contributions to this company. It’s also my understanding that salary negotiations and pay rates are confidential.”

Objection: “Times are tight and earnings are down.”

Response: “I realize that, and I wouldn’t be asking if I wasn’t confident my contributions help increase earnings and decrease losses for the company.”

Be willing to compromise and negotiate. If your initial request is denied, come back with a different number, or ask the manager what she can do for you.

When the Answer is No

If your boss denies a raise, particularly a raise you deserve or were slated to be given, you have a few options.

  • Accept the decision and try again at your next performance review.
  • Ask to revisit the issue within a set time period, such as three months.
  • Ask for other forms of compensation, such as additional vacation days.
  • Ask for a title change or promotion in place of a raise. While this won’t help your bottom line, moving up the chain of command gives you more clout, and serves as a resume builder should you decide to move to a company that places greater value on your contributions.

Follow up the discussion by writing your boss a memo, reiterating the main points of your conversation and again, state the fact that you feel you’re entitled to additional compensation. Depending on how strongly you feel about the issue and how you view opportunities for advancement in the company, you may wish to launch a job search.