Dos and Don'ts of Asking for a Raise

October 22, 2018

Written by Amy L. Lauricella, Content Writer

Professional Woman Shakes Bosss Hand

If you’re waiting for your boss to notice all of your hard work and then offer you a raise, you might be waiting for a while. True, some companies do reconsider salaries with each review cycle or provide cost-of-living adjustments on a regular basis. But more often, you’ll need to be proactive about getting paid what you’re worth. 

 In a culture where talking about money sometimes seems taboo or at least gauche, broaching the topic with your boss can feel intimidating— but it doesn’t have to feel that way. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us work, primarily at least, for money, and fielding raise requests is simply a part of your manager’s job. Here are some dos and don’ts you can follow to feel more confident and improve your odds of a favorable reply. 

Do ask after a big accomplishment. 

Just landed an elusive client, closed the deal on a major sale, or exceeded revenue expectations for a project? Ride the wave of that positive momentum straight to your manager’s office while your success is still fresh in his or her mind.  

Don’t ask before your first year is up.

It’s generally not considered good form to request a salary increase before you’ve had your one-year review. The one exception would be if your responsibilities have proven to be significantly more expansive than what was stated in the original job description. 

 Do know your value. 

Online tools such as Payscale.com, Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn.com, and the Occupational Outlook Handbookcan help you determine what salary range is standard for your position, taking into account factors such as your field or industry and your area of the country. If you find that you’re currently underpaid compared to your peers, the raise percentage you suggest should reflect that. Likewise, if you’ve taken on significant additional responsibilities since you started, you should probably be earning more money.

Don’t cite a colleague’s salary as a reason for your raise. You don’t want to rely on hearsay when making your case. But even if you know with absolute certainty that a co-worker earns more than you for similar (or lesser) responsibilities, keep that to yourself. Bringing it up is not typically considered professional, and your boss is unlikely to respond positively. Keep the conversation focused on the value that you bring to the company. 

Do give your manager a heads up. 

Email your boss and ask to set a time to meet privately. Let your boss know the intent behind your request. While you don’t want to outright ask for your raise via email, it’s fine to make it clear that your salary will be the topic of conversation. This gives your boss time to review your recent work, your current pay rate, and your department’s budget, without feeling put on the spot by your request.  

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Don’t go into your meeting empty-handed. 

Be ready with a case for why you’re worth the salary you’re asking for. (It doesn’t hurt to rehearse the conversation with an honest friend who will play the role of your boss and then give you feedback!) Create a highlight reel of your recent accomplishments. You can even bring this list with you to the meeting.  Whenever possible, provide numbers and metrics to support your case, especially if you can point to increased revenue or decreased costs. Some positions may not necessarily lend themselves to hard data, but even if that’s true for your job, you can describe problems you’ve solved, improvements you’ve made, and commendations you’ve received from customers or co-workers. 

Don’t just focus on the past.  

Yesterday’s achievements in and of themselves are not the reason for today’s raise. Ultimately, your manager’s decision comes down to what can be expected of you tomorrow. Using your past accomplishments as evidence of what you’re capable of, emphasize to your manager how you intend to continue contributing to the company’s success, and highlight the specific ways you plan on doing so.  

 Do plan to reopen the discussion if you don’t get the decision you were hoping for. 

Hearing “no” can be discouraging, especially when it pertains to something that we can easily perceive as being tied to our personal value. But instead of being discouraged, take the opportunity to ask your boss what goals you would need to achieve in order to get that raise. Then, ask to schedule a time in, say, three to six months to discuss things again—and start planning how you’ll meet and exceed those goals in the interim. On the other hand, if your boss can’t provide you with a clear answer to the first question, it might be time to spruce up your résumé and start looking for something new.