How to Ask for a Raise

Candace Nicolls |
Candace is our Senior Vice President of People and Workplace at Snagajob, where she’s passionate about making Snagajob one of the best places to work in the country. Her first hourly job was as a babysitter.
Categories: Career Advice

It's normal to feel uncomfortable talking about money. Many of us were taught that talking about how we make is a "taboo" subject. This mentality can make asking your boss for a raise feel awkward, so much so that people often put off asking for a raise, even if they know they deserve one. While it would be great if every manager recognized how hard their employees worked and offered raises without any prompting, that's very rarely the case. The old saying "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" applies here. If you want a raise, your likely going to have to ask for one. Keep reading to learn how to ask for a raise at work. 

When is the right time to ask your boss for a raise? 

If your company doesn't have a set raise schedule (ex. 3 percent every year), it can be a little tricky to know when it's time to request a raise. Yearly raises are standard, so if it's been more than a year since your last raise and you don't have any upcoming performance reviews (or if your company doesn't do performance reviews), you are in a good position to ask your boss for a raise. The ideal time is when you know that the company is doing well. Budget cuts and layoffs are signs that the company is having budgeting problems, and it's typically not the ideal time to ask for a raise. Still, it's not unheard of for companies to incentivize their most important employees to stay. Picking a low-stress time of year (ex. avoiding holidays if in retail or during a transition) or right after a big project or launch was successful can help swing things in your favor. 

How much of a raise should I ask for?

Knowing how much is a raise is helpful, so you can know what to ask for and expect. The average raise is around three to five percent. Some companies structure their raises around bonuses based on overall company profit sharing or individual employees' sales goals, which can be anywhere from an average of 2.5 to 7.5 percent but sometimes even up to 15 percent. It's important to make sure you're being paid what you're worth. Before asking your boss for a raise, what other people in your position, based on your credentials, are being paid at companies in cities similar to yours. You can look on Glassdoor and search salaries and compensation to get a better idea of what's normal. 

Has your workload increased? 

If your role has changed and you find yourself successfully taking on a heavier workload, it's a good time to ask for a raise. Often as an employee, you may be asked to take on more responsibilities and find that you've been essentially promoted, but without the corresponding pay increase. Asking for a job based on increased payload requires you to advocate for yourself and have an honest conversation with your manager. If you can handle the new responsibilities without being overwhelmed, you should ask your manager or boss for a raise. Suppose there are too many responsibilities for you to handle. In that case, the raise isn't enough, and you need to have an honest conversation with your manager about spreading out the workload to other employees. 

Are You Being Underpaid? 

It's essential to know your worth and make sure you're being paid enough. When asking for a raise when you feel like you're underpaid, doing enough research is essential. Before going into the meeting with your boss to ask for the raise, you should know what the average pay for your position is, outline your credentials and current job and responsibilities to add validity to your argument. 

Do you have a competing job offer?

Before accepting another job offer, employees will often give their company the chance to match the new salary as an incentive to stay. This strategy is only suggested if you're planning on taking the new job if your current employer says no. If you use a new job as a bargaining chip to negotiate a pay raise or promotion and your current company says no, and you choose to stay anyway, it can lead to an uneasy situation. Your current company will know that you're not happy with your pay and are looking for other opportunities and may be more likely to replace you. 

How to Request a Raise

There are two main options when it comes to requesting a raise. You can schedule a meeting with your boss as an impromptu performance review, or you can be more direct and ask for a raise in writing. Most experts suggest that in-person raise requests tend to go better than asking for a raise in email, as you can read your boss's body language and adjust your strategy. You want to go into the meeting feeling calm and non-confrontational. The goal is to have a conversation based on your stellar performance, how you've helped the company succeed, and therefore deserve a raise. Set the tone by sending your boss an email asking if you can schedule a meeting to talk about your performance or, if you would like to be more direct, your compensation. 

• Can we set aside some time during our next meeting to discuss my performance? 

• I would like to meet with you to discuss my compensation whenever you are free next. 

How to Prepare to Ask your Boss for a Raise

Before meeting with your boss to discuss your salary raise, you need to gather your supporting information. Besides researching average pay for your position and the company's policy or trends for raises, you should put together support based on your performance. Gather positive feedback from your managers or other team members and outline significant projects and accomplishments over the past year or since your last raise. Ideally, you want three to four strong arguments. It's best if you have numbers and statistics about your performance and how it's contributed to the company's growth. 

How to Ask for a Raise Professionally

Asking for a raise should be a serious but non-confrontational endeavor. You want to be confident and enthusiastic about your current goal. You can follow scripts for how to ask for a raise, but reading your boss's body language and being able to pivot based on the conversation is important. The beginning of any how to ask for a raise template starts with the opener. When you walk into the meeting, setting the tone is important.

Examples: 

How to ask for a raise when you're underpaid: 

Thank you for meeting with me today. I wanted to discuss my current role and compensation. I've researched other similar positions and, based on my research [add research if needed], experience, and performance in the company, feel that a salary of $XX would be more fitting. 

How to ask for a raise based on increase workload: 

Thank you for meeting with me today. I've been taking on more responsibilities lately [add responsibilities and successes] and would like to discuss how my current salary can reflect this greater workload. 

Be Ready for Questions

Rarely do managers just say "yes," it happens, but often they have questions and need more convincing. Be prepared for your boss (especially if it's not your direct report who knows what projects you've been working on) to ask questions about your performance, what you've been working on, the scope of your role, and the research you've done. It's like a job interview; you will need to sell yourself and be able to back up your claims.

The answer may be no

If your manager says it's not possible, you can try to turn the no into a yes, by negotiating. There is a difference between "no, never," "no, not right now," and a maybe. Some people may not feel comfortable doing this, or there may be no budget for raises at the moment. If your boss initially says no, you can try to turn it into a maybe, by asking what you can do to earn the raise or if you can address it next quarter. Even if the answer is a hard no based on the company's finances, you can try to negotiate non-monetary perks that would make you happy in the short term, like more vacation time, flexible working hours, more working from home or a title change.