How Do I Ask My Boss For A Raise?

iStockphoto.com |  ramihalim

iStockphoto.com | ramihalim

It’s a job seekers’ market, and companies are offering more money to attract top talent. Sometimes it makes sense to jump jobs when the price is right.

However, your work life is comprised of a lot more than just salary. Perhaps you’ve done an assessment and determined that you are happy with what you are doing, where you are, and the people you work with.

And yet, with the market hot, you still find yourself fantasizing about what you would do with all that extra money you’d get from jumping employers. If you’ve been a high performer, the demand for your skills is strong, or you believe you’ve been underpaid relative to the market, you may find yourself in a situation where you’d like to ask your current employer for a raise.

If and when you decide to ask your boss for an increase in pay, it’s important to approach the situation with both a plan and a healthy dose of emotional intelligence.

  • Proceed with caution. Be forewarned – money is one of the most sensitive topics you can surface at work. Try to put yourself in your boss’s shoes: presuming he or she agrees that you deserve a raise, you’re putting them into a situation where they have to advocate for you and sell the idea of giving you more money up the leadership chain of command. And so much is at stake within a company when it comes to compensation – internal equity, market competitiveness, and employee engagement. You’re entering tricky territory.

  • Get the data. If you simply tell your manager you want more money or you’re going to walk, it will be a short and ineffective conversation. You’ll need to provide as many reasons as possible to advocate for you. How have you earned that raise? How have you added value? Provide as many metrics as possible, have salary data relevant to your region and profile (Paysa.com is a great tool), and have ready those glowing performance reviews from the past year.

  • Try to bring it up during your organization’s regular compensation cycle. Many companies have annual performance reviews tied to wage increases. Regular compensation cycles are the most advantageous time to ask for a raise because your pay already on the agenda. If you plan on campaigning for a raise greater than your company’s “standard” increase, read on.

  • Asking for a raise “out-of-cycle,” is a little trickier. There are many reasons you might consider asking for a raise outside the normal review cycle – perhaps you’ve learned that people doing the same work are paid more, or maybe you just landed an amazing account that’s bringing in a substantial share of new business, or you’ve benchmarked your salary and you’re being paid below market. Since your out-of-cycle request for a raise will most likely be unexpected, plan your approach with extreme care; your manager will not be anticipating the conversation, and the work involved in making these types of things happen outside the normal schedule.

  • Request private time with your manger. Time to make the move. Be careful how you ask for this time. Try and choose a relaxed environment at a low-pressure time. Frame the request as a discussion about career or personal development, not money!  

  • Read the room. This is where the emotional intelligence comes into the equation. Be sensitive as to timing and approach; asking for a raise during layoffs or some other time when you perceive you have additional leverage may get you something in the short term, but could be absolutely detrimental in the long term. Likewise, there are many political and operational sensitivities regarding handling your request. A great deal of time, effort, and influence will be required to be exerted on your behalf in order to explore – much less fulfill – your request.

  • Prepare to go through an impromptu job performance appraisal. You want more money? Prove you deserve it by providing the data to show that you deserve it. And be prepared for feedback you may not like – for all you know, your manager may be unhappy with your job performance and your request will provide the perfect opportunity to discuss it.

  • Lay out your case. The best approach is a collaborative one. Whatever you do, do not come across as disgruntled, or entitled. Share the data you’ve gathered that supports your case. Express that you love working there, and that you look forward to helping the company achieve its strategy. And if you’re shot down, listen to the feedback and understand why it’s being shared. There may be valid reasons as to why the company can’t meet your request. You may learn useful, actionable feedback that can help you grow and develop.


Philip Roufail contributed to this article.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.