7 Tips To Ask Your Boss for a Pay Raise

Corporate building

A few years ago I was working at a job which I loved, but which paid less than what I considered the market rate for my experience and expertise. I therefore decided to ask my boss for a raise. Jerry, also the owner of this small company (about 100 employees), was a hands on man who kept his door open and himself accessible.

How NOT to Ask Your Boss for a Raise

Before requesting a meeting, I researched the market, found comparable positions and salaries, and decided on asking for a pay raise that would get me closer, but not completely to the market scale. Once ready, I asked Jerry for an appointment. “Sure Joe”, he responded with a smile. “How about lunch? Would next Tuesday be OK?”

Of course I agreed. As the luncheon date drew nearer, I starting feeling that I wasn’t as prepared as I should be, but I didn’t know exactly what was missing. By the way, reader, do you? We will come back to that question in a minute.

Fast forward to the lunch: after we ordered, Jerry leaned forward slightly and asked, “OK Joe, what is on your mind?”

As much as I thought I had prepared for that moment, it all slipped away as I stammered something like, “Well, Jerry, I have been working here for several years and haven’t received a raise recently. Understand that I love my work and I love working here, but I believe I am worth more than what I am being paid.”

Jerry leaned back, smiled and said, “Joe, I would love to give you a raise. All you need to do is show me how much value you bring to our bottom line. When you can do that, we can talk again. How does that sound?”

“Uhhm. That does make sense. I will be getting back to you at that time.”

Rethinking the process

Perhaps because I had spent a career working in government, whose bottom line was to spend the entire budget each year to prevent getting it slashed the following year, I wasn’t ready for the simple logic of Jerry’s answer. But I let his response soak in and determined that I would indeed make myself valuable enough to the company that a pay raise would be an obvious decision.

At that time, I was on a team which was responsible for marketing a new product line our company was producing. Progress was slow, but we made a bit of headway that first year and a bit more the second year before sales leaped upward the third year. Because I was personally responsible for a good chunk of those sales, knew that my time had come to once again ask for that raise.

This time it went quite naturally. We didn’t go to lunch or even set an appointment. I simply asked Jerry if he had a few minutes to talk. He stood up from behind his desk, asked me to have a seat and closed his office door. What is going on, Joe?”

“Jerry, as you are aware, our sales have increased considerably this past year. I was personally responsible for $ of those sales. You told me to let you know when my work has made a difference in our company’s bottom line. I am thinking that time is now. What do you think?”

“Joe, that is great. I will need to review your pay history, but I have every reason to believe that you should get that raise.”

“Thanks Jerry.” I responded, “I appreciate the consideration.”

And I did. A NICE raise. A VERY NICE raise.

So here are the 7 tips for asking for a pay raise:

1. Do your homework.

Understand exactly what criteria your company uses to determine raises. In my case (working for a small company where my contributions were easily documented), doing so was simple.  However, if you work for a huge company, particularly in a department that doesn’t contribute to your company’s profitability, you may need to use comparable salary data to validate your request.  Once you have a grasp on how your employer determines pay raises, list your accomplishments as they align with these criteria.

2. It is not about you.

You should never even imply that you need a raise because of your personal financial needs (a new child, medical expenses, higher rent, etc.) Your employer is not running a charity; he is running a business.

3. Timing is critical.

Some “right times” could be when business is booming, when you have just made a major contribution to your company’s success, when you have been recognized for your achievements or when the company is in the process of preparing its budget.

4. Be prepared for any response.

Graciousness is a key word for whatever response you might receive. If you get a “no”, graciously express your thanks for the meeting. You might follow up by asking exactly how to improve your performance in order to help your chances next time you ask. If you get a “yes”, be sure to express your thanks.

5. Rehearse.

Don’t think the words will automatically come to you. Practice your script out loud over and over again. Look into a mirror while doing so. Had I rehearsed my request the first time I asked for a raise, I would not have experienced that panicky feeling of inadequacy.

6. Be flexible.

Instead of being locked into a set salary increase, be prepared to negotiate. If more money isn’t going to happen, you might ask for other means of compensation such as flex work schedule, telecommuting or more paid time off. You should also consider the possibility of taking on more work or applying for a promotion.

7. Always be preparing for the next time.

Whether you got that raise or not, plan for the next time. Go over what you have done right and what you need to improve on.

As you refine this process, you are also making yourself more valuable to your employer, who will, in turn, want to compensate your for your contributions.

Now: go out and get that raise.

Photo by Maxwell

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8 Comments
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  1. I’ve never ased for a raise, not because inreceived them on a regular basis but because it was so hard to do. I dont think I could ever walk up yo my boss and ask for a raise….

  2. Great ideas. Personally, I work for a huge global company that gives raises every year based on performance ratings that we are given by our direct managers. The best thing to do, is to show our manager how we have directly contributed to moving projects forward. Getting the highest rank possible can lead to as much as a 10% raise, though most people fall into the 3-5% raise category every year. I almost made it to the 5-7% category….but since it was my first year with the company, I was scaled back. Guess it’s harder to get those higher ranks approved. :) I’m still happy.

  3. Great points Joe. Something else to consider that will increase your pay without asking for a raise is to ask for company paid equipment like a phone, laptop, or even a vehicle in some cases. You need to approach these carefully as well and prove how it will increase THEIR bottom line – but if you can do it, it’s like a mini raise.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  4. @Fillmypb,
    You said that asking for a raise is hard to do, so let me ask: do the tips in this post give you the confidence to give it a try?

    @Jonathan,
    Obviously, your global company operates way different that the small company I used to work for. The key is to know exactly how your company handles raises and work within those parameters. Sounds like you are doing that quite well.

    @Tim,
    Thanks for the great tips. I have one son who has done exactly what you suggested: he has a company provided laptop with internet connectivity and a nice company car. Another son has a company car. These are great “pay raises”.

  5. Great article. I can tell you that the tips are right on. I just worked my butt off this past year, tracked my billing, asked for a meeting with my boss 2 weeks ago, presented my results to my boss, and got a nice raise. I work in a small company of 10 employees and business has been very good this year. Timing and personal performance are the most important factors I think!

  6. Appreciate the statement ‘it’s not about you’. I think employees forget that.

  7. This is excellent advice! I especially like the part where “It’s not about you” because your boss isn’t running a charity, they’re running a business. I couldn’t agree more! I recently talked with my boss about changing my schedule to work the same hours but on different days. This would give me a “raise of time” instead of money, because it works better with my schedule. I still get the work done but have more time for family and other obligations. It’s like your tip about being flexible. I didnt’ get more money, but I got more time which is equally important in my mind.

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