Negotiating a raise is one of the most hair-raising moments in the world of work. This said, never be tempted to accept remaining being underpaid or avoid requesting a higher salary. Wanting to be paid more is a natural and acceptable notion, and managers will certainly view the request, in the same light, as part of a normal routine of leading people.
This article aims to demystify negotiating a raise — to make it a little easier to do. We’ll discuss all the elements of how to ask for a raise, how to prepare for the negotiations, how to handle them, and what to do afterwards.
Watch the steps in action:
Asking for a raise can be a little awkward, but it’s a normal request, and one that most employers will understand. We all have a value at work, and it’s important that we understand what ours is (more on that later). If this value doesn’t match to what employers pay us, this needs to be addressed, and this is where negotiating a raise comes in.
Organizations all compete to offer a great employee experience and benefits to match, but money walks and talks, and managers will understand that more of it will motivate us and make our lives easier. We don’t demand raises; we ask for them, and a good mindset to take into the discussions is that the very worst that can happen is that your manager will say “no”!
There are many reasons to ask for a raise. Having a genuine reason for wanting one will help motivate you in the negotiations. Here are the top reasons to ask for a raise:
- Your salary remained unchanged with a promotion.
- You’re underpaid according to job market data.
- You’ve been asked to travel more with work.
- You’re taking on added responsibilities in your current job.
- You’ve brought in new business or customers.
- You’ve gained important qualifications related to what you do.
- Your salary is falling behind inflation.
- You’re paid less than other people in the same role.
- You have specialist skills or knowledge that are hard to replace.
- You’ve received a job offer from another company.
Timing is everything when negotiating a raise. Choosing the wrong moment can increase the risk of your request being rejected.
Firstly, don’t ask for a raise too soon after starting a job; after six months is the earliest it’s considered acceptable to do so. Consider timing your request to when you have completed a challenging project, achieved your goals or received some positive feedback for a job well done. Another good time to ask is after a positive performance review.
Consider your company’s cash flow if you can. Asking for a raise in bumper months or when the company is entering a new financial year are usually the best times to ask. Finally, don’t ask for a raise too often — once a year is usually the limit.
The alternative to asking for a raise is to rely on organizational annual pay review processes. Pay increases are usually less generous than out-of-process raises because they will impact most of the workforce at once. In 2022, WTW reported that employers in the US were budgeting for an average salary increase of 3.4%. This rose to 4.2% by year end, but was still far behind the country’s inflation rate.
In general, annual pay increases are governed by external forces. Inflation is one, but pay increases also depend on the wider economic conditions, job market pay scales, the performance of your organization or the industry it operates in, or, if you work in the public sector, government policy. Pay increases are also often determined by your performance review ratings.
With pay increases being between 3% and 4%, you can sometimes negotiate bigger raises than the pay increase being offered. This is because, in general, a one-off request for a raise is going to be easier to sign off than multitudes of pay increases. Researching how much to ask for is an essential part of this process, but pay scales for roles can be easily looked up using websites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn and PayScale.
Once you have some ideas in mind, coming up with a reasonable salary between 10% and 20% more than what you’re currently earning is commonly regarded as acceptable, but have a second, lower salary in mind to fall back on as negotiations progress, too!
You never ask for a raise; you negotiate it. This means having a plan, being able to effectively communicate with your manager and having diplomacy top of mind as you work through the conversation. Here are 20 steps to help you negotiate a raise:
Doing your prep
1. Research the market
Begin your journey to achieving a raise by properly understanding what comparable jobs, industries and locations are paying. This analysis will help you pick out a reasonable figure to negotiate with. You can get this research from websites like the Burau of Labor Statistics, LinkedIn and Glassdoor, and from industry-specific salary surveys, often accessible online.
2. Know your value
Your value is made up of what the market rate is for your role, what you individually bring to your work and what people in similar jobs to you in your organization are paid. Take time to consider your individual achievements such as expertise, specialisms and qualifications. Covering these elements will help you present your value effectively.
3. Finalize your “number”
Using the above information, come up with your “number”: how much you’re asking for. Remember to be ambitious but reasonable; come up with a round number no more than 20% above your current salary.
Prepare for salary negotiations by having a higher number and a lower number in your mind. The higher number is the salary that you want to pitch to your manager in the first instance. The second number is a lower one that you might want to settle on as negotiations conclude.
4. List your reasons and achievements
The next thing you want to do is to craft the argument that you’ll present to your manager. This will aim to concisely but persuasively illustrate the above points about market, context and value that might sway your manager into offering you a raise.
You’ll want to present yourself as someone with unique abilities who deserves a raise based on all relevant factors. Aim for the right balance between detail and engagement; you want to sound credible but not bore your manager along the way!
5. Know what your organization can and cannot do
Your organization will be able to offer a raise when times are good and there’s money to spare. If you know your company is struggling, or there is a recession, the chances of getting a raise will be lower. Familiarize yourself with any policies or information the organization provides about how raise requests are handled, such as processes or forms.
Starting the conversation
6. Time the moment
Timing the raise conversation is critical, with the best moments being after performance review season or when you have completed an important project.
When diarizing the conversation, think about the day and time as well. Towards the end of the day is always best, as your boss might have less work on their mind. And the beginning of the week might be better so the discussion doesn’t disappear after the weekend.
7. Rehearse the speech
Rehearse what you’re going to say to your manager. This will ensure that you explain what you intended to, and it might mean that you’ll be less nervous in the meeting. It will also ensure that you avoid what not to say. Don’t just rehearse reasons and achievements, but also how you plan to open the discussion, any questions you have, and how to create dialogue and conversation.
8. Anticipate questions
Consider what questions your manager might have. They might want to know more about the reasons you want a raise, what you would do to justify it, and what you might do if the request is refused. Draft out answers to these questions before the meeting. Take some time to research non-financial benefits, as these might be offered up in place of a raise.
9. Invite your manager
Invite your manager to a meeting and say that you would appreciate some time to discuss your salary. Suggest a few good dates and times; then, when they’ve replied, firm up the meeting in their calendar. Choose a private, convenient location for the meeting (it could happen virtually, too), and arrive at it on time.
10. Focus on your presentation
Whether your discussion about your raise will happen in the office or remotely, it’s important you adhere to the basics of workplace presentation. Ensure you’re dressed for success, in office attire, and arrive promptly to the meeting. Welcome your manager, thank them for their time, and offer them refreshments if they’re available.
Making the ask
11. Introduce the purpose of the meeting
When asking for a raise, confidence is critical. After welcoming and thanking your manager, kick off the meeting by saying something like “As I mentioned in the invitation, I would like to present some reasons why I believe my salary could be reviewed”. This is a polite and direct introduction to the rest of the meeting.
12. Frame out the context
Next, you want to quickly present the business context. You can discuss what the company has been working on, what has changed in the organization, how you want to grow with the organization, and other factors that have led you to request a raise. Keep these factors organized and concise as you go through them. Read the room; you want to kick this off as a low-pressure, natural conversation.
13. Give your number
Tell your manager the salary you are looking for. Drop it in naturally, for example: “Given the market, where we’re going and my desire to be a part of this journey, I am asking for my annual salary to be reviewed to $80,000”. This is often seen as the crunch moment but don’t worry: your manager might be dealing with salaries all year long, so they won’t see this as presumptuous or rude in the slightest.
14. Provide the evidence behind your number
Here, lead on from where you dropped your number to justifying why. Explain what you can offer the organization going forward, and what makes you unique. Reiterate that the most important thing for you is continuity ie: to remain working where you are. Invite thoughts from your manager, maybe by asking the powerful but simple question, “What do you think?”.
15. Thank the manager and offer your ongoing support
Wrap up the conversation by thanking you manager for their time and that you remain committed to the organization and enjoy what you do. If next steps or follow-ups have not yet been discussed, then use this moment as a chance to find out. Take some time immediately after the meeting to reflect on how it went.
Getting an answer
16. Don’t expect an answer immediately
Remember that your manager might not be the only decision-maker when it comes to issuing raises. Even if they want to, managers might need to discuss raises with other stakeholders, such as financial directors, human resources, or their own manager. The process might take some time, and your boss might have to come back to you at a later stage.
17. Plan for “maybe”
The dreaded but often-proffered “maybe” is the worst thing to hear in a raise negotiation, as it’s ambiguous. Very often, perhaps due to budget issues, managers simply cannot give you an answer. Tell them that you understand and ask if some time can be put in their diary in the future to revisit the discussion. Their response to this might tell you if the “maybe” is actually a “no” or “yes”.
18. Thank your manager
However the meeting ends, politely thank your boss and close the discussion on good terms. Ensure that whatever happens, you get a date for a follow-up, whether this is a date to sign salary paperwork, a date to revisit the discussion, or a date for your next standard salary review. Basically, ensure the meeting closes with a focus on the future.
19. Ask for feedback
As part of the raise negotiation, you might want to discuss feedback with your manager, and it certainly might be something to ask for if the answer to the raise is “no”. Gaining feedback is an important part of career advancement, and asking managers for their thoughts on how you’re doing is a natural thing to do in this situation.
20. Reflect for next time
Finally, no matter how your raise negotiation goes, remember to take time to reflect on the process so you can improve for the future. What went well? What would you do differently next time? As soon as you leave the meeting with your manager, reflect on how it went, and do the same a week later.
How you might go about asking the critical question to ask for a raise will depend on how you’re pitching the discussion. Here are some ideas to help you along:
If you have taken on additional responsibilities
Over the past two years, my role has evolved to encompass my existing responsibilities but also new ones. I would be grateful if my salary can be reviewed so that it reflects these responsibilities and the continued excellent work I accomplish at Company ABC.
If you helped the company surpass its goals
Recently, I was part of the team that development of the XYZ app. This was an incredible learning experience. I appreciate the recognition that has been offered to me and I was hoping to discuss my current salary considering the incredible achievements we have accomplished.
If you’re being paid less than the market rate
After undertaking some research of the job market in respect of my role as lead programmer, I feel that strong consideration should be taken to aligning my role to the $65,000. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this in more detail.
If you received another job offer
Recently, I was offered another role with a salary of $45,000. Whereas I would like to give this offer some thought, I remain committed to Company ABC and look forward to what the future might hold here. Therefore, I would like to ask whether you can uplift my current salary to match what has been offered.
Don’t be disheartened if your request for a raise is rejected. This happens a lot and is no reflection on you as a person. The first thing to do if this happens is ask for reasons why, using a line similar to: “Thank you for your time in reviewing my request for a raise. I accept that my salary cannot be reviewed at this time, but would welcome the chance to understand why in more detail.”
Consider discussing with your line manager some alternatives to a raise. These could include enhanced healthcare, paid leave, pension contributions, or other benefits like gym membership, car lease schemes and so on. These benefits impact company accounts in different ways and, therefore, might be easier to grant than a raise. In some cases, these might be as advantageous to you as a raise would.
Remember that you never ask for a pay raise — you negotiate one. With any negotiation, it’s important to have a plan, execute it well and follow up appropriately. When negotiating a raise consider the following key points:
- Research market salaries and other factors relating to what you’re paid.
- Understand your “worth” at work by appraising your skills and achievements.
- Plan out what you’re going to say and anticipate questions from your manager.
- Have a polite, two-way conversation with you manager about your selling points, representing yourself well.
- Afterwards, ensure you follow up, thank your manager, and ask for feedback.
- Finally, reflect on the negotiation and learn what can be adapted for next time.
Every raise request is different, and they will always be challenging meetings. Having a plan, knowing your worth, and being willing to negotiate will maximize your chances of successfully asking for a raise.
Originally published on March 11, 2019.