Updated on August 10, 2021
When was the last time you asked your boss for a raise? Perhaps you never feel it’s the right time, or maybe you find it difficult to speak up for yourself.
But when it comes to negotiating your salary and ensuring you’re paid what you’re worth, if you don’t ask, you may not receive. Knowing how to ask your boss for a raise is part of establishing a thriving career.
When is it Appropriate to Ask for a Raise?
You’ll have more leverage and negotiating power with your boss if you have a general understanding of what the average or typical salary is for the type of work you do. The good news is that there are several online tools that will tell you what the average salary a person in a position like yours earns.
- Payscale® Salary Report
- Glassdoor® Know Your Worth™
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics Wage Data
Salary databases and reports are an excellent starting point to negotiate a raise. But they don’t necessarily tell the entire story. A few factors can either push your salary up or down, such as:
- Your location/cost of living. Odds are likely that a person living in a major metropolitan area will need to earn more than a person residing in a suburban or rural area in the same type of position. Cost of living tends to be higher in cities, and salaries often reflect that.
- Your experience. If you’re just starting out or at the very beginning of your career, don’t expect your boss to pay you the same salary they’re paying someone else with 10 or 20 years of experience. That said, you also don’t want to be earning the same or less than people who started in the same or similar position after you.
- Your abilities. Some people are average at their jobs. If you’re the best your business has ever seen, and your boss tells you that often, you deserve to make more than someone who’s doing the bare minimum.
- Your responsibilities. It’s not uncommon for people to take on increased responsibility the longer they’re in a position. If this is something you’ve done and you haven’t seen a bump in pay due to the added responsibilities, it may be a good idea to ask about a raise.
- Your schedule. If you regularly take on shifts that no one else wants, or you frequently agree to extra work but don’t qualify for overtime pay, you might be able to negotiate a higher salary than someone who works standard hours.
- Your education. Have you earned a new degree or certification since you started working in your position? That can translate to a boost in pay.
The Right Way to Ask for a Raise
Before setting up a meeting with your boss, consider the timing of your request. For instance, if your company only negotiates salaries during the first quarter and you pop in asking for a raise during the third quarter, your boss is likely to say no, even if you’re a good candidate for a salary bump. Knowing how much lead time your company needs may help you get the raise the next time around.
Should you ask for a raise in person or in writing? The answer may depend on your relationship with your boss. If you don’t regularly meet face-to-face, sending an email or direct message on a company-provided chat service will allow you to schedule a meeting.
Be upfront with your boss when planning the meeting. That way, your raise request won’t be a surprise. In your message, ask if you can arrange a time to meet and discuss your salary or compensation. You can include a few reasons why you think you deserve a raise so that your boss is less likely to refuse your request. This gives your boss an opportunity to prepare for the meeting, as well as request any information that might be needed from you before or during the discussion.
Although making the request for a meeting is best done in writing, making the actual request for a raise is something to do in person. If you send an email asking for a boost in salary, your email could get buried in an inbox, and you may never hear back.
You can also get a better read on your boss if you ask for a raise in person. You can pay attention to body language and tone of voice. That helps you to get a sense of whether a raise is a possibility now, something that could happen in the future, or unlikely to happen at all.
Make sure you do your homework before the meeting. When you ask for a raise verbally, you may increase the possibility of getting it if you present a thought-out, written proposal explaining why you deserve the raise or what you can do moving forward to earn it.
Asking in person also gives you an opportunity to ask for feedback at the end of the meeting. This can be especially beneficial if your boss turns down your request. You can ask what you can do differently to increase your value to the company.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t get an answer during the meeting. Most likely, your boss will want to think about it, especially if you have provided a written proposal to consider. Also, the ultimate decision may rest with his or her supervisor or the Human Resources department.
After you leave the meeting with your boss, it’s a good idea to follow up with an email regardless of the outcome.
Even if you don’t get a raise, sending a follow up email is still important. You can review what your boss said in the meeting and create a virtual paper trail. Having proof of your meeting is particularly helpful if your boss made any promises or said anything along the lines of asking again in a few months.
What to Say
Knowing what to say to your boss and how to say it can mean the difference between an increase in salary or stagnant wages.
Here’s a look at what to say:
- I’d like to talk about my salary. There’s no reason to hide the point of your meeting. Your boss will appreciate knowing what’s on the agenda up front.
- I’ve taken on these responsibilities, and here are the results. Your boss will likely want or need proof that you’re deserving of a raise. Highlight your recent accomplishments in your position or the ways that you’ve gone above and beyond what is expected or required of you.
- I’ve earned the company X amount or boosted sales by X percent. When you’re negotiating a raise, numbers talk. Give your boss concrete examples of your value to the company, whether you’ve increased sales by a certain percentage, converted a specific number of leads, or earned the company a tangible dollar amount.
- I’d like to continue to grow with this company. Businesses like to reward loyalty. During your meeting, don’t focus only on what you’ve done for the company. Focus on what the company has done for you, as well, and how you plan to contribute to its continued growth.
- Would you agree that X increase would be fair? When asking your boss for a raise, it’s important to actually ask for a raise. While you might assume that your goal is clear from the subject of your email and from all the things you’ve been saying during the meeting, your boss won’t know exactly what you want unless you explicitly ask for it.
What Not to Say
When prepping for your meeting with your boss, make sure you have a clear idea of what you shouldn’t say. You want to avoid coming across as negative or upset. You also want to avoid comparing yourself to others.
Here’s what not to say:
- I deserve a raise. “Oh, do you?” your boss might think. Remember that actions speak louder than words. Give your boss examples of why you should get a raise — don’t simply say that you should get one.
- I haven’t received a raise in years. You want to avoid anything that could be interpreted as complaining during your meeting. Focus on the positive, not the negative.
- So-and-so earns more than me. By shifting the focus to someone else’s earnings, you’re derailing the focus of your meeting. Keep the conversation centered on what value you bring to the company or why your particular role should be elevated, rather than comparing yourself to someone else.
- My partner got laid off/We just bought a house/We have a child on the way. These are all legitimate reasons to need more money. But they’re flimsy arguments when it comes to convincing your boss you deserve to earn more.
- Wouldn’t it be great if I got a raise today? Sarcasm doesn’t fly in the workplace. Jokes and snarky commentary don’t belong in the office.
- I want you to double my salary. Negotiating is a delicate art. You don’t want to underprice yourself, but you also don’t want to aim so high that your boss’s only option is to turn you down. Doing your research and knowing what a competitive salary for your position is will help you avoid asking for too much or too little during your meeting.
- If you can’t give me a raise, I’ll quit. Unless you have a new job offer lined up and it’s completely guaranteed, you’ll want to avoid saying that you’re going to look for work elsewhere. Saying you’ll quit is a pretty good way to turn a decent working relationship into a sour one. If you don’t leave the company, it’s likely to make your work environment uncomfortable. Even if you are leaving the company, it’s always best to leave on good terms. You never know if you and your current boss will cross paths in the future.
How to Prepare
Knowing what to say when asking for a raise at work is just one part of the process. It also helps to get yourself into the right frame of mind and know how to convey to your manager that you’re serious.
Remember that practice makes perfect. Put together a short speech to introduce the subject with your boss and review it several times before your meeting. Think of this as your pitch. You want to make your case, provide supporting examples, and make a clear request.
It’s also a good idea to practice role playing various scenarios. Have a friend play your boss. Act out possible outcomes from your boss, such as a quick yes, an immediate no, or a reaction that says you need to do some more convincing.
You might also want to record yourself making your pitch or acting out the role play. That way, you can pay close attention to your body language and the tone of your voice. If you look or sound uncertain, your boss may not feel confident in the information you’re sharing. For example, pay attention to how you’re sitting during your practice sessions. Are you slouched or fidgeting? Practice a few times with straight posture and work to reduce the urge to squirm.
Along with practicing your pitch, there are a few other things you can do to help your meeting go as smoothly as possible:
- Schedule the meeting at a time you’ll be at your best. Not a morning person? Don’t schedule your meeting for 8 a.m. If you usually get drowsy after lunch, avoid a 1 or 2 p.m. meeting. While you might have to adjust your schedule accordingly to accommodate your boss’ schedule, try to aim for a time that will be ideal for both of you.
- Dress the part. Just as you took the time to dress up for your interview at the company, it’s a good idea to dress up a bit for your salary discussion. You don’t have to go the full suit-and-tie route if that’s not standard dress for your company, but try to look a bit more professional or formal than usual.
- Schedule a break beforehand. Don’t squeeze this conversation in immediately after other meetings. Schedule a block of time to compose yourself and get prepared before the meeting starts. For example, step outside and take a few deep breaths to clear your head if you’re finding yourself distracted by other priorities of the day.
- Stay calm. No matter how the meeting goes, remember to stay composed. If things get a bit heated or emotional, it’s important that you stay calm and collected. Don’t rush into reactions – if you need to walk away for a bit, thank your boss for their time, let them know you’d like some time to digest what they’ve shared with you, and schedule a time to follow up.
Remember That Timing is Everything
Getting the timing of your request right is as essential to your success as having a strong case for getting a raise. You might be the perfect candidate for a boost in salary, but if your company’s budget is set, you’re probably not going to get a raise, no matter how great you are at your job.
You also want to pay attention to what’s going on at your company. If revenues are going up, your boss may be more likely to give out raises to employees who go above and beyond or to employees who have played an active role in increasing those revenues.
But if the company has been struggling, asking for a raise at that moment is likely to come across as a little tone deaf. You don’t want your manager to think that you’re out of the loop or that you don’t particularly care about the success of your employer.
Even if things are going well at work, you can still be turned down for a raise if you don’t ask at the right time. If you’re not sure about the timing, talk to people who have been there longer than you or with a professional mentor, if you have one. Ask if they know the typical timeline for raises or pay bumps. For example, some companies automatically give cost-of-living raises at annual reviews.
If you’re hoping for more than a cost-of-living increase, get in touch with your manager well before your annual review. You want to make sure money will be in the budget to potentially give you a merit-based raise when the time comes. You might not actually discuss your raise until your review, but informing your boss well in advance will increase the chance of there being room in the budget for a salary increase.
Once you successfully get a raise from your employer, the next step is to make a budget and a plan for the additional income you’ll be earning. To help, you can find more money management tips and resources on our WalletWorks page.