How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise

At some point in your professional career, you will likely ask your boss for a raise. This can be an uncomfortable situation for many people.  However, it’s important to know that it’s a very common occurrence in the workplace. Keeping some important details in mind and preparing ahead of time can reduce your stress.

When asking your boss for a raise, use the following tips:

  • Give performance data to show the financial impact you’ve made
  • Discuss your accomplishments
  • Explain how you’ve addressed feedback
  • Talk about work-related challenges you overcame
  • Ask for a specific amount based on research
  • Don’t talk about what you want the money for
  • Avoid discussing your colleagues
  • Make sure it’s the right time(market conditions, seasonality, etc)

Focus on Your Job PerformanceFocus on Your Job Performance

When having this conversation with your boss, it’s essential to only discuss your job performance. Pay raises are given out based on performance. Therefore discussing anything else will take away from why you deserve a raise. Try to avoid bringing up what you plan on doing with the extra money and your colleagues’ job performance.

When discussing your job performance, there a few specific details you should keep in mind:

  • Accomplishments are more meaningful when supported by data
  • Highlight positive performance over a long period of time, not just recently
  • Talk about the feedback you’ve been given and how you addressed it
  • Work-related challenges that you overcame are relevant

Provide Data that Proves Your ValueProvide Data That Proves Your Value

When it comes to performance, numbers speak louder than words. Your boss would much rather see your accomplishments than hear about them. This can be beneficial to your boss as it can serve as the justification when they present their case. It also saves them the time of having to gather the data themselves.

The examples below highlight the stark difference between including data and not:

 

Don’t say- In quarter 1 and 2 of this year, I exceeded my sales goals.

Say- I was 108% to goal for quarter 1 and 2 of this year.

 

Don’t say- I did better than the expected response time for customer support requests.

Say- My response time for customer support requests was 75% faster than expected.

 

Both of these show that statements with data are more impactful than those without. If performance data is provided for you, put it together to create a complete picture of why you deserve a raise. If not, you can still gather and present your own data to support your case.

Highlight a Variety of Accomplishments

Be prepared to discuss the positive impact that you’ve made over a long period of time. If you fixate on recent results, it may seem as if you might be asking for a raise too soon. By focusing on old accomplishments, your boss may wonder what you’ve contributed more recently. A good practice would be to discuss big wins that you’ve had throughout the time period that you’re reviewing. This drives homes the idea that you consistently perform at a high level.

If you have different types of accomplishments, it’s helpful to share these as well. For example, if you’re in a sales role and you can show how you brought on new clients, upsold existing clients, and saved accounts that wanted to cancel, this shows a wide range of skills.

Show How You’ve Implemented Feedback

Hopefully, you’ve implemented feedback that was given either informally or on a performance review. If so, this is the time to bring it up. Doing this not only shows that you listened, but that you also value the feedback. Be specific and provide evidence of how you implemented the feedback.

 

Don’t Say- I improved my weekly production since last April.

Say- Last April we talked about improving my weekly production by 30%. Since then, it has improved by over 50%.

 

Again, be sure to have data with you to prove this.

Discuss Workplace Challenges You’ve Overcome

If you were able to meet or exceed expectations despite barriers to success, that’s worth noting. This can make your accomplishments seem even more impressive. Focus only on challenges in the workplace such as staffing shortages or unforeseen circumstances. Be careful not to sound bitter about the challenges that you faced.

 

Don’t say- I was successful on project x even though I had to do extra work because of the hiring freeze.

Say- During the hiring freeze, I was able to manage extra tasks and responsibilities and still successfully complete project x.

 

While you may have overcome issues in your personal life, we don’t recommend bringing these up. The conversation should remain focused on the workplace.

Ask For a Specific Amount

Once you’ve discussed the reasons you deserve a raise, be prepared to request a specific amount that you want. Generally, a 10% salary increase is appropriate to ask for. Of course, your specific job performance should dictate how much you actually request. If you can prove that your contributions led to a notable increase in revenue or production, you’ll have more leverage. The more leverage you have, the more you can command.

There are some things you should do and be aware of when deciding how much to ask for:

  • Research salary listings from people currently or previously in your position. There are various websites that compile this data. Be cautious though as some of the data may be inaccurate when it’s provided by employees instead of employers.
  • Look at current openings for your position. This information is valuable as the money being offered is for open positions. Caution should again be used though as some companies incorrectly list pay range for a position. Be on the lookout for an unusually low or high pay range.
  • Make sure to look by location.  The pay range is going to vary from one place to another. You want to be certain that you’re considering pay that is typical for your area and not a different one.
  • Know the difference between junior and senior positions. Don’t confuse the pay between these two. Your pay range shouldn’t exceed the expected range for whichever position you’re in. If you’re looking to earn beyond the expected amount, you should consider a promotion instead.

Considering all of this information, come up with the amount that you’re going to ask for. Your boss may ask what research you used to come to your number. Have the information with you just in case.  Be specific and confident during the conversation.

 

Don’t say- Considering my performance and the research that I’ve done, I believe I deserve a raise

Say- Considering my performance and the research that I’ve done, a raise of x percent is appropriate. What are your thoughts?

 

Do Not Discuss Your Plans For Additional MoneyDon’t Discuss Your Plans for the Additional Money

If your request for a raise is related to personal financial needs, it’s not advisable to bring this up. Talking about why you need a raise or what you’re going to do with it is unprofessional. Unless your manager is the final decision maker, they will need approval for your raise from another person or department. Not giving your boss justifiable reasons will make this process difficult.

Below is an example of the right and wrong way to approach the conversation:

 

Don’t say- Over the past few months, I’ve been very successful and a raise would help with some additional expenses that I have coming up.

Say- My performance over the past (x) months proves my success and why I’m deserving of a raise.

 

Don’t say- I’m having some financial issues right now and a raise would really help me.

Say- Since last year, I’ve exceeded expectations on all of my projects which shows I’m ready for a raise.

 

The first statements discuss a need for a raise. The second statements work to show why you deserve a raise.

Stay Away From Talking About Your ColleaguesStay Away From Talking About Your Colleagues

Another important detail to be mindful of is avoiding the topic of your colleagues when asking for a raise. It’s likely that you feel you deserve a raise because you’re outperforming your peers in the same position.  That’s completely normal and a valid reason to justify asking for a raise. However, you don’t want to mention your colleagues specifically when asking for a raise. Instead, talk about your performance in comparison with others.

When done correctly, comparing your performance with your co-workers can help show your value. If done incorrectly, you can come off as unprofessional and rude. This often comes down to how you word this during your conversation.

 

Don’t say- For the past 6 months, my performance results were better than everyone else.

Say- For the past 6 months, I have been the top performer in our department.

 

Don’t say- I’m also on time every day unlike other people in my department.

Say- In addition to my job performance, I’m also a leader in being on time each day.

 

These examples show that you can compare your performance to others indirectly. This is done by positioning yourself as the best among your colleagues instead of putting them down.

If your boss is more direct, you may actually be asked about how you compare to others on your team. In this case, you can talk about the differences in job performance. Be sure to keep the conversation focused on performance and not personal differences.

Make Sure It’s the Right Time

Whether or not your boss gives you a raise can sometimes come down to timing. Many companies have policies in place for performance reviews which is typically the time when a raise is on the table. However, some employers don’t have formal policies and a raise can be discussed anytime. If you’re unsure of your company’s policy, talk to your boss, HR department, or check your employee handbook.

Once you’ve determined that you’re following company policy regarding raises, there are a couple of factors that you should assess before asking for a raise.

  1. Is your boss in the right mindset to discuss a pay increase?
  2. What is your company’s current financial situation?

Assess How Your Boss Feels

It would be nice to believe that the state of mind and mood doesn’t affect our decision making, but we know this isn’t true. A bad day or week can cause us to make poor decisions that we wouldn’t otherwise make. In the case of asking for a raise, this can be the difference between getting a raise or a rejection.

To gauge your boss’ mood, there are some important signs to look for, as well as other factors to consider.

  • If your boss is handling a more challenging or larger project, consider waiting. With more to do and more stress to manage, negotiating a raise is not something your boss would like to add to their list. This should actually be treated as an opportunity for you to step up and offer to assist with the project if possible. If you can’t add value, wait for the project to be complete to initiate the conversation.
  • Pay attention to what’s happening in your boss’s personal life. This doesn’t mean snoop around and be invasive. Instead, listen and pay attention to whether your manager discusses anything in their personal life that could impact their mood. For example, if your boss is in the middle of the home buying process, this can be a stressful time. On the other hand, if he or she just finished moving into a new house, this can be positive and a good time to discuss.
  • Think about your recent interactions. It’s ideal to time your request when your boss’s perceived value of you is as high as possible. Be on the lookout for positive acknowledgment of your job performance. Some may express this outright in the form of a formal congratulations or thank you. Others may be more reserved and simply tell you “good job.” Regardless of how it’s given, this is a good time to approach the topic.
  • Look for changes in work habits. The above suggestions involve listening for hints that may reveal your boss’s mood. Unfortunately, you might not receive verbal cues. Instead, your boss may simply change their work behavior without explanation to anyone. This can indicate possible changes in their state of mind. For example, changes in when your boss arrives to or leaves work can signal additional personal or work-related stresses.
  • Consider the time of day, day of the week, and part of the month. If you have worked for your boss long enough, you should have an idea on when they’re in their best state of mind. Maybe they’re at the best on Monday mornings before the stress of the week has hit. Friday could be their best day as they’re excited for the weekend. Consider the typical demands for your department as well. Sales departments normally have monthly sales goals. The end of the month can be more stressful when the sales quota hasn’t been achieved yet. Understand when your boss is at their highest and lowest stress levels.   

A great workplace leader will make the right decision no matter what their mood is. However, it still helps to consider these important factors when deciding to bring up the subject of a raise.

Know Where Your Company Stands Financially

Even if you’re performing well at work and your boss agrees, your company might not be in a position to give you a raise. If a business is not where they’d like to be financially, they can halt any decisions related to compensation. This is a bit different for unionized workforces that have a labor agreement in place that may dictate compensation. Asking for a raise when your company is in a good financial position can improve your chances of receiving it.

All companies are different with how they share financial information. Companies listed on the U.S. stock exchange are required to have their financial information available to the public. Most companies have some type of internal communication that reports this information as well. If you don’t already receive this information, contact your boss or HR department and ask where that information can be found.

If your company as a whole isn’t performing well or meeting goals, sometimes it’s still ok to ask for a raise. Nationwide and regional businesses typically set goals and provide results based on location as well. It’s possible that while your company didn’t meet a quarterly goal, your office and department did. Asking for a raise in this situation is completely appropriate.

Even if your employer institutes a hiring freeze, there are situations where you can professionally ask for a raise in the right company culture. Your department may be short-staffed and negatively affected by a hiring freeze. If you’re able to maintain or increase the current level of productivity, this can work in your favor. You can provide evidence that despite a shortage of resources, you were still successful.

Have you used other strategies when asking your boss for a raise? Had success with our ideas? Leave us a comment below and join the discussion.

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