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How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise at Work and Get It

By Casey Slide

asking for a raiseIn years gone by, many workers could depend on receiving an annual or semi-annual raise – but unfortunately, for all but a few, this is no longer the case. In fact, many employers continue to cut back on staff or hours just to maintain in operation.

With that in mind, you might think that asking for a raise is an exercise in futility. After all, when money is tight, your company won’t be inclined to hand out extra cash like candy. However, management does want to do what’s required to keep an employee on the payroll if it helps their overall bottom line. After all, it costs money to hire and train new employees, and employee turnover is never profitable. So make a strong case for a raise and follow proper protocol, and your request is likely to be honored.

How to Ask for a Raise

Prepare

Prior to asking for a raise, it is imperative that you take substantial time to thoroughly prepare to make the request.

1. Know What You Are Worth
Before you ask for a raise, be sure that you are worth more money than you are already receiving. Your worth depends on such factors as how much others earn in your field, your level of experience, your special skills, and even your geographical location.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has a useful tool on its website to calculate salaries. Study it carefully, and make sure your request is reasonable – you could do more harm than good if you ask for a $5,000 raise when you’re already earning $5,000 more than you’re worth.

2. Understand Company Policy
In addition to knowing what you are worth, it is essential to know your company’s policy on raises. If your company only gives raises after performance reviews, prepare to ask then. Your company may also have a policy of giving raises only after achieving certain goals. Review your company’s employee handbook, or contact human resources for information.

3. Develop a Persuasive Argument
If you are paid less than others in your field, explain this to your superiors – but do not rely on this fact alone. Additionally, mention a positive performance review, goals accomplished, and extra duties or training you’ve acquired. Furthermore, cite solid statistics as a direct result of your efforts, such as cost savings, customer conversions, customer satisfaction, or increased productivity. Mentioning relevant, non-measurable attributes such as initiative, commitment, and a positive attitude can also help to prove you deserve a raise. Remember, this is not the time to be modest.

4. Practice Negotiation Skills
Brush up on your negotiation skills, and be confident in your position. Even if your boss thinks you deserve a raise, he or she is likely to make you work for it. You don’t need to read books, but do learn effective negotiation tactics, such as using silence to your advantage, and asking for slightly more money than you expect to receive. A little time and effort in this area could have significant payback.

5. Have Confidence
Have confidence in yourself, and know exactly what you want to say. Practice your proposal in front of friends, family members, or the mirror – or better yet, record your delivery. You can practice different scenarios, and you can experiment with your newly learned negotiation strategies.

6. Be Flexible
Mentally prepare yourself for all situations. There is a chance your boss could immediately agree; however, he or she might need time to think about it, or reject your proposition right away. There is also the possibility that your boss will agree to give you a raise, but not for the full amount for which you are asking.

Be realistic with yourself, and acknowledge that your efforts may not have desired results. But keep in mind that the worst that could happen is that your boss says “no.”

7. Ask at an Appropriate Time
If your company has just laid off employees, or if their financial numbers are not looking good, it’s generally not the right time to ask for a raise. You’re likely to be rejected, and may even be perceived as being greedy. Conversely, if your company had been having a good year, make the most of the opportunity.

Ask

Once you have adequately prepared, it is time to follow through with your plan.

8. Set Up a Meeting
Don’t surprise your boss by asking for a raise in the middle of the hallway or between his or her important meetings. Schedule a meeting that will give both of you the time and space to focus on this important consideration. This way, your boss will not be caught off guard, and you will have his or her full attention.

9. Be Specific
Don’t beat around the bush. Get right to business by stating what you want and why you deserve it. Then, state your number. Be ready to support your suggestion with an account of your accomplishments and value.

10. Be Flexible
If your boss tells you that he or she can not give you a monetary raise at the moment, inquire about getting more time off or receiving a bonus. Be sure to ask at what point you should revisit the question of a raise with him or her.

11. Don’t Negotiate By Using an Offer From Another Employer
Attempting to ask for a raise by mentioning the amount another employer has offered is likely to work against you. For example, your boss might say that you should take the other offer, as he or she is not willing to give you that amount. While this tactic works well when you are negotiating a salary upon hire, it does not work in your favor when asking for a raise.

12. Don’t Threaten to Quit
This tactic is generally unprofessional, and can be offensive. Even if it works, it can damage your relationship with your employer. It’s important to never burn bridges, as you never know when you’ll need a reference or other assistance from your boss.

asking for a raise

Following Up on Your Request

Asking for a raise is the first step – but whether or not you actually receive an increase in pay, the process is not yet complete.

If Your Boss Said “No”

  1. Don’t Take It Personally. Most likely, the decision has little to do with your personal character and more to do with the company’s bottom line. Your boss’s hands may have been tied, so don’t let the lack of a raise reflect poorly on him or her.
  2. Ask What You Can Do to Earn a Raise. Asking this question is a great way to position yourself for a future raise. If your boss gives you instruction and you follow through, it will be that much harder for him or her to refuse your request when you re-approach the topic. Not only should you ask for an outline of objectives, but also ask when you can next broach the subject. It should go without saying that you must perform the duties requested and maintain an immaculate record to secure the raise the next time around.
  3. Continue to Work Hard. That you asked for a raise in the first place shows your boss you have initiative and drive. Now, he or she may want to see how you cope with setbacks. Don’t get discouraged, and work just as hard as you were before you asked for the raise. Whatever you do, don’t hold a grudge.
  4. Send a Thank You Email. Just as you would after a job interview, thank your boss for his or her time in considering your request. This will show that you’re a good sport, or have what it takes to be professional.

If Your Boss Said “Yes”

  1. Get Details. Determine when your raise is to go into effect – it is important to make sure your raise goes through in a reasonable time-frame. You don’t want to be waiting around for your raise when your boss forgot about it or failed to do the proper paperwork. If it does not go through, alert your supervisor.
  2. Send a Thank You Email. You’ll need to send two thank you emails if your boss grants you a raise. Send one email right away to thank your boss for his or her time and for accepting your request. Then, once you receive your raise, send a second email to let your boss know everything went through and was correct, and be sure to again express gratitude. Keep the email for your records.

Final Word

You’ll never know if you can get a raise unless you ask, so don’t miss out on an important opportunity that can help your finances and career goals if you know you deserve it. Those who work hard, have a positive attitude, and are contributing members of their company are rewarded. If you are a worthy asset to your employer, do your best to cash in on your worth.

Have you ever asked your boss for a raise? If so, how did you go about it, and what were the results?

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    These are some great tips & I have used many of them in the past. I think that preparation you mentioned is vital, as well as keeping your emotions at bay so they do not cloud what you’re saying.

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