How to Ask for a Raise

Bob Larson, CPC  President Berman Larson Kane
Bob Larson, CPC President Berman Larson Kane

How to Ask for a Raise

Most people ask for a raise at least once in their lives — some even face this issue yearly…and dread it every time. Why? The answer is fear. We worry about the outcome. We’re afraid of rejection or a negative response. We may even fear we actually don’t deserve a raise. For a multitude of reasons, we even allow past negative experiences or our own made-up fears to stand in our way.

But if you feel strongly that you deserve a raise, and that others in similar jobs in your industry are making more money than you, by all means step up to the plate and ask for one. If you don’t ask, you’ll never get an answer, and you’ll keep on making the same salary and not feel happy about it. According to the book Negotiating for Dummies by Michael C. Donaldson and Mimi Donaldson, you can take the dread out of asking for a raise by employing six basic skills. Read them over and then start planning for a time to ask your boss for the money you feel you deserve.

  1. Prepare
    Before approaching your manager for a raise, the authors recommend, prepare yourself internally. Very importantly, though, you must know you have earned the right to ask for a raise and that you are valuable to your employer. Gather documents to prove you have made an important contribution to the organization and that your absence would be detrimental. If you don’t believe you deserve a raise (and you very well may not) no one else will. After you are emotionally prepared for the negotiation, prepare your case on its merits.

    • Know how much your company’s budget can afford. Get a feel for how well your company is doing.
    • Know in general the going rate for your services.
    • Know specifically what people in your geographic area are earning for doing the same work.

When you’ve gathered the data, the authors say, tell your boss you’d like to schedule a meeting about your salary. Don’t ambush your boss. Approach him or her in-person or via e-mail. Say, “I’d like to speak with you about my salary. I need about 20 minutes of uninterrupted time in your office. When will it be convenient?”

  1. Set Your Limits
    Decide on the amount you are willing to accept, and the maximum you can hope to receive, the Donaldsons point out. Most importantly, don’t walk into your boss and ask for the moon. Also, decide what you will do if the company does not meet your minimum expectations.

    • You may bide your time looking for another job.
    • You may quit on the spot.
    • You may just stay with the program and be a less cheerful worker.
  2. Push The Pause Button
    Keep your emotions in check, the authors advise. Never resort to an emotional plea about putting food in your kids’ mouths. Most companies have evidence that they are in line with the norms. You need to build your case on objective evidence. Make sure management knows that keeping you around and keeping you happy will pay off.
  3. Listen
    You may have to let your boss vent about shrinking budgets, executive compensation and even personnel problems, the Donaldsons explain. Letting your boss empty out will clear a space for you when you talk. Ask about your own performance the same way. If you don’t clean up any discrepancy immediately, then it’s futile to talk about more money when the company thinks you’re not performing up to snuff.
  4. Be Clear
    Set forth what you think is fair and why, and spend plenty of time on the why, the authors advise. Let your boss know about the research you’ve done and present all the evidence of the special value that you bring to the company. You want your boss to feel good about the raise you are going to get.
  5. Close The Deal
    This may be the first time your boss has been made aware of your worth to the company, the authors say. Your boss may have to think about the issue. That’s fine, but be sure to set a date for a final decision.

Of course, you’ll need to carry all of this out very graciously and you’ll need to have a fallback position in case your request is denied. If a raise is not in the immediate picture, ask your boss what you need to do to earn the money you feel you deserve. This way, at least you’ll know where you stand with your employer and what he or she is expecting of you. If you’re not happy with the answers you get, it may very well be time to look for another job.