Requesting a Pay Increase

No one appreciates the feeling of being underpaid for their work, but many people are unsure how to approach the topic with their employers. A raise in compensation can be a touchy subject to address as it tends to create an aura of awkwardness for the requestor. But it doesn’t have to. Contrary to how it may initially feel, asking for a raise can be quite normal. Accepting this stage as a normal part of an employer-employee relationship can make the discussion less intimidating. With a little preparation and a few key tips, you will be ready to tackle it in no time.

5 Ways To Prepare Before Asking For A Raise

-Revisit your last performance review.

Many companies have policies in place that require their managers complete annual performance reviews for direct reports. And usually, employees are given copies for their personal records.  Before asking your supervisor about a raise, consider where you currently stand with the company. Does your latest review indicate the company is happy with your work? How was your overall rating as an employee? Above Average/Average/Below Average? Were you commended or reprimanded lately?

Timing is of the essence when requesting a pay increase. If possible, you should strive to address the matter around the time of your next performance review as discussions of salary are usually expected. The outcome of the conversation can be affected by a number of factors. For example, the quality of your work, your timeliness, and overall reputation within the company can all play a role.  If you are not in great standing with the company, the conversation is less likely to end in your favor. Having documented feedback that supports your work over the past year is a plus. If your employer does not give regular performance reviews, reviewing and making a list of positive feedback you’ve received in the past from your supervisor, coworkers, and other managers is good practice. You will want to have this aggregation of information on hand for the conversation.

-Assess The Value You Bring To The Company

Take some time to really assess what you’ve done for the company. Did you just finish a big project that is going to improve the bottom line? Have your responsibilities increased significantly since your original compensation was determined? Does your work provide enough value that it would be more costly for your employer to rehire than increase your pay rate?

If you know you have made some important contributions to the company, i.e., increased revenue or decreased expenses, you should feel more confident having this discussion. Being able to communicate your specific accomplishments and the value you bring will help your supervisor understand why you deserve a raise. One common misconception to note is that working overtime equates to creating value. It doesn’t. It’s the tasks you perform and how much they are worth to the company that determine how much value you are providing. Having a good grasp of the company’s vision and your department’s role in achieving it will help you determine what you have done and should do to contribute.

One more thing to keep in mind: Don’t make the mistake of using personal reasons, such as a rent increase, new baby, kids’ tuition fees, etc., as justification for your request. It is unprofessional and could cause your boss to disregard the issue altogether. Companies pay for value, so if you have difficulty with this step, it may be best to revisit until you gain clarity.

-Recall When You Received Your Last Pay Raise

-Recalling the time you received your last pay raise will ensure you are not asking for another too soon. If it has been less than a year, you should wait. It is customary for companies to issue annual pay increases, and you don’t want to get ahead of yourself. Waiting a few months to give your boss the opportunity to initiate this discussion can save you a great deal of time and anxiety.

Also, if you have worked at the company for at least several years, you should be aware of how often raises are traditionally given. How often have you received raises in the past? Once every two years? Each year the company meets budget expectations? Never? Considering this will give you an idea of what management will do in the future and allow you to better plan the timing of the conversation.

-Research Your Worth In The Market & Relative Pay Level at your Company

Knowing how much of raise you want is something else to consider prior to the meeting. And one way to ensure this number is reasonable is to research the market. Websites such as Glassdoor ( ), Career Builder ( , and ( ) are good resources for determining the salaries that other companies in your area are paying employees with similar job titles. If you happen to be on the low end, i.e, $40k vs an average $60k, you should mention it during the salary negotiation. It will help ensure you are compensated fairly.

You should also be aware of how your pay compares with your peers at the company. Know what the pay bands are for respective levels throughout the company. Asking for a pay raise above those in your same pay grade could prove futile just due to internal equity.

Alternative Option: One alternative to asking for a traditional raise based on market rates and average company pay levels is being open to implementing a plan that incrementally increases pay. Salary increments are typically computed as percentages of your current base salary. If you are earning $40k/year, your boss may offer you a standard 3% raise each year. On a $40k base salary, this would equate to an annual raise of $1,200. This type of agreement makes budgeting pay raises much easier for the company as they are more predictable, and employees tend to be much happier as the increases are guaranteed.

-Decide How Important Getting A Raise Is To You

Once you finish reviewing your performance, documenting your research, and finalizing your ultimate goal, you should take time to decide how important getting a raise really is to you. As with any request, there is always the chance yours will be denied. In fact, prior to the meeting, you need to be prepared to receive a “no.” As the saying goes, “Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.”

Working up the courage to ask for a raise and investing the time and energy to prepare requires a sizeable amount of mental energy. And being turned down can be a devastating blow to the psyche. If you spend a little extra time to prepare for this possible outcome, you will be better prepared to deal with it, and hopefully, your emotions won’t be as overwhelming. How you respond to your boss can affect your chances of getting a pay raise in the future.

You should never give your boss an ultimatum by threatening to quit if you are turned down for a raise. Instead, you should thank him for his time and request to revisit this subject at a later time. It would also be a good idea to seek his insight into what you can do to place yourself in a position to receive a higher salary. Most managers want their employees to succeed and will be willing to provide mentorship to guide you through this process. If several years pass and you are certain you have made yourself valuable to your team and the company to no avail, it might be a good idea to begin searching for another company who will appreciate the value you have to offer.

Be Optimistic.

Having to ask for a raise can place you in an uncomfortable position. However, you should keep in mind that it is relatively common and nothing to be intimidated by. The worst thing that can happen is you get turned down. And even that decision is not final. Take the time required to prepare so you have the best chance of being successful, and always maintain a positive attitude.