How to Ask for a Raise (and Not Come Off Like a Tool)

hustle mug on a desk

So, you want a raise? Well, duh. Of course, you do. Who doesn’t want to make more money? But the company you work for doesn’t have a clear schedule for pay increases. Or maybe they do, but you think you’re contributing enough to justify something more. Maybe you know you could be earning more with another firm but switching jobs is a hassle and you’d rather just make more where you are. Whatever your reasoning, you’re probably going to have to suck it up and ask for your raise. The topic of money is almost always an awkward one; particularly when you’re the one asking for it. But there are some things you can do to make it less painful and improve your chances for success. And hey, take it from Carrie Fisher, “Everything is negotiable. Whether or not the negotiation is easy is another thing.”

Gut Check: Are you really worth it?

“Everything is negotiable. Whether or not the negotiation is easy is another thing.” – Carrie Fisher

The first step starts before you even leave your cubicle. Take some time to consider yourself from the perspective of your employer. Evaluate your own performance as an employee and be honest with yourself. Consider your attitude, your attendance, and your overall productivity. Do you have any knowledge or skills that would be difficult and/or expensive to replace? Have you had any disciplinary issues since your last review?  In short; Would you honestly give you a raise if you were in their place? This kind of soul-searching isn’t easy, but it’s a lot less embarrassing than having the truth laid bare in front of your boss. Taking this kind of inventory of yourself might very well boost your confidence and strengthen your resolve. Or it might help you highlight areas you need to work on before you make your request. Either way, it’s worth the effort.

Know Which Way the Wind is Blowing

Even if you’re the best darn employee since Waylon J. Smithers, it pays to consider the big picture when looking for a raise. Has the company had a record year in sales or has the economy made things tough? What is your supervisor’s place in the organization? Are they the owner or a middle manager? They may not have total control over your salary. How is employee turnover? Are people jumping ship, or lining up around the block? If your job is highly sought after, what kind of negotiating position will you have if the answer is “No”? Understanding the landscape can help you plan the timing and approach of your request. You may want to wait until conditions are more favorable and avoid putting your employer in an impossible situation.

How to Ask for a Raise without Being a Tool

The mood is right. The time is now. You know that you’re bringing more value to this company than what you’re being compensated for.

But how to do that without coming off like a tool?

“Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” – Sir David Frost

  • Set a meeting with your supervisor. Let them know specifically what you want to talk about so they have time to consider how valuable you are to the organization. Don’t drop the discussion on them like a bomb and expect them to make a split second decision. You may not like the result.  
  • Come ready to discuss all the ways you bring superior value to the organization. Be calm, and be specific. If possible, bring verifiable data that shows how your efforts help the company. (Sales made, projects completed, revenue generated, costs saved). It may feel awkward, but remember you’re not “bragging”, you’re making a rational case about why your request is fair and justified.   
  • Know what you want. Again, be specific. What kind of increase are you looking for? If your current pay rate isn’t fair; what is? Take the time to do some market research on your job title. How does your level of compensation and responsibility differ from comparable positions in the market? If you can find good examples that make your case, then assemble the data and bring it with you.  
  • Find a way to sweeten the deal. Ok, maybe you are already overworked and underpaid. But then again, maybe you’re not that overworked. And maybe (just maybe) your pay is pretty reasonable for your position. Either way, it can’t hurt to consider what other valuable services you might be able to bring to the deal that would justify increasing your salary. If nothing else, this will show your boss that you’re not out to get something for nothing.  And who knows, it might lead to a whole new opportunity for you.

Take luck!