How to Properly Ask for a Raise at Work and Get It

You want to make more money.  And the easiest way to earn extra money without exchanging more of your time for a paycheck is getting a raise at work. In You Only Live Once, I wrote that we all want to make more money and the best way to start is to get paid more for the work we currently do.

I can bet (and I’m not a betting man) that you’re probably overdue for a raise, but if you don’t know how to properly ask for one, then chances are you’ll never get the much-deserved pay raise. You have a few choices to make: do nothing, find a new job, or ask for a raise. I suggest asking.

Recently, a friend shared his failed attempt asking for a raise. He learned of a new coworker’s salary and went straight to his manager’s office to demand a raise.

What do you think happened?

Absolutely, nothing!

Asking for a raise requires some finesse and preparation.

I’ve been on both sides of the management table. I’ve been the employee asking for a raise and the manager receiving the request. Having these dual roles, I’ve learned the best way to ask for a raise. Research, preparation, and timing make the difference. With a well thought out request, you can properly ask your boss and start earning more money.

How to Properly Ask for a Raise at Work and Get ItFix your mindset to get a more favorable response

Take the emotion out of the request. Your boss needs to make a business decision. Sure, your boss may show favoritism towards you or another employee but in the end, he needs to make the numbers work. Additionally, working for a larger employer requires more corporate layers to approve a pay raise.  Your boss will need to know all the facts and details to approve a raise that may need upper management or human resource approval.

Sometimes we assume a raise is due by virtue of the time we’ve been at the job or how well we think we’ve done in our position. That may be true. However, to successfully ask for a raise, I suggest the following 8 tactics to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

1. Ask yourself, “Do I really deserve a raise?”

I’m sure your answer is a resounding, “yes.” And to get your boss to say yes too, you’ll need a very convincing argument to share with your boss. Asking yourself this very question leads to another important question, “Why do you deserve a raise?” If you can answer this with facts, examples, and details, you’re improving your chances. Your goal is to prove to your manager that you deserve the raise. This can also help your manager defend your pay raise with upper management.

2. Read your job description

When was the last time you read your job description? Most employees haven’t looked at their job description since they were hired. It’s most likely the job has not changed (or it may have) and you were grandfathered into the old description. Some new employees earn more with the same job title because the position encompasses more responsibilities or requires new skills.

Know the scope of your current job. What are the skills and certifications needed if you were looking to apply for the position as an outsider? Know your strengths. Reviewing your job description gives you leverage to explain how you satisfy work expectations and how you go above-and-beyond. You might actually learn you’ve outgrown your current job and may qualify for a higher level or another position.

3.  Get reliable market data

Don’t make the mistake of printing salary market data and telling your boss you’re not paid enough. You do need this information to determine the going rate for similar jobs. This is helpful to determine the potential for a raise. Go to for salary comparisons, but make sure you adjust data to reflect the industry, the size of your company, employees, annual revenues, and location.

Use this as a benchmark to request your pay raise amount. Do keep into account your company’s unique cultural and financial position.

4. List all your major accomplishments

When I managed a team of people, I’ve asked employees who requested a raise to provide me a list of reasons. I only ever had one employee list all their accomplishments. I wanted to reward top performers and we’re often managing multiple people.

If you cannot list your successes and contributions to the business, then you’re request is going to be much more difficult to defend. You above anyone else should know what you’ve accomplished at work. Often times, I’ve heard employees state their bosses should know what they’ve done. I’ve even heard an employee tell me, ” It’s their manager’s job to know everything they’ve done.” That is not the case. Your manager has a list of duties themselves and also reports to someone else.

Make it easier on yourself and create a running list on a document or spreadsheet. A list will help you quantify the reasons you deserve a raise. Write down your work highlights, projects, awards, and training you’ve received. Got a glowing email from your boss, coworker, or external person (other departments, vendors, clients)? Write them down. Were you given new tasks or got an expanded role? Jot down the information on the document. Did any of your work increase revenues, save the department money, or innovate a process? Make sure these are on your list. And while you’re at it, update your resume too!

5. Choose the right time

Find the right time to ask for a raise. The chances are your manager’s thoughts are preoccupied on time-sensitive deliverables. Don’t ask your manager to make time or make a financial decision when department and company deadlines are approaching. Be mindful of monthly, quarterly, and annual deadlines. Also, avoid asking a few days before your boss goes on vacation or during the holidays.

You want your manager’s attention to the pay raise request. This way it’s not competing for her time. When you’re prepared with salary data, updated resume, and list of accomplishments, it’ll show you’ve devoted time for this request.

Don’t ask for a raise when your work performance has been less than stellar. Ask when you’re at your best. It’s harder to negotiate a raise when you’re having difficulty coming into work on time, completing projects, or meeting deadlines.  Create a plan to fix your performance before having the sitdown with your boss.

6. Know the financials of your company

Do you know how your company is performing? If your company is going through layoffs or reporting losses, then it’s not the time to ask for a raise.  Before asking, understand your department finances and your company’s financial standing. Is it profitable or in the red? Is your department achieving its goals? A profitable company or a high performing department can have additional resources to increase pay for top performers.

7. Leave out other employees’ salary or performance

When negotiating with your boss, don’t talk about another coworker’s salary or work performance. Your raise has nothing to do with your coworkers. In fact, you should focus on how to excel in your position and how to improve your skills. Leave your manager to deal with your coworker’s performance.

If you’re having issues with coworker’s impacting your job performance that should be discussed in a separate meeting. Keep the conversation on your work performance.

8. Don’t talk about your financial troubles

The reason you may want a pay raise is to help with financial issues. Don’t share your financial issues with your manager. Telling your boss you need to earn more because bill collectors are calling detracts away from your accomplishments at work.

I’ve found managers empathize with their employees when financial issues arise but that is never enough to approve a raise. You can share your financial goals in separate meetings, but to increase the chance of a raise, focus the discussion on your work performance and contributions.

Remember, you’ll get the raise because of your performance, not because your bills are due.

One last thing, I know you deserve the raise, but don’t angry with your boss if the outcome isn’t favorable.  Whether you get the raise or not (this time around), keep updating your list, take advantage of workshops, join projects, and volunteer some time.

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