The Best Strategy for Getting a Raise [+Examples]

2017 October 30  | icon time-read5 min read

How to Ask For a Raise

Requesting a raise isn’t so simple. It’s daunting to approach managers to ask for more money. “Will they think I’m ungrateful? Is the timing right? Will they laugh me out of the room?” These are the questions that bounce around in our brains. 

A reluctance to broach the subject with a supervisor comes from a fear of rejection. Like asking someone on a date, the fear of hearing “no” can dissuade action. On the other hand, sometimes it’s simply a matter of not knowing how to ask. There is, after all, a right way and a wrong way to ask for a pay raise.

The reality is that if you are asking for raise, there should be no doubt in your mind that you deserve it. You aren’t going to get paid more simply because you say the right thing to your manager. For this reason, the right way to ask for a raise is mostly about laying the groundwork so that your value to the organization is so obvious that asking becomes easy, if not unnecessary because management will beat you to it.

How to Earn a Raise

Management in different businesses will perceive value in different ways. While there is no universal roadmap for earning a raise, there are measures you can take that no manager would overlook.

Be the most productive: Some people might think that being the first person in the door in the morning and the last to leave at night is a sound strategy for promotion or a pay increase. This thinking is misguided. What matters is that the hours you work are highly productive. 

If you want to get a raise, work longer hours, but make those hours count. Don’t ease into your day by answering emails over a cup of coffee. Instead, get to your desk early and tackle the most pressing and relevant tasks.

Don’t just raise problems, solve them: Bringing problems forward might show that you care about the success of the organization, but it stops one step too short. Identify a problem and figure out how it can be solved. If you have the tools and resources to rectify the situation, take the initiative. If the problem requires someone else’s attention, go to your manager with a game-plan for collaborating towards a solution.

Take on side projects: You were hired to perform a specific set of tasks for a specific amount of compensation. Why would you expect to get a raise simply for fulfilling your duties? Go beyond your job description. Identify new areas where you’d like to work, including collaborating with different teams throughout your organization. This proves you are passionate about growing your skills and experience and that you care about sharing current expertise with others.

Demonstrate a long-term view: If management has a sliver of doubt that you are not committed to the organization, this diminishes your chances of getting a raise. To avoid this problem, think about how your daily work can contribute to the long terms goals of the company and talk about this openly with your supervisor.

How to Ask for a Raise

In the perfect world, the above-mentioned efforts will gain you the recognition you deserve and you won’t have to ask for a raise. But expecting management to come to you might leave you waiting for a while. In that case, be prepared to ask for a raise. Here are a few tips for doing so.

Be Confident: You’ve spent a great deal of time and energy establishing yourself as an asset. Don’t downgrade this effort. Chances are that your manager is well-aware that you have been productive, expanding the scope of your work and troubleshooting problems: all cause for a discussion about the pay increase. Therefore, all you will have to do is say “I would like to talk to you about my compensation.” 

Pick the Right Time: Even if your efforts have been heroic, you still need to time your request properly. If you’ve heard that your department is scaling back due to financial constraints, you may want to hold off. 

Apart from these broader considerations, there are also times when your manager is more likely to be receptive to discussing your pay. The best time to ask for a raise is just before you take on new responsibilities or right after you complete a project.

Prepare to Negotiate: Like any negotiation, you should go in with a clear set of demands that are within reason. Do some research online to try and find out how much high performers in your position are earning. Also, keep in mind that most pay raises fall somewhere between one and five percent. Based on this knowledge set a number that you wish to be paid to share it with the manager and justify it if needed. Though your case should speak for itself, expect to have to outline in detail how you have gone about adding value to your company over a specific period.

How Not to Ask for a Raise

Ensuring you’ve earned a raise and asking for it in a smart way is your best chance of getting what you are after. Just in case you need a primer how not to persuade your manager, here are some approaches to avoid:  

Don’t compare yourself to others: You can’t possibly know all the circumstances surrounding a co-worker and why he or she gets paid a certain amount. Comparing your work to that of others also suggests to your manager that you are more focused on competing with others rather than collaborating. 

Don’t bring in personal matters: It may seem harsh, but having a new baby on the way or health problems in the family won’t get you more money. Management may be compassionate by giving you time off, but they need to avoid setting a precedent of financially supporting employees for personal issues.  

Don’t mention how long you have been in the role: One year, two years, five years: these are empty numbers that may represent how long you’ve been working in a role, but not your actual impact.

Don’t give an ultimatum: Threatening management because you think you are underpaid is a sure sign that you only care about yourself, not the organization. You won’t be rewarded for that type of attitude.

To recap, if you wish to be paid more, there are no shortcuts. You really do have to earn your keep. Making sure management recognizes your contributions is the starting point for asking for a raise. The good news is that once you’ve made yourself a clear asset to the team, you can approach conversations about pay increases with confidence and with improved chances of being rewarded.

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