When I was a young editor, I once gathered my courage to ask for a bonus. It was one of the scariest moments of my life, but I had gone above and beyond to fill in for a co-worker, and my friends and family were quick to remind me that this company was not running a charity.
So I crafted a script, read it to myself several times, took a deep breath and made the request. When my boss popped his head in to thank me for all the hard work, I said, “Now feels like a good time to let me know how you’re planning to compensate me for my contributions.” He was surprised, but said he would come back with an answer.
He did. I got the bonus — and walked home with a spring in my step.
The truth is, asking for a raise reflects well on you as well as your place of work. By asking, you’re saying you believe the work you’ve done has added value to your company. By giving you the raise, your company is confirming that you deserve to be compensated for it.
But there are some do’s and don’ts for how to ask for a raise the right way. Here are some tips to help you make your case.
Research the numbers
A good place to start is by comparing your current and ideal salaries to compensation in your field and at your level. Sites such as Glassdoor or Indeed have resources and tools like salary calculators that can help you look up that information. You can also check listings for jobs similar to yours or ask a recruiter. Not only is it important that you have the data to be able to justify your request, you need to know what’s normal for your company as well as what equivalent positions at other organizations pay. Note: While pay transparency has become more common, it’s still not a good idea to put coworkers into an uncomfortable spot by asking what they make.
Don’t forget that your manager is a human, too. You don’t want to put him or her in the position of having to reject an unrealistic request. Your employer could take that as disrespect for the business and you could be perceived as immature. Instead, aim for just slightly above what you believe your extra effort is worth. That way, after a bit of back-and-forth, you can land somewhere in the middle and still walk away happy.
Don’t make it personal
As you write your script, don’t include any gripes about your finances or the high cost of living. It’s not your employer’s problem if your rent has gone up, or a root canal wiped out your savings. Keep the conversation about business and save the personal stuff for happy hour.
The strongest argument you can make for asking for a raise is being a top performer. If you’re not outperforming on a regular basis, you may have a harder time convincing your manager you deserve more. Set a time period — say, six months — and work your tail off. As your sweat equity builds, so will your chances of receiving monetary recognition from your company.
Get the timing right
Be strategic about when you make your request. If layoffs are pending, then raises are going to be hard to come by. Is your annual review coming up soon? If so, then your salary bump may have been decided a while ago. And unless you’ve been a star performer, be wary of asking for a raise outside of your company’s scheduled salary increase period. After all, you’re taking a gamble that discretionary money in the budget is available for your manager to be able — and willing — to use. This is a card you can’t play very often, so use your best judgment on when to make your request — and be patient if you don’t get an answer right away.
Resist getting discouraged
Even if you have a good case, you still might get a no. This could be because of company policy, corporate restructuring or your manager just doesn’t think you’re due quite yet. Whatever the reason, remember that this is business, and do your best not to take it personally. Keep working hard and demonstrate that despite your disappointment, you’re a team player. This type of dedication will serve you well when the next review period comes up.