When I was a young editor, I once asked 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 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 over and over, and then summoned all my courage to deliver the request. When my boss popped his head in to say thanks 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, even flustered, and said he had to 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 and 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 rules for how to ask for a raise the right way.
RESEARCH THE FIGURES
Compare your current and ideal salaries to compensation in your field and at your level. Sites like Glassdoor or Indeed can help you look up that information. You can also check listings for jobs similar to yours or ask a recruiter you know well. You need to be able to justify your ask, not only by knowing what’s normal for your company, but also by knowing what equivalent positions at other organizations pay. Note: It’s never a good idea to ask co-workers what they make. Discretion is key.
Remember that your manager is a human, too. Don’t put him or her in the position of having to reject an unrealistic ask. 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. The goal is that, with 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 formulate your script, stay away from 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 knocking it out of the park on a regular basis, you may have a harder time convincing your manager you’re worth 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.
TIME IT RIGHT
Be strategic about when you make your ask. Are there layoffs pending? Then raises are going to be hard to come by. Is your annual review coming up soon? Your salary bump may have been long decided. And unless you’ve been a star performer (see No. 4), be wary of requesting 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 you want to make your request, and be patient if you don’t get an answer right away.
DON’T GET DISCOURAGED
You might get a no. Depending on the reasons why (company policy, corporate restructuring or your manager just doesn’t think you’re due quite yet), remember that this is business, and try not to take it personally. Keep your performance up and demonstrate that even in the face of bad news, you’re a team player. That will serve you well when the next review period comes up.
As your sweat equity builds, so will your chances of receiving monetary recognition from your company.