How To Ask for a Raise

“I want a raise.”

Four short, simple words that, when rattling around inside your head, sound perfectly reasonable.

However, giving actual voice to the thought, “I want a raise,” can feel as daunting as crossing a highwire.

Many of us hesitate at the threshold of this significant career step, whether due to fear of rejection, disrupting workplace harmony, or simply not knowing how to broach the subject.

But the good news is that approaching this challenge need not be a nerve-wracking ordeal. With the right preparation and mindset, mastering how to ask for a raise at work can be transformed from a daunting task into a clear-cut, rewarding negotiation.

From understanding the optimal timing regarding when to ask for a raise, to meticulously preparing your case and handling the conversation with finesse, mastering how to ask for a raise at work involves treating it as a well-planned project. The goal? To not just ask for a raise—but to approach it in a way that maximizes your chances of success and achieves the results you desire.

Are You Asking or Are You Telling?

First things first. Is this a request or a demand?

When it comes to discussing a pay raise, the tone and manner of your approach can greatly influence the outcome. Understanding the difference between requesting and demanding a raise is vital, as each carries different implications and potential consequences.

Requesting a Raise

A request is a professional and respectful way to approach your employer for a salary increase. It shows that you understand the final decision rests with your employer, and it allows room for negotiation and discussion. When requesting a raise:

  • Prepare Thoroughly: Gather evidence of your accomplishments, contributions to the company, and any relevant market salary data to support your raise request.

  • Be Professional: Schedule a formal meeting and present your case calmly and logically. Explain why you believe a raise is warranted, backing up your argument with your prepared data.

  • Be Ready for Any Response: While you hope for a positive response, be prepared to receive feedback or a need for further review from your employer.

Taking a More Assertive Approach

While traditionally, it’s more common to request a raise, there are situations where adopting a more assertive stance could be appropriate. But understand that a more assertive approach may be perceived as an ultimatum, even if you didn’t intend it to be one, and could jeopardize your position.

Situations Where a Demand Might Be Warranted:

  • Undervaluation in a Booming Market: If your skills are in high demand and your current compensation is significantly below market rate, you might be justified in firmly requesting a salary review and more money to align with industry standards.

  • Long-term Underpayment: If you’ve consistently been paid less than your co-workers despite equal or superior contributions, a forthright conversation may be necessary.

  • Critical Role: If you play a pivotal role in your company that is difficult to replace, and your compensation does not reflect your critical contributions, a more assertive approach to renegotiating your compensation might be more effective.

Considerations and Cautions:

  • Prepare for All Outcomes: While a confident request may be warranted, it’s essential to be prepared for any response, including the possibility of having to explore opportunities elsewhere if your current employer cannot meet your expectations.

  • Strong Justification is Crucial: Ensure you have compelling evidence of your high performance and market value to support your request. This could include metrics of your success, comparison with industry standards, or superior performance reviews you’ve received.

  • Communicate with Professionalism: It’s crucial to approach the conversation with clarity and respect. Clearly articulate your contributions, the rationale behind your request, and how you see it benefiting both you and the organization going forward.

Adopting a firm but respectful approach when asking for a pay increase can be effective, but it’s important to gauge the company culture and the potential risks involved. An assertive approach requires a delicate balance—being confident in your value while remaining open to negotiation. Consider whether a cooperative negotiation could achieve your goals with less risk to your professional relationships and reputation.

In either scenario, knowing your particular company’s culture and how previous raise requests have been handled can guide your approach. Tailoring your strategy to the environment can increase your chances of success. It’s also important to remember that timing plays a crucial role—asking for a raise during company-wide cutbacks or financial strain is less likely to be successful, regardless of how well you argue your case.

Ask for a Raise Do's and Don'ts Infographic

Understanding Market Dynamics When Asking for a Raise

Understanding the broader context in which your employer operates can significantly impact the best time to ask for a raise and the success of your raise request.

Here are two major factors to consider:

Economic Climate

  • Market Conditions: Current economic conditions play a crucial role in determining the feasibility of a pay increase. In a booming economy, companies may be more inclined to approve raise requests due to higher profits and competitive pressures to retain top talent. Conversely, during economic downturns, tight budgets may lead companies to freeze salaries or limit wage increases.

  • Company Performance: Beyond the general economy, your employer’s financial health is paramount. If the company is performing well, with growing revenues and profits, it’s a more opportune time to ask for a salary review and discuss raises. If the company is struggling or there are rumors of cutbacks, delaying your ask for a raise may be wise until conditions improve.

  • Strategic Timing: Timing asking for a raise around financial reporting periods can also be strategic. For example, making your salary request shortly after a strong quarterly earnings report can leverage positive momentum.

Industry Trends

  • Sector-Specific Wage Trends: Different industries experience varying norms when it comes to pay increases. For instance, tech companies might offer more substantial raises regularly due to the high demand for skilled workers and the rapid pace of growth in the sector. In contrast, industries like manufacturing or retail might see smaller, more infrequent raises due to tighter margins and slower growth.

  • Benchmarking Standards: Understanding the standard compensation packages in your industry and job market can strengthen your case. Utilize industry reports, salary surveys, and professional networks to gather data on the going market rate within your field. This information can help you set realistic expectations and provide a benchmark to present during negotiations.

  • Emerging Skills Demand: Pay attention to trends in skill demands within your industry. If you possess skills that are increasingly valuable and in short supply, this can be a strong leverage point in negotiating a raise. Highlighting how your skills align with emerging industry needs can make your request more compelling.

By carefully considering these factors, you can tailor your approach to asking for a raise in a way that aligns with both economic realities and industry-specific dynamics.

This strategic alignment enhances the credibility of your request and demonstrates your awareness and understanding of the business environment, further strengthening your position in negotiations.

Preparing For Your Raise Request

Successfully asking for a raise requires thorough preparation and a strong, well-supported case. Here’s how you can build a compelling argument for a salary increase:

Assessing Your Worth

  • Evaluate Your Contributions: Reflect on your role and responsibilities. Consider how your work has directly impacted the company’s bottom line or operational efficiency. Have you saved time, reduced costs, improved processes, or enhanced revenues?

  • Seek Feedback: Regular feedback from peers or a performance review from supervisors can provide insights into your performance. This feedback helps you improve and serves as evidence of your accomplishments and professional growth.

  • Compare with Industry Standards: Use resources like salary surveys, industry reports, and professional networks to understand the typical compensation for someone with your qualifications and experience in your region and industry. This comparison will help you gauge if you’re underpaid and strengthen your case when asking for a raise.

Do Your Homework

  • Understand Compensation Policies: Familiarize yourself with the company’s compensation policies. These might be outlined in your employee handbook or on the HR portal. Understanding the norms and procedures for salary adjustments ensures your request aligns with company practices, making it harder to dismiss.

Documenting Accomplishments

  • Keep a Brag Sheet: Maintain an ongoing list of accomplishments, special projects, and any accolades or recognitions you receive. Go through past performance evaluations to help jog your memory.

  • Prepare a Presentation: For the meeting with your supervisor, prepare a concise presentation or document that summarizes your track record with the company and key contributions and achievements. Highlight how these accomplishments align with the company’s goals and objectives.

  • Quantify Your Achievements: Bring a list of quantifiable achievements that clearly demonstrate your value to the company. This could include revenue you’ve generated, costs you’ve cut, or efficiency improvements you’ve implemented.

  • Use Visuals: Consider including charts or graphs to visually demonstrate your successes, such as sales growth, project timelines, cost savings, or other relevant metrics. Visuals can help make a memorable impact during your salary discussion.

By meticulously preparing your case, you ensure that you are not only ready to justify why you deserve a raise from your current salary, but also capable of presenting your argument clearly, professionally, and persuasively. This preparation shows your initiative and professionalism, further substantiating your request for more money.

Salary Discussions & Negotiation Techniques

Successfully negotiating a raise goes beyond just asking; it requires strategic planning and skilled execution. Below are essential techniques to help you approach the negotiation conversation effectively.

Building Your Strategy

  • Set Clear Objectives: Know exactly what you want before entering the negotiation. Based on your research and personal value, determine a realistic salary increase and have a specific figure in mind. Also, consider non-monetary benefits that might be negotiable if the salary isn’t flexible.

  • Anticipate Responses: Prepare for possible employer objections and have responses ready. This might include reasons for a denial based on timing, budget constraints, or other factors. Think through your counterarguments or alternative requests.

  • Budget Considerations: Employers often have to balance many factors when considering raise requests, including budget constraints and equity among team members. Recognizing that your request may be one of many considerations can help you tailor your approach.

  • Performance Evaluation: Employers typically assess the value added by an employee in terms of their contribution to the company’s objectives. Be prepared to link your achievements to specific business outcomes clearly.

  • Future Potential: Many employers are not just paying for past performance but are also investing in your future potential. Demonstrate your commitment to ongoing personal and professional development to reassure your employer that investing in you is a wise choice.

Building Confidence

  • Scripting and Rehearsing: One effective way to build confidence is to script your key points and practice them. This preparation helps you refine your delivery and ensures you cover all critical aspects of your request.

  • Practice Your Pitch: Confidence is key in negotiations. Practice your pitch multiple times to ensure you convey your request clearly and confidently. You might even role-play the scenario with a friend or mentor to refine your approach and practice your body language.

  • Visualization Techniques: Use visualization techniques to mentally rehearse the meeting. Imagine yourself speaking confidently and handling the conversation with ease. This mental practice can enhance your actual performance.

  • Seek Feedback: Before the actual meeting, consider discussing your approach with a trusted mentor or colleague. Feedback can provide new insights and help you adjust your strategy, boosting your confidence.

Mindset Preparation

  • Adopt a Growth Mindset: Approach the raise negotiation as a learning experience, regardless of the outcome. This mindset can reduce your fear of rejection and help you handle the discussion constructively.

  • Prepare to Listen: Be ready to listen actively to your employer’s feedback or concerns. Showing you are receptive to feedback can turn the negotiation into a more productive dialogue.

  • Stress Management: Prior to the meeting, engage in stress-management practices such as deep breathing or meditation. Arriving calm can help you maintain composure and stay focused during the discussion.

Common Salary Negotiation Mistakes

  • Lack of Flexibility: While it’s important to know your worth, also be open to negotiation. Sometimes, you might need to compromise or accept a future raise or phased increases.

  • Negotiating Too Aggressively: While you should be assertive, avoid being overly aggressive. Maintain professionalism and keep the conversation positive and constructive.

  • Failing to Follow Up: After your meeting, send a thank-you email summarizing the key points discussed and express your appreciation for the opportunity to discuss your career development. This not only shows your professionalism but also reinforces your case.

By employing these negotiation techniques, you can enhance the effectiveness of your salary discussion. Each step, from how you prepare to how you present your case and respond to feedback, can significantly influence the outcome. With the right approach, you can navigate the negotiation toward a successful resolution.

How to Ask for a Raise Infographic

Arranging and Steering Your Pay Raise Conversation

The moment you sit down to discuss a raise can feel like a high-stakes point in your career. It’s not just about how to ask for a raise; it’s about setting the stage confidently and navigating the conversation with finesse.

From figuring out how to ask for a meeting to finding the right words to articulate your raise request, these steps are often laden with anxiety. But don’t worry! We’re here to provide you with practical, actionable tips to help ease your nerves and ensure your meeting unfolds as smoothly as possible.

Let’s dive into some strategies that can turn this potentially stressful encounter into a positive and constructive experience.

Scheduling a One-on-One Meeting

OPTION 1: Send a concise and polite email to your supervisor requesting a meeting to discuss your career development and compensation. Be clear about the purpose, but remain brief in the initial request. For example:

Dear [Manager’s Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I am writing to request a meeting to discuss my career development and contributions to the team. Over the past [duration], I have enjoyed my role and the opportunities to contribute to [specific projects or goals], and I look forward to continuing to drive success for our team.

Could we schedule a time that works for you in the coming days? I believe a discussion would be beneficial to align my goals with the department’s objectives and explore how I can continue to contribute effectively.

Thank you for considering my request. I am looking forward to our conversation and am flexible with timing to accommodate your schedule.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

OPTION 2: Catch a quiet moment with your supervisor, perhaps after a meeting or during a less busy part of the day, and say:

“Hi [Supervisor’s Name], do you have a minute? I’ve been reflecting on my recent contributions and how I can further align with our team’s goals. I’d really appreciate the chance to discuss my career path and some thoughts on my role moving forward. Could we set up a time this week to talk? I think it could be really productive.”

Ideally, choose a time for the meeting when your supervisor is least likely to be rushed or distracted. Avoid busy Monday mornings or late Fridays. If possible, schedule the meeting after a successful project completion or during a calm period.

When your meeting is confirmed, you might consider sending a brief agenda. This can include items such as discussing your achievements, evaluating your market value, and considering your compensation. This helps set expectations and shows that you are organized and serious.

Discussing Your Case

  • Present Your Achievements: Start by summarizing your recent contributions and how they align with the company’s goals. Use your documented achievements and any visual aids you’ve prepared to make your case compelling and easy to understand.

  • Articulate Your Request: Clearly state your request for a raise backed by the data and comparisons you’ve gathered. Be specific about the amount or percentage increase you are seeking, based on your research and performance.

    Thank you for taking the time to discuss my progress and contributions. I’ve put a lot of thought into this next topic, and based on my responsibilities, achievements, and the market research I’ve conducted, I wanted to discuss adjusting my compensation. From what I’ve found, positions similar to mine, considering the scope and impact of my work, are typically compensated at a higher rate. I feel an adjustment would reflect the market standard and recognize the value I’ve contributed here. I’m thinking along the lines of [specific amount or percentage increase], which I believe aligns with our discussion and the industry standards. What are your thoughts on this?

  • Respond to Feedback: Be prepared to listen and respond to feedback. If there are concerns or objections, address them calmly and professionally. Use feedback as an opportunity to understand your employer’s perspective and to negotiate further if needed.

Managing Emotions

  • Stay Professional: Maintain a calm and professional demeanor throughout the meeting, regardless of how the conversation evolves. Controlling your emotions reflects your EQ and capacity to handle sensitive discussions.

  • Prepare for Any Outcome: Enter the meeting prepared for any possible outcome. If the answer is no, ask for constructive feedback and possible conditions under which a raise could be reconsidered in the future.

  • Follow-up: After the meeting, send a thank-you email summarizing the discussion and expressing your appreciation for the opportunity to discuss your role. This shows your professionalism and reinforces the key points discussed during the meeting.

By carefully preparing for and conducting the meeting, you can ensure that you present a strong case for a raise while maintaining a professional relationship with your supervisor, regardless of the outcome.

How To Handle It If Your Raise Request is Rejected

Even with thorough preparation and a strong case, there’s always the possibility that your request for a salary increase might be denied. Here’s how to handle rejection professionally and productively:

Handling Rejection When You Plan to Continue In Your Role

  • Stay Professional and Calm: Control your emotions and respond professionally. Thank your manager for considering your request. Understanding why your request was denied can provide valuable insights that may help you succeed in the future, so don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.

  • Seek Constructive Feedback: Specifically, ask what improvements or achievements are needed to earn a raise in the future. This not only shows your commitment to growth but also that you are open to constructive criticism.

  • Express Continued Commitment: Reinforce your dedication to the company and your role. Let your manager know you remain committed to contributing effectively despite the setback.

Exploring Alternative Compensation

  • Suggest Non-Monetary Benefits: If a salary increase isn’t currently feasible, consider discussing other forms of compensation. This might include flexible working conditions, additional vacation days, professional development opportunities, or a bonus based on future performance.

  • Negotiate for Future Consideration: Propose a plan where your compensation is revisited after a certain period, especially after taking on new responsibilities or achieving specific milestones.

Setting Goals for the Future

By approaching the situation with maturity and foresight, you can turn a rejection into an opportunity for growth and future success. Handling a denied raise request adeptly can also strengthen your professional relationship with your manager and position you favorably for future negotiations.

Handling Rejection When Considering Departure

Handling a denied raise request when you’re considering leaving your job can be delicate. Maintaining professionalism while setting the stage for your next steps is important. Here’s how to manage the conversation in the moment if you’re leaning towards exiting:

  • Stay Composed and Professional: Even if you’re disappointed and considering leaving, maintain your composure during the conversation. Express gratitude for the review and for the opportunity to discuss your compensation.

  • Express Your Feelings Tactfully: If appropriate, you can subtly indicate that the decision might impact your career decisions moving forward. For example, you could say, “I appreciate your time and understand the constraints. I am committed to advancing my career and hoped for a different outcome, so I will need to consider my options moving forward.”

  • Avoid Ultimatums: Avoid making sudden declarations about leaving your job. Keep the conversation open-ended. This approach leaves you space to maneuver if you decide to stay or if circumstances at the company change soon after.

  • Prepare for a Follow-up Discussion: If you decide to leave, plan a follow-up conversation where you can discuss your decision more formally after you have had time to consider all options. This gives you time to search for new opportunities discreetly and to leave on a positive note.

  • Document Your Achievements: Before you leave, ensure you have a record of your contributions and achievements. This documentation will be crucial for updating your resume and during future interviews.

In this scenario, it’s key to exit as gracefully as you entered, ensuring that your professional reputation remains intact. This method also gives you the necessary time to plan your next steps carefully and to explore new opportunities without burning bridges.

Turning Your Raise Request into a Career Advancement Opportunity

When you ask for a raise it is more than just a question of compensation; it’s a pivotal moment in your career trajectory. Whether your request leads to a salary increase, opens up discussions for future growth, or even propels you to seek new horizons, it’s a valuable experience in your professional development. By approaching this conversation with preparation, clarity, and professionalism, you enhance your chances of success in future conversations and deepen your understanding of your value and career aspirations.

Remember, every ‘no’ is one step closer to a ‘yes,’ and each conversation is a building block in your career. Use the insights and strategies from this article to confidently navigate your raise discussion backed by a solid case and a clear strategy. Whatever the outcome, the experience will equip you with essential skills that are indispensable in the professional world.

Go forward with confidence, and remember that your career growth is a continuous journey.

About the Author: Michelle Dumas

Michelle Dumas is the founder and CEO of Distinctive Career Services, one of the internet's longest-standing and most respected professional resume writing firms. Michelle is a 6X certified and 7X award-winning resume writer and career consultant. To learn more about the services offered by Distinctive Career Services visit

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