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February 20, 2023 - 5 minutes

How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise

Asking for a raise can be scary, but we’ve clarified it here. 

Juliette Erath - Tech Writer


Preparing for that big talk with your boss can be quite stressful: what will they say? Will they say yes? And what if they say no? We’ve all been there and if you think it’s the right time for you, it’s essential that you follow our tips and tricks, prepare your argument and, most importantly, manage your expectations. Let’s dive in. 

Why should you ask for a raise? 

Although we’d all like bigger paychecks just because, raises are something that are earned and can be due to a variety of reasons. If your responsibilities have changed and expanded or your performance has improved, those are solid reasons to ask for a raise. And if things have stayed the same, don’t worry; standard salary increases are 3%-5% annually.

Now here’s the big question: why do you want a raise? When you head into that meeting with your boss, it’s crucial that you have a clear answer to that question. Even if your rent has gone up or you found out a coworker makes more than you, try to approach the topic with performance-based evidence and communicate the value you bring to the organization. 

How much should you ask for? 

Again, it’s important to be prepared before you ask for a raise and have a specific number in mind. For example, while you might be nervous about getting underpaid or asking for too much, what truly matters is your evidence and reasoning. You want to make sure that your request is well-received; that will come from a well-backed proposal. 

We mentioned that normal annual raises are between the 3%-5% range; this doesn't mean that’s what you have to request. If you were hired for a certain role and are now traveling more than anticipated, taking on more responsibilities, or delivering a strong performance, you can make an argument for a larger raise. 

When to Ask Your Boss for a Raise

First things first: does your company have a standard practice for raises? If so, it’s crucial to respect those and ask for raises within those time periods. If it doesn’t, some moments are better than others. Check out these tips: 

  • Don’t choose a time when everyone is stressed: not only are emotions high and patience short during stressed periods, but it’s more likely that your request will be lost in the madness and forgotten. If certain weeks or months are more stressful than others, choose your time carefully. 

  • Do choose a time when your boss is pleased with your work: if you’ve been having a rough few weeks or just got back from vacation, it may not be the best time to ask for a raise. 

  • Do consider the company’s standing: even if you’re the world’s best employee, a rough quarter might mean that the company simply doesn’t have the funds to give you a raise at that moment. It’s best to wait until the company is in a more stable position. 

How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise 

Now’s the moment; it’s time to ask your boss for a raise. Remember to keep your cool and follow these steps: 

  1. Ensure that you give yourself time to prepare for the request and time for your boss to get back to you. Most salary decisions aren’t made by just your boss; they’ll need to talk to HR and possibly their supervisor to give you a decision. They also may need to review your performance-based evidence before giving you an answer. 

  2. Just like with your work, take time to prepare your proposal. Numbers make the best argument and by using data points that support your argument, your boss will be more likely to agree. 

  3. Know your worth but remain professional and respectful. Lots of bosses don’t make salary increase decisions on their own, but instead have to discuss with another team. Keep your proposal to the following: 

  4. Your accomplishments within both your entire time at the company and since you received your last raise. 

  5. Data that backs up your argument that it’s time for a raise. 

  6. Industry data that shows a competitive salary for your role. 

  7. The benefits your company will have from your raise. 

After that meeting 

Alright, you did it! Your meeting is over and more likely than not your boss will tell you they need to think about it and confer with other colleagues. What now? Well, it’s a good idea to put your request in writing, especially if your original meeting was in-person; this helps you not only have a written record of your request, but makes it easier for your boss to share your argument as you would like it to be made with others. 

The waiting game can be tough, so consider adding a note to your boss during your conversation or your written follow-up, asking when an appropriate time to follow up would be. It’s important to be respectful of your boss’ time while simultaneously ensuring your work is being properly compensated. 

What to do if your boss says no 

We’ve all been there and if you haven’t yet, it will probably happen at some point. It can seem like a personal attack or review, but there are lots of reasons why your boss could say no and not all are related to your performance. Try not to take it personally and instead come at it from a realistic perspective: ask why and take the feedback as constructively as possible. And most importantly, collect a few action items for the future: 

  • Understand why your boss rejected your request

  • Ask when would be a better time to ask for a raise 

  • Ask what can be done to improve your performance

  • Keep a good attitude and continue to work hard 

These points, of course, must be balanced with knowing your worth. If you are being paid lower than the industry average or less than similarly-skilled and tasked colleagues, it’s important to place value on your skills. Looking for another job is an option if you are not being treated fairly. 

It can seem like quite the daunting task, but if you prepare yourself properly, you’ll be up for the challenge.

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