How to ask for a raise at work



Let’s start with the things you should not lead with when you’re looking to get a raise at work.

What NOT to say :

  1. “I’ve been here 5 years and I’ve never asked for a raise before.”
  2. “I show up to work on time.”
  3. “Maybe I didn’t quite hit my numbers, but I worked really hard.”
  4. “I’m a little underpaid.”
  5. “I want $200 more a week.”
  6. “You know, I’m the best employee on your team.”
  7. “I mean, ‘Jason’ has been here a year and he got a raise.”
  8. “You laid off ‘Frank,’ now I have to do his work.”
  9. “We’re buying a house, so this would be a big help.”
  10. “Did you know we’re having a baby?”
  11. “But just so you know, I have other job offers, and they pay more.”
  12. “If you don’t give me a raise, I’m going to have to move on.”
  13. “I love working here, this is the place I want to be.”

The statements above are all things you should NOT say when asking for a raise at work. So what should you say and when should you say it?

Asking for a raise generally enters your mind as you approach performance review season, or when budget planning is happening. Try to map out asking for a raise three to four months in advance of either of these key times of the year. Also, schedule time with your manager to sit down and discuss. Don’t just stop by hoping your manager will have time for you.

Come to the meeting with actionable insights. Make a list of all the accomplishments you’ve achieved this year, and a quantifiable assessment of how much time and energy it took for you to reach your goals. Use a statement like, “I’ve taken on several new projects this year with the goal of reaching XYZ. I’d like to discuss increasing my salary to reflect my commitment to meeting our department goals this year.” Then you can follow up your assertion with actual examples. This gives your manager the information they need to make an informed decision and avoids your manager perceiving you as “whining” to get what you want.

If you feel like threatening to leave is the best approach to get the raise that you want, be careful. It can be a dangerous proposition. One of the least risky approaches is to say something like, “I really enjoy the work I’m doing here and can see myself being here well into the future. However, I know that the market is paying X for someone in my position with my background.”

After you’ve pled your case for an increase in compensation, don’t say anything until your manager has given you their answer.  The silence may be uncomfortable, but continuing to sell your worth or nervously talking will not strengthen your case.

What do you do if your manager denies your request? Ask a straightforward question like, “I understand the raise is not possible today, but what can I do in the future to be considered for a salary increase?” If your manager can’t outline what they need from you in your performance or what goals you need to meet to make you eligible, they either don’t know, or don’t actually have the influence to give you a raise. Either way, it’s time to evaluate your future with the company.

Another option to propose if a permanent salary increase is not available would be a “spot bonus.” These bonuses are generally available upon completion of a project, or successful acquisition of additional responsibilities and typically range from $2,500 to $5,000.

If your manager agrees to the raise or bonus, make sure to say thank you. Follow your gratitude with mention of the additional projects you’re going to initiate or pitch to your department/ leadership. This should reinforce for your manager that your salary increase was not only deserved, but a smart decision that will lead to your continued happiness and their success.