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5 Tips For Getting the Raise You Deserve

Updated on February 29, 2016
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I'm a business communications coach who teaches writing, speaking, and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

Walking into your supervisor's office to ask for a raise doesn't have to be a nerve-racking experience. Set yourself up for success by following these tips on how to ask for a raise.

Feeling strapped for cash? Now might be a good time to ask for a raise!
Feeling strapped for cash? Now might be a good time to ask for a raise!

You've worked hard all year. You've been a loyal, dedicated and creative employee. Now might be the perfect time to ask for a raise and start earning more money. Approach your request for a pay raise with some careful planning, thoughtful introspection and a sincere belief in your skills and abilities. Here are five simple steps to asking your boss for an increase in pay.

If you consistently meet and exceed the requirements outlined in your employment contract, and the organization you work for is experiencing tangible growth and development, it may be the perfect time for you to ask for a raise.

Getting a raise at work can have a number of positive benefits for both you and your employer. You will increase your monthly cash flow and depending upon how your benefits are structured, you may also be increasing your pension contributions or matching retirement fund contributions. A raise may bump up your seniority giving you access to more vacation benefits, sick leave or maternity leave benefits. On top of improving your cash flow, asking for and getting a raise feels good. It's recognition from your employer that your contributions are valued.

The benefits for your employer in giving you a raise is your renewed commitment and loyalty to the organization. It takes time and money to recruit, replace and retrain a new employee. High turnover rates are rarely a good thing for an employer. The employer and his company’s reputation is at stake. Companies that seem to operate a revolving door of employees coming and going do little to instill confidence in customers and stakeholders. It's a subtle sign that the business might not be running efficiently and ethically.

Here are five critical steps to take before you ask for a raise:

1. Figure out why you want a raise.

Do you need a raise to make financial ends meet? Are you looking for a raise because you feel it will be symbolic recognition of all the hard work you do?

It is important to determine what kind of raise you're looking for because the type of increase you want will influence how much you can reasonably request. It will also inform the research that you need to do to present your case to your boss.Generally, there are two types of raises that you can ask for: a merit increase or a cost of living increase.

A merit increase is a raise based on your individual performance at work. If you consistently meet and exceed the goals you and your employer agree to, your employer may be willing to reward your hard work with a pay increase during your annual performance review. Or you might be given a lump sum bonus at the end of the year. Not everyone will be offered a merit increase. That’s why understanding your strengths and having clear documentation of all of your accomplishments throughout the year will be critical to your success in proving that you deserve a raise.

A cost of living increase is a raise to keep up with rising living expenses that are generally beyond your control. This type of raise helps offset the growing costs of food, rent, gas, childcare and other basic living expenses. In many progressive workplaces, cost of living increases are part of the overall human resources strategy to recruit and retain loyal employees. A cost of living increase can be as low as 1% or as high as 3 or 4% depending on the current state of the economy and how well the company is performing. Some cost of living increases are given out each year automatically as part of a union contract or employment agreement.

Are the walls around you crumbling? Do you need to pay for home renovations or take care of an emergency? Figure out why you need a raise before you approach your boss.
Are the walls around you crumbling? Do you need to pay for home renovations or take care of an emergency? Figure out why you need a raise before you approach your boss.

2. Answer the question “Why do I deserve a raise?” ten times.

On a sheet of paper, write down a new answer to the same question "Why do I deserve a raise?" If you can’t find 10 good reasons you deserve a raise you won’t be able to convince your boss to increase your pay.

Make a list of specific accomplishments that you have achieved and rate how valuable each of those accomplishments were. Don’t just say you increased sales of XYZ by 10%. Also note how increasing sales of a particular product helped the company in a new and exciting way. Review the expectations of your job and cite specific ways you’ve gone above and beyond your job duties. Then you'll be in a strong position to ask for a raise.

3. Assess the timing of your request for a raise.

Be optimistic, but also realistic, about your chances of getting a pay increase at work. If your company is in financial trouble because of a slow economy, there may not be a lot of extra cash available for raises – no matter how hard you've worked or how confident you are that you deserve a raise. It may not be the right time to ask for an increase.

But don’t give up just yet. Keep working on your request and keep documenting all the positive things that you're contributing to the company. And stay cheerful, upbeat and motivated. When things turn around and your boss is ready to offer pay increases, you want him to think of you first. You want your loyal, no-grumbling attitude during the tough times to keep you top-of-mind when the money starts coming in again.

4. Prepare your presentation.

Do your research. What are the standard wages for people doing your job within your industry? Is your current pay competitive? Could you earn more somewhere else? Find reports, industry trends and surveys from professional associations to back up your assertions that you need to be paid more.

Figure out how much of a raise you want. If you're asking for a cost of living increase, you may be limited in the amount that you can ask for. Cost of living increases can be determined objectively based on the current economic climate and how well the company is doing. Also, if cost of living increases are applied across all employees, keep in mind that your employer will be experiencing increased wages across the board.

If you're looking for a merit increase, ask yourself if you want a percentage wage increase or a specific amount of money. Skilled negotiators generally recommend that you ask for more than you’d settle for, in case the other party comes back with a lower offer. (Just don’t ask for a raise that your employer clearly can’t afford to pay you. You won’t look ambitious; you’ll just look reckless.)

Decide on what you are willing to settle for. If you think that you’ve got nothing to lose by asking for a raise, think again. While you have the right to present your case to the boss, your boss could say no to your request. Think carefully about how you will deal with a potential rejection. Will you feel demoralized? Will you be able to still come into work with a cheerful attitude and perform to the best of your ability? Are you ready to move on if you can’t get what you want? (Warning: Never make a threat about quitting if you aren’t serious about following through on it.)

Figure out what it will take for you to stay in your current position. If you can’t get a raise at this time, are there other financial perks or benefits that you’d like to ask for: more paid vacation, expanded medical and dental coverage, mileage, a clothing allowance, paid professional development? Even a change in job title (without an increase in pay) can enhance your career profile down the road. You’d be surprised at how valuable some of these added benefits can be when you sit down and calculate the impact they can have on your health and well-being.

keep your options open. If your employer can't afford to give you a salary increase, would you be willing to accept an increase in benefits such as more paid vacation time or enhanced health and insurance benefits?
keep your options open. If your employer can't afford to give you a salary increase, would you be willing to accept an increase in benefits such as more paid vacation time or enhanced health and insurance benefits?

5. Schedule a meeting with your boss at the right time.

Pick the right time to meet with your supervisor to ask for a pay raise. Don’t request a meeting during a particularly hectic period of the week or right after the company has experienced some bad news. Give your boss plenty of notice about the meeting (at least 48 hours in advance), but be flexible if his or her schedule gets disrupted and you need to reschedule. Be patient and choose a time when you know that your boss will likely be in a good mood and feeling relaxed (and hopefully generous, too).

In you couldn't get a raise at work right now, what other things would you want to ask for?

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© 2012 Sally Hayes

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