A deep dive into how to ask for a raise at work

With the end of the year rapidly approaching it is a good time to review your performance and decide if you should be asking for a raise or not in the next few months, especially as your year-end review is scheduled. Once you have assessed the situation, what are the next steps? If you have no clue how to ask for a raise, don’t worry, we’ve got you.

1. Review your situation

First of all, do you deserve this raise? Did you hit all your goals? You really need to look and assess if you can legitimately ask for a pay increase. Were you given more responsibility? Did you go above and beyond?

You should have been keeping track of your performance all year –especially when you received high marks or praise from your manager. You want to arm yourself with examples that show how you have helped the company in a big picture, ROI way. If you can’t memorize them be able to quickly access these examples.

2. Scheduling

You need to be strategic and organized about timing when you want to ask for a raise. For example, it’s probably not the best idea to ask for a meeting to talk about a raise the day before Christmas or the day after the company had layoffs. Being strategic about scheduling a meeting gives you time to prepare for your raise talk way ahead of time.

Annual performance reviews can be good times to bring up the raise conversation. If your company doesn’t have a system of annual performance review, you can ask your manager to set one up for you. These meetings are not only important for your own professional development, but can also be the perfect setting in which to ask for a raise at work.

It is completely acceptable for an employee to ask for a raise at their annual performance review, but that doesn’t guarantee it’ll be approved. It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t box yourself into only asking for a raise during a review.

In fact, a great time to ask for a raise is right after you do something really impressive at work. If you finish a huge project or close a deal that brings in a lot of revenue to the company, you should consider setting up a meeting with your boss to ask for that raise. You always want to be working hard to impress your boss, but it’s especially important to do so if you want some extra money on your next paycheck.

When considering scheduling, make sure to keep your boss’s agenda in mind. If they have a meeting-packed week already, you might want to wait an extra week as to not overwhelm them.

Another time component to be mindful of is whether the company is in a position to offer you a pay raise at the moment. If the company has recently undergone budget cuts or layoffs, it’s probably not the best time to ask for a raise.

3. Dress the part

This is not a day to be casual but rather to be confident. What outfit makes you feel powerful and accomplished. Maybe it is a certain tie or a really sharp blouse. For the ladies, maybe you need to get a blowout that morning. Nicole Williams, the bestselling author of “Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success,” said the clothes you wear directly correlate to your confidence levels. “The better you feel, the more likely you are to feel confident and fearless,” Williams says. “Work everything, including your wardrobe, in your favor.”

If you want to use some psychological tricks you can try wearing green as it is associated with money and some other very positive things. Psychologist and author Carole Kanchier said of the color green that it “suggests security, abundance, love, growth, luck and balance.” She also noted, “Wear green when you want to see things from a different perspective, need to feel grounded, calm, generous. Don’t wear it when you’re confused, feel stagnant, want to be alone.” Looking at things from a different angle and feeling calmer can all be more beneficial in the workplace.

4. Pick the setting

You may recall on the wonderful show 30 Rock that the oddly brilliant Jack Donaghy had an actual negotiation set in his office, specifically for when employees wanted to talk about raises. The set included a chair that was purposefully lowered for the person asking for the raise to make them feel inferior to Donaghy. Hopefully, your boss wouldn’t do that but just being on their ground may intimidate you and throw you off more than you would like. Why not suggest a more neutral conference room? It evens everything out.

5. Use data to ask for a pay raise

Doing your research before asking for a raise at work is extremely important. When your boss asks why you should receive a raise, you don’t want to just answer by saying “because I want to move to a bigger apartment.” Discussions in the professional world should always focus on what you can or have done for the person on the other side of the table.

Ellevest founder Sallie Krawcheck told Ladders recently, “You have to be working on this all year round. Don’t go in cold and ask for a raise. There is still plenty of time right now. You need to establish what success looks like. What do you value? What are our most important initiatives?” Krawcheck told Ladders. “What you don’t want to do all year is think you’re doing a great job but actually be working on something your boss doesn’t care much about. What are those metrics?”

Also look at what other people are making in your industry in equivalent roles. You can easily find this information using the Ladders salary search tool. 

Data preparation includes gathering the numbers about yourself –the projects you have done, people you converted into customers, dollars you have brought in, etc. But you also need to gather data concerning your tole and your industry,

So start by making a list of your  key accomplishments that support your request for a pay bump. Be prepared to discuss how your achievements benefitted the company as a whole.

You also want to make sure you go into the meeting knowing the salary that someone in your position is typically making in the current market. There are a variety of tools available online that you can use to do this, including Robert Half’s 2020 Salary Guides and SoFi’s Get That Raise tool.

When compiling your data, keep in mind that some companies only give fixed-rate raises, such as a 2% increase. Many companies outline the raise-and-bonus policy in the employee handbook, so take a look at that before meeting to discuss a raise with your boss. The normal amount for an annual increase in salary is anywhere from 2% to 5%.

6. Be careful of your body language

Body language can make or break a situation.

First of all, you need to walk in with the stride and posture of someone who is getting a raise today. That is the part you are playing. A study at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging discovered that it takes the brain just 200 milliseconds to gather most of the information it needs from a facial expression to determine a person’s emotional state.

Also, try not to smile too much (it conveys nervousness), tilt your head (conveys submissiveness),  or use your hands too much (conveys confusion.)

And for women,  though your voices are already lower than they were 100 years ago, you may want to make sure you are speaking at your lowest register. Scientists have found that the lower the voice, the more authority it conveys. Researchers at Duke University looked at 792 U.S. chief executives at public companies and found that a drop of 22 Hz in voice frequency correlated with an increase of $187,000 in compensation.

7. Be careful of your spoken language as well

What you say during the meeting is also extremely important. There are certain key phrases you definitely should fit in:

“Based on my research…” 

This phrase shows you have actually done your homework. Experts cannot stress enough the importance of doing your homework before this discussion. If you don’t, you can end up embarrassed and making the same amount of money than when you walked into the meeting.

“Value” 

Oh this one is a biggie. Labor & Employment Attorney Alex Granovsky of Granovsky & Sundaresh PLLC told Glassdoor, ““From an employer’s perspective, each employee has to either (1) increase revenue, or (2) increase margin (ideally both). While probably not as compelling as the job market, if you can show to your employer how you are bringing ‘value’ to the company (in the form of increased revenue and/or increased margin), you can make a compelling case for a raise.”

“When, I, feel, and need” 

Though there is some opposition to using more emotional words like “feel” and “need”Dr. Michael McNulty, a master trainer from The Gottman Institute and founder of the Chicago Relationship Center, told Business Insider that by using “I” it avoids all blaming language. “This technique is so helpful in relationships of all kinds,” McNulty says. “It helps to guard against the tendency that people feel to justify their feelings and needs so much so that they come off as critical or blaming to the other person before they are able to express what they feel and ask for what they want.”

7. No isn’t the end of the raise conversation

If your boss says no to a salary bump that doesn’t mean the conversation is over.

If the company is simply not able to give you a raise due to lack of funds, you can always barter for other benefits, like more PTO, the option to work remotely on occasion, or paid professional training.

“If you do not get the raise ask for 27 other things. I wouldn’t start with flexibility because that tends to send signals,” Krawcheck told Ladders. “They may ask, ‘Is she serious?’ But how about paying for this coding class? How about a marketing class? Could I have time off for this class? Can I work on this marketing project? Could you introduce me to so and so to be my mentor?

“Whatever those things are you want to do it with an eye of returning to money later. This will turn into money next month or next year.”

The important thing to remember if your boss declines your pay raise is to make sure you understand why, and ask him or her what you can do to deserve the raise down the road. Ask your boss flat out how you can improve to hustle your way to a pay raise or promotion.

8. Be positive when asking for a pay raise

Remind your boss or manager that you are excited about the future of this role and again remind them you are a valuable member of this team.  End on a high note.

You should never frame the raise conversation as an ultimatum. Don’t say “Give me more money or else I’m leaving.” That’s simply not productive, and may leave a bad taste in your boss’s mouth.

If you approach the raise topic in a professional manner, you should be able to leave it without having altered the relationship that you have with your manager or employer.