How to ask for a raise at work, plus a breakdown of the 5 Ws

Money. We all want more of it. While some of us opt for a side hustle, some of us look towards our actual place of employment for the bump to our bank account. But talking about money is hard for a lot of people, and talking about money at work can be even more difficult. Ladders spoke with Richard Deosingh, the district president for Robert Half, to answer all your questions surrounding how to ask for a raise at work.

Who should you ask for a raise at work?

Your direct supervisor is the best person to ask for a raise at work. “It should be a conversation with the individuals who the employee directly reports to and no one else,” Deosingh said.

What do you do if you ask your manager for a raise and he/she says no?

A tight office budget could be the reason your boss declined your request for a pay raise. Companies with limited funds usually give out raises on strict timelines. If this is the case, you can always barter for benefits like extra vacation days, the option to work remotely on occasion, or paid professional training.

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“If you think you deserve a raise but your boss declines, make sure you understand why they said no and ask when you can revisit the topic down the road,” said Deosingh.

If your boss cites a lack of skill or experience as the reason for declining your request, make sure to ask how you can improve your work and hustle your way to a promotion or raise.

When should you ask for a raise at work?

Annual performance reviews can be the most appropriate times to ask for a raise at work. If your company doesn’t have a system of annual performance reviews, speak with your manager about setting one up. Not only is it a great chance to learn how to improve in your role, but it can be the perfect time to ask for a raise at work. Deosingh said that it is completely acceptable for an employee to ask for a raise at their first annual performance review, but that doesn’t guarantee it’ll be approved.

“During a performance review, asking for a raise can be a natural tie-in, but that’s certainly not the only time to broach the subject,” Deosingh said.

In fact, a great time to ask for a raise is after important triumphs at work. For example, the days or weeks after completing a big project or landing an impressive client are good times to ask for a raise.

“Major accomplishments that have benefited the company and show your worth can make it clear to your employer that you’re worth the additional pay,” Deosingh said.

While the time after the completion of a successful project is a great time to request a raise, Deosingh reminds employees not to go looking for a raise after every successful project.

Additionally, keep in mind is to schedule a meeting with your boss during a slower time, not one of a million meetings and high stress.

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.

Where should you go to do research in preparation to ask for a raise at work?

Preparation for a meeting about a raise cannot be emphasized enough. Besides timing, preparation is the determining factor in whether or not your manager approves your raise or not.

Before your meeting, you should prepare information about yourself as well as data about your role and industry.

Deosingh suggests making a list of your key accomplishments that support your request for a pay bump. You should be prepared to discuss how those achievements benefited the company. Numbers (with dollar signs attached) usually speak louder than anything else.

Deosingh also suggests not using solely the past tense for your argument, but also think long-term and look into the future. Sharing strategic ideas for the company will not only impress your boss but also convince them that you’re there for the long run.

You 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. Deosingh suggests checking Robert Half’s 2019 Salary Guides to make sure what you’re asking for is in alignment with your market.

Also consider the fact that some companies may only be able to give fixed-rate raises, such as a 2% increase. Most companies will outline the raise-and-bonus policy in the employee handbook, so make sure to read that over before scheduling a meeting to discuss a raise with your boss. The normal amount for an increase is anywhere from 2% to 5%, according to Deosingh.

Why should you never ask for a raise with an ultimatum?

“It should never, ever be an ultimatum,” Deosingh said. “Don’t say, ‘Give me money or else I’m leaving.’ That’s not productive.”

An ultimatum makes this meeting more of a negotiation than a conversation.

“If you approach it professionally…if you have a conversation it’s not going to, and shouldn’t, change the relationship that you have with your direct report or employer,” Deosingh said.

How should you ask for a raise at work?

The first step to asking for a raise is to make sure you’re in a professional place to make a good case for a raise. Are you meeting or exceeding all your employer’s expectations? Are you getting paid less than is the industry normal? Do you deserve to get paid more than the industry normal?

Once you have organized research and a solid case, request a meeting with your boss. If your annual performance review is coming up, make sure your argument is fully formed by then. During the meeting, don’t approach your boss with an ultimatum or attack, but with a civilized and informed discussion. Present your case, reference your research, and open the discussion. The rest is up to your manager.

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