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According to Science, Here's How to Get a Raise

Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins

Researchers polled nearly 1,000 workers on how they got a raise. Here's what they learned.

  • 81% of the 1,000 workers polled succeeded in getting raises, with intermediate-level and salaried employees seeing the highest success rate.
  • Salaried employees reported receiving an average raise of $2,370, while hourly workers received an average increase of $1.60, which is equivalent to $3,328 per year.
  • The most common method of asking for a raise was by using seniority to justify a pay increase.

When it comes to compensation, it's not uncommon for people to feel like they deserve more from their employer. In fact, 4 in 10 U.S. workers told Gallup last year they felt they were underpaid, which makes sense given how much Americans' wages have stagnated in recent decades. Now that the job market favors employees, it might be a good time to ask for more money from your employer. A new study from Zoro polled nearly 1,000 American employees to learn how people asked for more pay.

There is no shortage of advice articles explaining how to ask for a pay increase, but researchers found that certain tactics worked while others didn't. While 81.2% of the 997 workers that participated in the survey said they'd been successful in getting a raise at their current job, certain groups fared better than others.

When asking for a raise, seniority matters

In the hierarchy of nearly every business, employees who have been with the company longer tend to enjoy better benefits. Longer vacation times, better work hours and, yes, even higher pay, are some of the perks that come with staying loyal to the company. Researchers in the Zoro study found that this principle also applies to employees who are seeking raises.

According to the survey, employees with intermediate-level positions were the most likely to receive more compensation at 29.1%, with middle-management (26.6%) and senior management or executives (25.6%) following close behind. Workers with entry-level positions had the hardest time getting additional money at 18.8%. Furthermore, salaried workers (84.7%) were more successful at getting additional money than their hourly (75.7%) counterparts.

When asked how people requested their raises, both men and women were likely to use seniority as their main selling point, at 36.9% and 36.6%, respectively. Seniority was also the most popular method for Gen Xers (38.6%), millennials (36.3%) and baby boomers (33.9%).

In addition to using their seniority to justify a raise request, researchers found that workers were likely to compare their performance to that of their co-workers and leverage another job offer. Other methods included using personal finances to justify a raise and threatening to quit.

How to start the conversation about a raise

Researchers said they wanted to know how people felt leading up to their raise request and how they asked for a pay increase. People reported asking for a raise at least 1.4 times per year and started planning their request almost eight days in advance. 

According to the study, nearly 28% said they were "somewhat comfortable" submitting a raise request, while less than 27% were "only slightly comfortable." Just 12% said they "were not at all comfortable" when trying to negotiate for a higher salary. Researchers also found that women were "twice as likely as men to report a total lack of comfort." Regardless, women were found to be just as likely to ask for a raise as their male colleagues but they requested.

When broaching the topic, simply asking for an in-person meeting was the most popular method among men (48.5%) and women (48.1%). Leading up to the request, researchers found that women (38.6%) were more likely to research the salary range of similar positions than men were (31.3%) before starting the conversation. The third most popular method, according to the survey, was waiting for an annual or semiannual performance review. Other methods included highlighting a list of accomplishments, outlining responsibilities and asking via email or other digital means.

Researchers found that some respondents were comfortable using unethical means to get the conversation about raises started. Data suggests that 7.4% of women and 8.6% of men were willing to lie about a competing offer from a rival company, while 3.1% of women and 5.8% of men lied about their accomplishments.

Some respondents also opted to ask a boss for a raise while they were highly stressed, and others said they used emotions to "manipulate their boss or superior." Among respondents, officials said millennials were "the most likely to use some strategies further on the unethical side." 

What happens after the compensation conversation?

As previously mentioned, most people polled said they were able to negotiate a raise at work. After speaking with their bosses, 49.4% said they received the exact amount they asked for, while 33.5% said they got less. Just over 17% of respondents found themselves in the enviable position of receiving more of a pay increase from their employer than they requested. 

Researchers found that salaried employees received a $2,370 boost to their annual salary with their most recent raise. Similarly, hourly employees received an added $1.60 per hour, which added to approximately $3,328 per year.

On the other side of the coin, however, were the respondents who were denied more compensation. When the answer was no, researchers found that men (42%) were more likely to ask why they were turned down than women (39%). Meanwhile, 38.6% of men and 34% of women started looking for a job once they were denied the increases they felt they deserved. Some individuals (13.6% of men and 13% of women) attempted to get more "nonmonetary benefits" like flexible hours and more paid time off if they couldn't get more take-home pay.

Respondents said that the longest they would go without getting a raise before looking for another job was roughly 24.6 months, on average. The longest they had gone without a raise, officials said, was an average of 19.6 months. Only 29% of respondents said they'd left a job because of a pay raise denial.

Image Credit: Pressmaster/Shutterstock
Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins
Business News Daily Staff
Andrew Martins has written more than 300 articles for and Business News Daily focused on the tools and services that small businesses and entrepreneurs need to succeed. Andrew writes about office hardware such as digital copiers, multifunctional printers and wide format printers, as well as critical technology services like live chat and online fax. Andrew has a long history in publishing, having been named a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner.