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How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise: 5 Tips for Success

Marci Martin
Marci Martin

Asking for a raise can be intimidating, but these five tips will help you approach your boss confidently and professionally.

  • It is entirely acceptable to ask for a raise if it has been more than a year since your last increase, your performance has been exceptional or your duties have significantly changed.
  • Do your research so you know the pay range for your position, experience and education.
  • Standard pay increases range from 3% (average) to 6% (exceptional). Asking for a 10% to 20% increase, depending on the reason, is a way to open negotiations.
  • Present your boss with solid data on the professional reasons for your increase and leave a single-page handout to make it easier for your boss to discuss the request with their boss(es). 

Most people cringe at the thought of asking their boss for a pay raise. If you don't work for a company that gives its employees regular annual salary increases and you're not up for a promotion, it may be the only way to get that raise you know you deserve.

First, know that is perfectly acceptable to ask for a raise – it won't be the first time your boss (or the company) has encountered such a request from an employee. Some companies have structured procedures for employee rate increases, such as annually or around the employee's anniversary date. Other companies may not have an established process and may be so focused on operations that it escapes their notice. Most company managers and business owners want to take good care of their employees, and chances are your reminder will be taken seriously.

The best way to ask for a raise is to do your research and know your worth, then approach your boss in a professional manner. While the process seems intimidating and uncomfortable, it doesn't have to be.

If you know your boss and how they function, and you're armed with facts, you will feel more confident initiating the conversation.

Why do you want a raise?

This is a critical question. List all of your reasons for wanting a raise before proceeding with your request. Compensation should be commensurate with efforts and results, not because your rent went up or you're frustrated because your cubicle partner doesn't work as hard as you and earns the same pay rate.

When you make your request, your reasons should be based on your performance and the value you bring to the team and to the organization.

How much should you ask for?

The average pay raise is 3%. A good pay raise ranges from 4.5% to 6%, and anything more than that is considered exceptional. Depending on the reasons you cited for a pay raise and the length of time since your last raise, it's acceptable to request a raise in the 10% to 20% range. However, the higher the percentage you request, the better your reason should be. For instance, if you accepted a position with little travel and now you are traveling more than half the time, asking for 20% isn't unreasonable. Your duties have significantly changed.

However, if you are asking for a pay increase because it's been more than a year since your last one and you've continued to perform well in your regular duties, start with a more reasonable percentage. You still deserve a raise, but your request needs to be tempered with the reality of your contributions.

When is a good time to ask for a raise?

Some people say there is never a perfect time to ask for a raise, but use common sense. Don't ask for a raise at a sensitive time, such as if your company has laid people off, your department had low numbers for the quarter, or your boss is dealing with a difficult personal situation.

Consider your company's current pay increase practices. If they typically give out raises the first of the year, approach your boss in November or December. This gives them an opportunity to consider your request and work with their bosses rather than asking them to change their decision when you find out your rate increase.

If there is no standard practice, try to time your request during a "good" time, such as when you know your boss is pleased with your work, or during a successful quarter or a time of year where everyone isn't stressed out.

How to ask your boss for a raise

Give yourself ample time to prepare for the conversation, and give your manager adequate time to consider your request.

Schedule a meeting with your boss in advance instead of knocking on their door and springing your request on them; it shows that you are considerate of their time. If your boss is busy on a certain day of the week, scratch that day off your list.

Once the meeting is scheduled, treat your meeting prep like a college research report: Find credible information and cover the following points in your salary negotiation.

Tips for asking for a raise

1. List your accomplishments from the past six months, the year and your lifetime with the company.

Describe how your accomplishments have positively impacted your department and company as a whole; provide specific numbers and statistics if possible. For example, you could say, "In the past year, I generated 5,000 leads for the company, which is an increase of 8% from the prior year. The resulting sales equaled $58,000 in new business."

It's hard for any manager to turn down a request when presented with numbers like those. The stronger data you provide, the greater case you make for a well-deserved raise.

2. Know what a competitive salary looks like for your position.

On sites like Salary.com and PayScale, you can get a free salary report to see how your current salary compares. Be sure to consider the industry you are based in, your employer's size and your benefits. Some companies just don't pay well, which is why it's best to consult hiring experts when possible. If you have any connections with local recruiters and hiring managers (perhaps on LinkedIn), ask them if they would look at your resume to provide you with a realistic salary goal for your position and experience.

3. Let your boss know what's in it for them.

In a salary negation, your boss does not care about your mortgage payments or the vacation you want to go on. Your boss cares about what's in it for them. You've already explained what you've done for the company, but you also want to explain your plan for the future. Present them with your goals, how those goals benefit the company and how you will achieve those goals.

4. Be confident.

Be confident when asking for a raise. Yes, it's intimidating, but you have a support system: the reasons you identified for your request and the research you did about comparable salary ranges. Be prepared for some pushback and know that the answer could be no. If you are given the raise, be prepared to continue working hard (or harder). You knew you should get a raise; now show your boss you deserved it.

5. Provide your request in writing.

Chances are, your boss has a boss with whom they will have to share your pay or salary raise request. Provide them a handout that summarizes your request, comparable pay ranges and the benefits the company derives from your efforts.

After the request

It is unlikely your boss will say yes during that first meeting. In most cases, they will ask for time to discuss it with other decision-makers and get back to you. It is appropriate to ask for a time frame when a decision will be made. For example, you could ask, "Is it OK if I check back with you two weeks from today if I haven't heard anything?"

Next, be prepared for a no. A negative response could be based on factors you know nothing about or have no control over. If that happens, ask what you can do to be considered for a pay raise in the future. A good boss will give you the reasons for the rejection and tell you how you can improve your chances for better compensation in the future.

If you are unsatisfied with the reasons why or the path proposed, then you have to assess your career path and desire to stay with the company or firm. In the meantime, stay positive.

If you get a yes, maintain your professionalism. Express your gratitude and keep up the good work. It's also important to maintain good relationships with your co-workers. If you brag to others about your pay raise, your boss will regret helping you, and it will create friction within your team.

Requesting a pay raise can be stressful and uncomfortable, but there is nothing to lose by trying.

Additional reporting and writing was conducted by Marisa Sanfilippo.

Image Credit: Production Perig/Shutterstock
Marci Martin
Marci Martin,
Business News Daily Writer
With an associate's degree in business management and nearly 20 years in senior management positions, Marci brings a real-life perspective to her articles about business and leadership. She began freelancing in 2012 and became a contributing writer for Business News Daily and business.com in 2015.