How to get a salary raise at work
The best leaders know when you’re due for a salary increase. They’re two steps ahead of their employees and schedule annual salary reviews.
But what if you’re not one of the lucky ones? What if your salary hasn’t changed in quite some time?
Even if you’ve been putting in extra effort at work, you might not get more money automatically. A salary raise may be something you have to ask for.
Sure, it’s scary to put your performance under a microscope and ask for a pay increase. Yet, people do it every day. They overcome their fears and put themselves out there, hoping their request is accepted.
Did you know new research shows that many employers are expecting to raise their salaries by 4.6% in 2023? You read that right. And that means you may be in a better position to negotiate a pay increase than you think.
In this article, we’ll share eight expert tips for getting a pay raise so you can ask for one with confidence and get paid what you deserve.
What is a salary raise?
If you get a salary bump, that’s called a pay raise. There are different reasons why you might get a raise.
For example, if you’ve been with the company for a while, it might be time for a salary increase. Some companies have annual performance reviews during which you can have a chat about your target salary.
Your salary may also be tied to your experience level. If you’ve taken on additional tasks at work or boosted your skillset, for instance, you might be entitled to more money.
Then there’s inflation, which can impact the industry average.
Most of the time, managers won’t offer you a raise. So if you think you deserve more than your current salary, you’ll typically need to ask for it.
But you shouldn’t feel embarrassed bringing up the subject. Companies usually expect their employees to have a conversation about salary bumps when the time is right.
8 tips when asking for a salary raise
Not sure how to ask your boss for a raise? Here are eight tips to help you get it right:
1. Find the courage to ask
A lot of people wait for their performance review or annual review to ask for a raise. There’s nothing wrong with that tactic since you’ll have a forum to discuss performance and compensation.
However, you don’t need to wait a year or more if you feel you deserve a raise sooner.
It’s important to be happy at work. That’s true whether you’re doing something you love or if you’re getting paid what you feel is fair. It’s normal to ask for a raise, so don’t feel entitled or greedy for doing so.
A raise is a recognition of all your hard work. It’s not a gift. It’s not a favor. It’s an incentive from the company to keep up the great work. It’s their way of retaining you. Otherwise, you might start looking for a higher-paying role.
Don’t worry that you’ll damage your reputation by asking, either. The only way you could do that is if you’re asking for an unreasonable amount or if you go into it with the wrong attitude.
Ultimately, you have to find the right balance of showing confidence without being arrogant.
2. Get the timing right
Timing is everything. If your boss is having a bad day or venting to you about budget cuts, then it’s safe to assume it isn’t a good time.
The same thing goes for layoffs. If the company has just let a bunch of people go, there probably won’t be extra cash to go around.
If you just got a raise a few months ago or within the past two quarters, it may not be as feasible either.
If last year was the last time you got a raise, or even longer, you’re probably in the clear, especially if you’ve consistently exceeded expectations.
If you’ve recently pulled off a successful project, landed a big sale, or saved the company by implementing cost-saving measures, that’s a prime time to make your move. Do it while your accomplishments are fresh on everyone’s mind and people are still reaping the benefits.
The time of year is also worth considering. If the company’s budget comes out early in the year, then asking in the spring or summer might be tough since the budget may already be set until next year.
Asking later in the year (October–December) can give your boss a chance to budget for it next year. Asking early in the year when the company has more available funds might also work in your favor.
3. Justifying your salary request
A lot of people get stuck on the numbers. You might be wondering about the average amount to ask for in a raise.
3–5% is average. 10% isn’t unheard of, but it’s less likely. You’ll have to really sell why you deserve that or more in your salary negotiations.
Do your homework to figure out the going rate for your position. Sites like BLS and Payscale can help determine the salary range for your role so you at least have a starting point.
The average wage will vary by job title, time in the industry, and location. For example, senior reps tend to make more than junior reps because of their experience.
A job in San Francisco, California, will likely have a higher salary than a job in Des Moines, Iowa. The cost of living is much higher in California, so you can expect the range to skew toward the upper level.
It also helps to get a good understanding of your company’s compensation structure. Some are more flexible, while others are more rigid. You’ll find some employers are big on merit (i.e., paying for your performance) while others stick to the standard increase of 2-5%.
But you’ll never get what you don’t ask for, so be prepared to offer up a number during your performance review or raise discussion.
4. Timing the salary raise request
One of the most difficult parts of asking for a raise is figuring out how to time the conversation with your manager.
Asking in the moment
Catching your boss off guard and having strong points to back up your plea could work in your favor. They won’t have the luxury of doing their own research or preparing objections.
But it could also put a sour taste in their mouth or force them to deflect the conversation to another time.
Scheduling time to discuss
On the other hand, asking to schedule time gives them the upper hand since they can prepare for the conversation and potentially shoot you down with a more reasoned explanation. But, it could also create goodwill and the format for a thoughtful discussion.
Which route you choose should depend on your relationship with your boss. If you have a strong working relationship and feel comfortable just popping into their office for a chat, then go with the spontaneous approach.
If your boss tends to be very business-like and prefers discussions to be scheduled and official, then make sure you ask for a meeting in advance.
5. Handling the conversation
Doing your homework ahead of time will make the conversation flow better. It will also give you more confidence going into the meeting. It gives you a chance to address any impressive hard and soft skills you have that could give you a leg up in the conversation.
The most important thing you need to nail down is why you deserve a raise.
What you don’t say is just as important as what you do say. It’s best to focus less on personal reasons like wanting to buy a house or saving up for something special and more on your recent accomplishments and the skill set you bring to the role.
What value have you brought to the business lately? What are you doing above and beyond the role’s expectations? How does that align with your job title and description?
It might be helpful to put a folder of your accomplishments together. Fill it with awards, customer feedback, praise from colleagues, recently completed projects, or online certificate programs.
Keeping these records will make potential raises and promotion conversations feel much smoother since you have actual examples to fall back on.
6. Negotiating to get what you want
Knowing what to say when asking for a raise is critical to getting what you want. Not being prepared is akin to not asking at all. You can almost guarantee that you’ll end up disappointed with the answer.
The ideal scenario is you enter the conversation with leverage of some kind. Look back on your years of experience and consider what you bring to the table.
Do you have a large book of clients that would leave if you left? Do you have in-depth process and product knowledge that’s hard to replicate?
Knowing those answers makes the negotiation feel more seamless.
It’s also good to rehearse all the possible scenarios and how you’ll react to each one. If they say that the timing is bad, have a response ready such as, “When can we revisit the conversation?” Then ask for a specific date or month for a follow-up appointment.
If they say you’re asking for too much money, a constructive reaction could be, “What would someone have to do to be worth that salary?” Look over your job description and fill in the gaps so you can become the kind of person that deserves the raise you’re seeking.
6. Demonstrating your gratitude
Remember, your manager is taking time out of their busy schedule to consider your salary increase request. And their workplace is also your workplace, so you’ll still need to work with them regardless of the outcome.
Thank your manager for their time, and try to end the meeting on a positive note. The aim is to show your boss that you’re a team player and that you value your job.
Even if you don’t get a response right away, or your boss says “no,” you should still show your gratitude. Of course, confidence in your request doesn’t mean you can’t also be gracious.
Your manager will be more likely to consider your proposal if you show them your appreciation. And you may need to ask for a raise again in the future, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open.
8. Nailing the follow-up
If they say they’ll get back to you, a thoughtful follow-up may be in order. It’s always a good idea to send an email thanking them for their time.
If they have the conversation and end up giving you what you want, this is especially important.
Show them with your actions that giving you a raise was a worthy cause.
If they end up delaying the conversation, you’ll want to make sure they know you’re serious about continuing the discussion.
Again, crush it in your current role, and don’t give them any excuse to continue kicking the conversation away.
Finally, if they say no and give you items to work on, express gratitude for their feedback and let them know you’re enthusiastic about working on those items and revisiting the conversation later on.
How to ask for a salary raise in writing
Salary raise requests can be in writing or in person. If you decide to put it in words, you’ll have a written record, and your manager can read it at their convenience. You’ll also avoid having an awkward conversation and be less likely to catch your boss at a bad time.
Email is a common option, but you can also write a letter.
Keep in mind that a written request may not be suitable for every job type. Some companies have strict processes you need to follow, such as salary meetings. Or, if you have a relaxed relationship with your boss, asking them in person may be more appropriate.
If you do ask for a raise in writing, make sure you have the evidence to back it up. For example, you can talk about the extra job duties you’ve taken on or how long you’ve been at the company.
Make sure you address your boss by name and include a professional email closing.
How to ask for a raise via email
If you’ve decided to contact your boss by email, you have two options. You can either write a short note to schedule a meeting or ask for the raise in the email itself.
Not sure how to ask for a raise in writing? Try something like this:
I’ve been working at (Company Name) for over a year and have expanded my skill set. I’ve taken on more responsibility, as my job duties now include setting budgets, managing inventory, and creating staff rosters.
I’ve been involved in major projects and supported the design team in coming up with new marketing materials.
I believe I’m ready for a 3.5% raise. I’ve done some research, and this is comparable to salary trends in the industry.
I hope you consider my proposal, if you have any questions, please let me know.
What to do if your boss says no to a raise
Asking for a raise doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get it. It can be disappointing, but there can be valid reasons why you might get a "no" from your boss.
Even if you deserve a raise, the company may not be able to afford it. Or you may not have worked there long enough or met the other minimum criteria.
If you have a good manager, they’ll explain the reason for the denial. You can ask for feedback and find out what you need to do to get the pay boost.
For example, are there any courses you can take to expand your skills? And if now isn’t a good time, when should you bring up the topic again?
If the company can’t afford a pay raise, are there any other incentives they can offer? Can you get additional vacation time or more flexible work hours?
Feel like you’re undervalued? If you’ve done your research and your boss says no to a raise without explanation, it might be time to look for a new role.
How not to ask for a raise
We’ve told you how to ask for a raise. Now it’s time to talk about what to avoid.
The way you approach the discussion is important. You need to remind your employer about the value you bring to the company. A salary raise should be given in recognition of your hard work, not because you’re experiencing financial hardship.
Saying “I need a raise because I’m broke” is a big no-no. Not only does it sound like you can’t manage your money, but it’ll also look like you’re asking for a raise for the wrong reason.
Other examples of sayings to avoid include “I need money for a new house/wedding/car.”
Avoid giving your boss an ultimatum. Even if you’re considering changing careers, it may not be the right time to bring it up. Phrases such as “If you don’t give me a raise, I’m going to go to the competition" can make your employer doubt your commitment to the job.
Next steps to being paid more
The bottom line is that expressing gratitude, showing enthusiasm, and working really hard is the ticket to getting what you want.
Sometimes time or external factors will trip you up, but if you truly give it your all and enter every situation with the right attitude, good things will come.
If you get the raise, then fully accept any new or additional responsibilities that come with it, just like you would any potential perks.
Make your new deliverables or performance standards your top priority. Follow up regularly with new superiors and make sure any new subordinates have everything they need to be successful.
In essence, take ownership of your work and pride in what you do, and the company should not only see that but recognize you even more for it.
What’s holding you back from asking for a raise? Share your story in the comments section below. If you’re in the market for something new, check out our job board. For interview and resume tips, head to our resource center.