A Manager’s Guide to Asking for a Raise

In the face of the gender pay gap, researchers and women’s advocates are focusing on one uncommonly discussed part of the issue: Women are less likely to ask for more money.

Admittedly, I was one of those women.

Once I became a manager, the biggest shock was realizing how many men asked for more money, promotions, and more responsibilities.

I never asked for those things myself – and neither did any of the women around me.

I just waited for someone to recognize my hard work.

But after I got promoted to my new position, I took on 10 times more responsibility.

I worked more, my to-do list grew at least a mile longer, and the line between my work life and personal life became blurry.

But my new pay didn’t reflect the amount of responsibility I took on.

The first hint came right after my promotion when my partner said, “Wait, that’s ALL they’re paying you?!”

My friend said the same.

As much as I wanted to be excited about my “big” promotion – I knew they were right.

The second hint came when I started being in charge of employee salary information. 

Male employees who started after me and had a lower position were earning more.

Wait, what?

A million thoughts must’ve flown through my head.

Did I get screwed over?

How in the hell did my boss like me enough to promote me, but not enough to pay me what I deserve?

Am I being discriminated against?

Should I just keep quiet and prove my performance?

Researchers have ultimately concluded what I learned myself.

Men are much more likely to ask for a raise than women—and when women do ask, we typically request 30% less than men do.

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In their book, Women Don’t Ask, Author’s Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever cite numerous studies that prove women’s hesitancy to negotiate.

One example took a survey of masters’ students entering new jobs.

The results were surprising:

Female students are more likely to take the first offer of pay, while male students are EIGHT times more likely to negotiate a higher starting salary.

Linda Babcock says this actually has a snowball effect.

Even a small salary increase will mean larger yearly raises and possibly larger bonuses in the future.

It will also carry over to a new employer, who almost always asks: What was your last salary?

“I tell my graduate students that by not negotiating their job at the beginning of their career, they’re leaving anywhere between $1 million and $1.5 million on the table in lost earnings over their lifetime,” Linda says.

And her number doesn’t even include company retirement contributions, which are also based on a share of salary.

“They wait to be offered a salary increase,” she says.

“They wait to be offered a promotion. They wait to be assigned the task or team or job that they want. And those things typically don’t happen very often.”

I think I let the fear of getting told “no” and not knowing what to say hold me back.

The truth is, while asking for a raise can be nerve-racking – if we clearly deserve it, then there is absolutely no shame in asking for one.

So let’s get started.

 First, Realize it’s Normal to Ask for a Raise

Ask for a Raise / Negotiate a Raise / Career Advice

It’s not greedy, demanding, or rude to ask for a pay increase.

If your boss has had any previous management experience, they’ll be prepared for this.

Your boss won’t think, “What a crazy request” or, “Wow! Ashley is in this just for the money!”

Don’t worry, unless you work somewhere that’s truly a hot mess, then don’t expect that to happen. 

__________

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

– Milton Berle

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Secondly, even if your boss doesn’t ultimately say yes, it’s unlikely that it’ll have a negative impact on your working relationship.

So change the way you think.

Look at it like this: a raise is simply a recognition that you’re now contributing at a higher level than when your salary was last set.

A pay increase isn’t a gift or favor; it’s a way for our employers to pay us fair market value for our work.

Because if they want to keep us around, they gotta pay us what we’re worth, right?

Related: 5 Undeniable Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Job

1. Know Your Accomplishments

How to ask for a raise / promotion at work

Focus on why you deserve it – not why you need it.

It’s no secret that when you’re important to your company, the negotiation goes more smoothly.

You need to be able to prove to your boss that you’re a valuable asset to the team by highlighting your achievements.

You want to show that you’ve taken on extra tasks and responsibilities. 

__________

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

– Steve Martin

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Provide as much detail as possible.

What value do you bring to the company?

Have you successfully completed an important project?

Did you save the company from losing a customer?

Did you help increase sales?

Have you received good feedback from coworkers, other supervisors, or customers?

Has your job description altered over the past year resulting in an increased workload?

Be prepared to share these things with your boss.

They are not only good indicators of your performance but also of your future potential. 

Remember, it’s okay to be your biggest cheerleader. You can’t expect someone else to do that for you.

Related: 12 Reasons Getting Fired is the Best Thing for your Career

2. Do Salary Research

How to ask for a raise / promotion at work

By using sites like Salary.com, PayScale, and Glassdoor, you will get the market rate of what you SHOULD be paid for your job.

(I recommend using ALL three, then taking the average between them)

Glassdoor actually has a Know Your Worth salary estimator that gives a clear idea of the raise you should be asking for based on title, company, location, and experience.

Don’t be afraid to provide a number to your boss.

__________

“A wise girl knows her limits. A smart girl knows she has none.”

– Marilyn Monroe

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It’s helpful to know that the average raise is between one and five percent so you won’t go in asking for an inflated amount (unless you’re clearly underpaid).

Researchers at Columbia Business School discovered that asking for an exact number instead of a round number makes the employee seem more informed. 

The employees who used this technique were actually more likely to get counter offers.

So instead of asking for $65,000 – you’d be better off to ask for $63,500.

Not only will you show that you’ve done your research and determined the market value – you’ll also prove that you have a solid foundation and realistic expectations.

3. Focus on the Future

How to ask for a raise / promotion at work

Gone are the days of lifelong employment.

With so many options nowadays, people are more likely to make the switch when something better comes along.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show long-term interest in your company.

Every manager values loyalty.

Start the conversation on a good note by explaining how much you enjoy working for your boss and the company.

Then, talk about what you want to do in the future, and how you plan to contribute to growing the business.

Make sure you know the companies goals and values.

Get to know the regular customers and understand the products and services inside and out.

Dedicate yourself to supporting increased growth within the organization. 

Show your boss that you’re invested by asking questions to get a better picture of where the company is, where they want to be, and how they’re going to get there.

Over time this will make you extremely valuable and your boss will become a supporter of your growth and success. 

4. Time Your Pitch Right

How to ask for a raise / promotion at work

Picking the right time to ask for a raise is just as important as preparing for the negotiation.

Here are some perfect opportunities to ask for a raise:

Annual Performance Reviews: 

Annual performance reviews are natural times to bring up the topic of more money. It’s not only good timing, but it’s usually expected.

After Finishing an Important Project: 

There’s no better way to show your worth than proving what you bring to the table.

After you’ve shown your hard work or finished a certain project, then take that as a cue to ask for a raise.

When your Boss is in a Good Mood:

 You’re going to approach your boss to ask for the raise, and your boss is a human with normal human emotions.

That means that you shouldn’t bring up the topic of money when your boss is having a rough day, stressed, or nervous about future budget cuts.

5. Keep it Short and Sweet

How to ask for a raise / promotion at work

It’s easy to feel like you should have a detailed presentation about why you should be given more money, but that’s not the case.

You DO want to mention why you deserve the raise – i.e., that your workload and responsibilities have increased – but you don’t need to come up with pages of notes and an entire presentation.

You can clearly communicate your reasoning without launching into a full blown speech.

Thankfully, keeping it short, sweet, and to the point will also help alleviate some nerves.

A lot of pressure comes from wondering what to say and how to say it.

The more we feel like we have to say, the more nervous we tend to become.

 So a good negotiation might start like this:

“I’m really thankful for the new responsibilities and opportunities I’ve taken on, like X and Y. I’ve been doing really well in those areas and I’ve successfully exceeded the goals we set. Could we talk about adjusting my salary to reflect that?”

Then, let your boss lead the conversation.

Chances are, your manager will ask specific questions about your performance and what amount you’d like to receive.

Since you’ve taken time to know your worth then you’ll be fully prepared.

Related: How to Impress Your Boss

6. Practice Makes Perfect

How to ask for a raise / promotion at work

The key to sounding confident is practice.

After you’ve noted your accomplishments and done your salary research, start practicing what you’ll say once you actually begin the negotiation.

One thing to keep in mind while you practice is that it’s always a great idea to start with gratitude.  

Professional speaker, Dr. Ramiro Zuniga, states that there is a clear link between confidence and gratitude: “When a person shows gratitude, it helps create a positive atmosphere. The display of gratitude conveys the message that all is well and moving in a forward direction.”

Thus, finding a way to express your gratitude to your boss is a great way to convey confidence and break the ice.

Practice enough times that your words flow smoothly and easily.

7. Be Prepared To Hear No

How to ask for a raise / promotion at work

This can happen and it’s always best to be prepared for it.

If you ask for a raise and get told no, all is not lost. 

Take it as the perfect chance to ask what it would take to get a raise in the future.

__________

“The comeback is always stronger than the setback.”

– Ethi Pike

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A good boss will be willing (and able) to explain what you need to do to make more money.

It could include anything from “take more initiative and more self-direction”, to “be more of a team player” to “you’re already at the top of the range for your position, so you’d have to get promoted to earn more money here.”

Request the performance appraisal sheet or handbook with the clearly defined targets that have to be met to qualify for a raise.

Make sure you know and understand what needs to be done before your next annual performance review.

This way, you’ll have plenty of time to meet and exceed the requirements.

Doing this not only communicates how seriously you take your job, but it will also let you decide if it’s worth the investment or if you should find something else.

If your boss can’t give you specifics about what needs to be done to earn more money, then take that as a GLARING sign that you need to find another job.

Lastly, don’t let the fear of being told “no” stop you from negotiating a raise in the first place.

You won’t know unless you try.

If you try and don’t succeed, don’t be afraid to pay your favorite job board a visit. 

There’s always better opportunities out there – you just have to find them.

One thing I learned from being a manager was that the best employees leave first.

Why?

Because they can. They know their worth. 

They are always searching for better opportunities even if they like their current job.

They are forward thinking.

They focus on learning the skills they’ll need for the next job.

They realize that the best opportunities come from change. 

So just know that the right job for you won’t necessarily be ready at the exact same time you are.

Always be open to searching for opportunities all the time and not just when you’re “ready”

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