How and when to ask for a raise

Before you make financial proposals at work, check out these best practices to increase your chance of success.

Tags: Best practices, Goals, Planning
Published: October 16, 2019

Nervous to ask for a raise? Most people are.


Just 12 percent of people negotiated for a salary bump during their annual performance review, according to a survey, while 44 percent said they never broach the subject of a raise.1 Respondents feared rejection and struggled with feeling worthy of a raise. They also believed they lacked negotiation skills and even worried their bosses would take offense and fire them for asking.


In reality, bosses expect to be asked for raises and workers don’t get fired for making their case. Still, there are best practices to know before you wade into a negotiation. Follow these rules to be most effective.


Don’t be tone deaf: Know your company’s context

Has your company just faced a round of layoffs? Is it contracting or facing especially tough challenges or had a recent setback? This is not the best backdrop for requesting a raise. Wait three to six months to see how the tenor of the organization feels before you queue up your case.


Pay attention to your boss’ mood

As with the rule above, use your emotional quotient before you begin any conversation about raises. If your manager just lost her beloved dog or got out of the hospital, think about delaying your conversation. Wait until she can fully focus on you and what you’re saying.


Asking for a raise: Do your homework

Rather than going in swinging for the rafters, have a sense of comparable pay in your field and geographic area. Information on the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics website will give you a broad picture. But note: government data is often a few years old and considered the most conservative. and are good go-to sites (they do charge a fee for detailed comparisons). Know, too, that an average annual salary raise is about three percent.2 That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for more, but it does give a sense of perspective.


How to negotiate a raise: Make your case

Document your successes (without being overly detailed) to make your case. Many employees find it easiest to keep a running list of accomplishments throughout the year and then focus on highlights. More and more companies are moving to performance-based raises, according to the Wall Street Journal.3 That makes it harder to expect a raise as a matter of course, and means you need to think through how you add value (monetary and otherwise) to your employer.


Pre-raise request, practice what you will say so that it comes across with confidence. Try to anticipate questions your manager might have. Remember, too, to include your future plans in your request versus focusing on what has already happened. That way, your employer can see how you will continue to create benefits for the company.


Especially if you’re a woman, make your case

Past studies indicated that women didn’t ask for raises as often as men, but new research shows that’s not true.


Women ask just as much but don’t get the raise.4 This puts the onus on females to prepare with extra care. (If you believe you’re facing discrimination in being denied a raise, file an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint. Do so within 45 days of the incident.)


Think through what you’ll say when you get an answer

If it’s yes, be sure to thank your boss for considering and granting your request. If the answer is no, ask what you can do going forward to secure a raise next time.


If a “no” answer is due to the company’s poor financial state, you might ask for a bonus. A bonus is a one-time compensation that doesn’t hit the budget in the same way. Some people who are rejected for a raise ask for another benefit. Examples include additional vacation time or a company-paid parking spot.


Were all your requests met with “no,” and yet your manager says you’re doing a great job? Perhaps look at a new company that’ll pay what you believe you’re worth. But beware: if you use a job offer to negotiate a higher salary, make sure you’re actually willing to take the new job. Worst-case scenario is burning bridges with a potential employer and having your current manager lose confidence you’ll be around for long.



Do you have other additional questions about money? A personal banker can help. Make an appointment today.