When to Ask for a Raise at Work

How Often Should You Ask for a Increase in Pay?

women talking across office table

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Most people are uncomfortable talking about money with anyone, much discussing it with their boss. But it’s important to learn how to negotiate salary, anyway. If you never ask for a raise, you’re less likely to get paid fairly.

Raises are not guaranteed. Some organizations are proactive with salary increases and review employee performance at regular six- or twelve-month intervals, adjusting compensation in conjunction with those appraisals. However, many organizations will only award increases if requested by an employee.

How Often to Ask for a Raise

In most cases, you shouldn't ask for a raise more than once a year. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, like if your employer didn’t give you a raise six months ago but promised to revisit the issue in another four months based on performance goals or available funding.

Another window of opportunity might be after a significant achievement, like landing a big client, orchestrating a successful event, securing a major grant, introducing a successful cost-cutting measure, or closing a big deal.

In general, you should not ask for a raise until you have worked in a position for a full year.

Be Prepared Before You Ask

However long it takes, don't ask for an increase in compensation until you have lined up a compelling rationale for a raise. Keep a daily or weekly journal of your accomplishments on the job so you have evidence to point to when making your request.

Emphasize results with an impact on the bottom line, whether they led to increased sales, cost savings, quality improvements, or employee retention. Mention if you have added skills (through a class or training), taken on additional responsibilities, completed a project successfully, or surpassed the goals set at the start of the year.

Keep in mind that simply handling the responsibilities detailed in your job description doesn't justify a raise. Managers look for employees going above and beyond the required levels of work and productivity. Document the things you have done that your manager values and thus make them look good as well.

Before asking for a raise, research the average salary and average raises for your position in your location. Is your salary at the market rate? Lower? Higher? Use your research to bolster the amount you're asking for. 

Time Your Request

Timing matters when it comes to asking for a raise. Don't ask for one when your boss is having a bad day. And hold off making a request if the company isn't doing well. (If news breaks that a major deal fell through, for instance, ask to reschedule the meeting about your salary.)

Consider, too, when raises are typically awarded. Then, aim to make your request a few months in advance. For instance, if your company awards promotions or cost-of-living raises at the end of the fiscal year in June, aim to make your case for a raise in April. That will give your manager time to consider your request and meet with others responsible for determining who gets a raise (and for how much).

Don't Complain, Persuade!

This isn't the time to whine about how much more everyone else is making more than you or how you take on twice as much work as they do. Even if it's true, complaining rarely convinces bosses to loosen the purse-strings.

Also, don't talk about how much your own expenses, like rent or loans, have gone up. Your financial situation is not your manager's concern.

Instead, base your argument on data. Talk about how your accomplishments have added to the organization’s bottom line and about the market rate for your role and skills.

Is a Promotion a Possibility?

Keep in mind that one of the best ways to enhance your pay is to secure a promotion. If there is a suitable opening above your level or if you can justify reclassifying your job at a higher level, then ask management about the possibility of a promotion.

Promotions are often accompanied by more significant raises that would normally be awarded as part of regular salary adjustments. Pay raises associated with promotions are often in the 10 to 15% range, while salary increases for performance are typically 1 to 5%.  

How to Ask for a Raise

As you can see, there's nothing spontaneous about asking for a raise. You'll want to be well prepared before requesting one. Best practices for successfully receiving a pay raise include:

• Preparing an agenda for the meeting and some salary scripts. Have an argument for why you deserve more and be prepared to discuss it.

• Dressing the part. Even if your office dress code is casual or non-existent, now is not the time to come to work in your beach attire. Dress professionally. After the meeting is over, your boss should be thinking about the case you’ve built, not what you were wearing during the conversation.

• Having a plan B. What will you do if your manager says no – and doesn’t offer hope of a raise in the near future? Quitting on the spot is seldom advisable, but you’ll feel more confident in the discussion if you have a back-up plan, e.g. pursuing leads at other companies.

And, while some experts agree that it's best to ask for a raise in person, there are advantages to sending an email, instead. For one thing, you may feel more comfortable making your case in writing, and your manager may prefer having some time to review and consider your request.