Asking your boss for a raise can be uncomfortable, but it doesn't have to be painful, especially if you're confident in what you bring to your workplace.
When you feel like your performance at work is really making an impact, then that's a particularly smart time to ask for a raise, says Maggie Mistal, a career consultant and executive coach.
Make the request "when you are doing a great job, or you feel that you've more than added value since you've been in the company, and your talents and your experience are worth more than you're getting paid," says Mistal.
The goal, she adds, "is for you to be paid well and to be paid what you're worth." Here are the steps she recommends you take.
Before you negotiate salary with your boss, you should know if your current salary falls within the range that your company pays employees in similar roles, or what's known as your pay band. You can start by reaching out to your human resources department, where you can get a rough estimate of this pay range.
There are also plenty of free resources online like Glassdoor, Salary.com, or PayScale that can give you an idea of what the going rate is for someone in your position.
Another way to get a sense of your market value is by reaching out to your network to see what your friends or peers at different companies in similar positions are earning. But proceed with caution when it comes to asking your co-workers about their salaries, Mistal says, since it can cause tension. You many want focus on people outside your immediate circle.
Say your salary is right on par with others in your position. This may signal that you should consider asking for a promotion, not a raise. If you've taken on additional responsibilities or had a positive impact on the company since coming on board, you may be due for a title bump that will in turn come with a salary increase.
"If you're already at the top of your band and you ask for a raise and they say 'no,' that means you're where you're maxed out, and then it's about moving into a different position with a higher salary range," says Mistal. "You want to be prepared for that, and by doing the market research ahead of time you'll know where you stand."
Timing is everything, and you definitely don't want to catch your boss off guard or broach the subject when either of you is in the middle of something urgent or stressful.
A good time to ask for a raise is if you have an annual performance review scheduled to discuss your accomplishments and areas of improvement. If all goes well, the conversation will highlight your contributions to the company.
But don't feel like you have to wait for your review. If you've had recent successes or demonstrated your leadership skills, capitalize on the goodwill you've likely built up with your boss. After you've signed on a new client, closed a deal, or exceeded your boss's expectations, consider taking advantage of the opportunity.
"I think when you're coming off a big win is a good time to bring it up," says Mistal, "but, really, this conversation should be happening often."
If you've ever filled out a performance evaluation, you may have drawn a blank when trying to recall your achievements on the job. Tallying up your wins can seem boastful, and you may even feel uncomfortable with your success.
But if you want your boss to recognize your contributions, first you need to acknowledge what you bring to the table.
"Whenever you accomplish something at work, or you meet some kind of goal, or your boss praises you for a job well-done, write it down, because if you don't, you won't remember it," says Mistal.
Concrete, detailed evidence of your accomplishments and how you add value to the company will provide strong support for your argument for a higher salary. As a bonus, tracking your wins can help you build your confidence.
"Clearly articulate your skills and the value you're going to bring to the company," Shannah Compton Game, a certified financial planner and host of the Millennial Money podcast, told Grow in 2019. The key is to "tie those things to why you're asking for a larger salary."
Even if you approach the conversation carefully, the answer might be "no," says Mistal. Don't stop there, though.
"Understand why they're saying 'no' so that you can figure out how to remedy the situation," says Mistal. "I think a lot of people just shut down and walk away when they should really find out what's behind the 'no.'"
Your boss could deny your request for a raise for any number reasons, and it's not always personal. There may not be enough money in the budget, for instance.
Video by Courtney Stith
Even if a raise isn't an option, don't rule out asking for other benefits or perks like more vacation time.
"There are other things they can do for you," says Mistal. "If you're talking a big jump in salary like five or $10,000, that's a little harder to accomplish if it isn't in the budget, but there are other things you can ask for that most bosses will try to accommodate, if it'll make you happier in your role. Your boss wants you to be happy."
If your request is denied, Mistal suggests using the opportunity to identify where you can improve so that you can eventually get the raise or promotion you want.
Leave the conversation with clear feedback and a sense of how to elevate your performance. After all, this is your chance to show your boss that you're committed to your role and open to constructive criticism. Then make a plan to revisit this conversation after a few months.
"The interesting thing about these kinds of conversations is that you're really asking for their feedback so you don't want to talk too much. You kind of want to state your case and then listen," says Mistal. "If they say 'no,' ask why. Say, 'Can you tell me more about what your objections are to this?'"
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