Asking for a Raise

The time comes when you know you're not being paid enough. You're getting paid less than others doing the same work, or you feel you're not getting rewards for the quality of your work. You need more pay. You have to ask for a raise.

This set of situations also raises possible problems. Asking employers for more money is undeniably an acquired taste. It's often quite stressful for both employers and employees. It's often not popular with employers, and it can be seen as stepping over a line in the relationship with the boss.

The golden rule is: Only ask for a raise when it's definitely appropriate.

Before asking for a raise

These are the practical considerations for asking for a raise:

  • Is the raise justified by your work?
  • Is it a realistic raise?
  • Can the business afford it (important with smaller employers)?
  • Is it a normal market rate for the work you do?
  • Is it a reasonable return for the work you do?
  • Is the relationship with your employer good?

The reason for considering these things is because if the answer is "No" to any of them, you could be putting your foot in your mouth. Some employers can't pay more. Some don't want to hear even the idea, because they'd have to pay others the same wages. Employers aren't necessarily being jerks when rejecting a raise. They often have good reasons.

Testing the waters before asking for a raise

First, feel out your boss about how the business is going. Find out the story from management's perspective. You may be asking for a raise just when management's talking about layoffs. Check the business figures, or ask someone who knows what's going on. If the business climate is bad, forget about the raise. Consider a new employer.

Scouting for a raise

Talk to your immediate manager first, not higher up the command chain, unless absolutely necessary and unavoidable. This should be a friendly off the record conversation, definitely not some sitcom version of demanding a raise, which is likely to be as destructive as it is absurd. You need to know if you have a reasonable chance of a raise.

Important: Make sure you can bring up the subject of a raise in this conversation before you even mention the word. Don't spring any sudden surprises on your boss, particularly on the subject wanting more money.

Asking for a raise

If you're going to ask for a raise, do it properly. This is an exercise in tact, social skills, and diplomacy.

Having established that it's OK to ask:

  • Explain your situation and why you need a raise.
  • Ask if the boss thinks a raise is possible.
  • Don't demand a raise, but leave it open for discussion.

That's all you need to do. The question can now get a yes/no answer.

Do not, ever:

  • Stage a major drama in justifying the raise.
  • Explain how other people are getting paid more elsewhere.
  • Get emotional, or present yourself as being unreasonable.

Be calm and cool, and you'll get a raise if it's practical and it's justified.