How to ask for a raise without getting laughed or screamed at

When you are considering how to ask for a raise, the truth is there is no silver bullet. It takes preparation and a tailored approach to help ensure success

Determined, Jolene walks confidently into Mr. Montgomery’s office for their 2pm meeting.

“Today is the day” she quietly whispers to herself.

This is no ordinary Monday, Jolene has been rehearsing her pitch all weekend. On her walks in the park, out with her friends, even in front of the mirror (embarrassing!). Jolene has built up the courage to finally, demand...a pay raise from old Monty.

Jolene is about to embark on one of the most important yet controversial milestones of anyone's career: asking for a raise.

A survey by Payscale of 30,000 workers found that 43 percent of them have asked for a raise in the past. That said, only 44 percent of those who asked, actually got the raise. And, a quarter of those who asked got nothing.

So how did things turn out for Jolene? Joyous or jobless? You’ll have to stick around to find out. First, let’s dig a little deeper into how you can ask for a raise like a boss.

How to ask for a raise

You need to do your research. Use industry averages of what your profession makes so your request isn’t outlandish, and you don’t get laughed out of your boss’ office. Your credibility depends on it!

You may get a no. And that’s OK. Don’t overreact.

Instead, ask your boss what you could do to be more convincing next time you ask for a salary increase. What added responsibility can you take on? Get actionable items, write them down, and come up with a plan to execute.

Does your boss think it’s not the right time? That’s OK too, you can ask them when would be a better time to have the discussion. Mark it on your calendar, and keep working your butt off!

Nobody owes you anything

I need a raise is apparently one of the worst things managers want to hear when negotiating salary and raises with their employees. You have to keep this in mind!

What you have to do is focus on your boss, their interests, and the company. Align yourself and your asking for a raise with the team and company. Stockpile positive comments, kudos, or any pat on the back from your superiors as ammunition when asking for a raise.

What added value are you bringing to the company? Bring data to back up your request.

I need a raise because my friend Karl who works for competitor X makes 20% more than me!”


Last quarter I led the team that implemented new analytic software that reduced customer churn by 13%. And, I strongly believe we can get that number down even more in the coming year.

Notice the difference?

Asking for a raise isn’t all about salary

There are any number of benefits an employer can offer you outside of simple cash. Keep in mind that there could be other incentives that could be an option:

  • Higher commissions
  • More time off
  • Stock options
  • A better job title (Our favorite is Director of Astonishment)
  • Flexible schedules
  • Or, that bean bag chair you’ve always wanted

It’s all about timing

If you look around the office and reminisce about former colleagues who were let go recently, now may not be the best time to ask for more money. Are you in the middle of a transition, an awful earnings seasons, or a merger?

Say it with me

When asking for a raise, choose your timing wisely. If business is good and you are a top performer, it might be wise to put a bug in your bosses ear sooner rather than later.

Let them know that you have this on your mind, but want to pitch it to them formally, so would a meeting next month be OK? This way, it won’t be a surprise to your manager, and they have time to mentally prepare.

To raise, or not to raise

As you can see, there’s no exact science to asking for a raise. There are best practices, and bad practices. Manage your expectations by doing your research, align yourself and your request with your boss’ and company’s interests, consider the timing of when you ask, and consider alternatives to simply asking for higher pay.

Remember, if you don’t ask then you will never receive.

Oh, and what about Jolene? Here’s how it went…

Mr. Montgomery, as you know, over the last two years I’ve completely revamped our social media strategy. Not only have our followers grown by 40%, but our second most popular sales channel is now social media. This was a key goal laid out by you and our CEO at the beginning of this year. We are Q2, and have already achieved it!

I also took over hiring the graphic designer, and I truly want to thank you for the opportunity to take that off your plate. That was my first staffing experience, and Justin is fitting in so well. I hope you will give me more hiring and staffing responsibilities going forward.

Given these accomplishments and revenue increases I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of, I’d like to discuss a raise with you.

But, before we get to that, I wanted to chat with you first about how I believe I can continue to increase sales through my social media expertise. I have a few ideas. Is that okay with you?

You can see where this is going right? Jolene did very well, and you can too. Asking for a raise is all about humility, preparation, and sticking to the right script. Feel free to steal the above one, Jolene won’t mind.

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