How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise

You work hard, and you’re good at what you do. But you feel like you’re not quite earning what you ought to. The effort, time, and attention you put into your job are not being reflected in your salary, and something needs to change. In other words, it’s about time for a raise––but, of course, because your boss is not forthcoming with it, you are going to have to be the one to initiate the process. You’re going to have to ask for it.

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Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!

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Most people feel uncomfortable asking for raises, and that’s quite understandable. They assume that it reflects poorly on them, that it might put the boss’s back up, and people don’t want to have to grovel. But what you need to realize is that business is business: you are entered into a financial transaction with your boss, plain and simple––an exchange of work for money. So when the terms of that transaction become unacceptable for you, it’s time to re-negotiate. Leave personal matters out of it (my kid just started college, we don’t want to take out a second mortgage on the house, etc.), and don’t allow yourself to cave because of any personal sympathies in the opposite direction. Again, we’re talking about business here, and you’re aiming for a mutually beneficial outcome: you get your money, and your boss gets a satisfied and productive worker.

The first thing you need to do is prepare. Obvious, right? No good will come out of barging into your employer’s office and heatedly demanding a raise. First, take some time to dispassionately evaluate your own performance over the course of the last six to twelve months. Have you been making the company money? Could they have gotten by without you? Has your office demeanor been positive and productive? Have you been wasting time when you ought to have been working? If you feel as though you have been an outstanding employee, then it is time to determine what you are worth.

Do Your Research

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Go online, talk to some recruiters, make a few phone calls, and find out what other people in your field and with your experience and qualifications are making. This will give you a ballpark idea of the industry standard. Next, you’ll need to evaluate your company. How are they doing financially? Are they a leader in the field? Have there been layoffs recently, or does there seem to be a healthy financial environment? If your company is publicly traded, go look at their books. If not, you should be able to get a fairly good idea by looking around the office and noting the recent expansion or decline of business. Don’t ask for a raise if your company is doing poorly, because it will no doubt end poorly for you; wait for things to improve or find a better job elsewhere.

Now you need to sit down and plan out your case. You will need to justify yourself to your boss, and it helps to have your talking points prepared ahead of time. Be ready to tell him about the new clients you’ve signed recently, remind him of the projects you have spearheaded, or show him your exemplary performance figures. Explain why the company couldn’t have done it without you. The more concrete numbers you can produce, the more compelling your case will become.

Have an Exit Strategy

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Finally, make sure you know what you will do if you are simply denied. If you don’t plan for this eventuality, you could quickly find yourself in an awkward situation. Will you quit on the spot? If so, it’s best to line up other work ahead of time. When it comes to your job, don’t bluff or give an ultimatum that you aren’t prepared to follow through on.

Eventually, when the time comes that you are sufficiently prepared and ready to approach your boss, don’t go to him informally on your lunch break or grab him as he is leaving the office. Make an appointment ahead of time to sit down and speak with him, and let him know that you are serious and professional about your proposal.

Of course, above all the key is to be well prepared and professional. Also remember that you should really only be asking for a raise if you honestly believe that you deserve it. Don't walk in and try to blag your way to more money, because your whole argument will quickly come crumbling down, and you'll have made yourself look really bad in front of very important people. Assuming you do believe in yourself, though, just be sure to show confidence in your abilities and in your value to the company, and your boss will have no choice but to see what you're really worth. Good luck!

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