How to Ask For a Raise Through Evidence and Persuasion

Cole Mayer  | 

It seems like a daunting, Herculean task. You’ve recently taken on more responsibility at your company, and you are producing quality work. Why, then, is it so hard to simply ask your boss (or whoever makes decisions) for a raise?

In 2015, 57 percent of people did not ask for a raise in their given field, with 28 percent not feeling comfortable doing so and 19 percent not wanting to come off as too pushy. Of those polled, 38 percent admitted they received raises without needing to ask at all.

How are you going to break out of these statistics and face your manager, confidently asking for a raise?

Do Your Homework

Key questions to answer:

  • What is the financial health of the company?
  • What is the average salary for your position in the industry?
  • Do you have evidence of your accomplishments?
  • What sort of data does your manager want to see?

Your first question should be whether your company can support a raise; timing your question is everything. If there have been recent layoffs, or sales figures have been sub-par, it likely isn’t the right time to ask for a raise. The company simply might not be able to afford it right now. In this case, you may need to wait – having a job at all is more important than getting a raise. All is not lost, however – skip down to the last tip to see what options you may have. Another note on time – don’t wait until a planned review to ask for a raise. If you do, a decision has probably already been made. Instead, plan to ask in between reviews, especially if you only have reviews yearly or every 6 months.

Next, what’s the average salary for your position in your region? Are you on par or below that number? (You can compare salaries at GlassDoor, Indeed, or Monster.)  Having figures ready to reference will help you prepare for the big talk, especially if you are making less than the average. Being happy with your job can also affect this, regardless of current salary. From the above poll, 41 percent of employees who asked for a raise were happy with their job, and of those, 44 percent were given the raise.

Or, if you are trying to get a raise based on your merits, it’s important to have evidence that you are doing well. Praise from clients – especially in the form of an email you can print – or soaring sales figures can show your worth to the company. Asking for a merit-based raise between 1 and 5 percent is fairly safe, assuming you have the evidence to justify the increase.

Plan your approach based on your specific manager. Is your boss more data-driven? Have those facts and figures from earlier ready and clearly laid out. Lead with your research, and segue into your request for higher pay. However, if numbers aren’t the bottom line for your boss, the process may be more subjective. For these managers, speak more to your worth at the company, how you work with your peers and clients, and any new responsibilities you have recently taken on. Again, lead with evidence to back your claims. Emails of praise from coworkers, previous evaluations, new projects you have taken the lead on – all will work in your favor.

Finally, practice. Don’t memorize a speech and recite it. Instead, memorize talking points. Look in the mirror. Be sure to practice remaining calm while speaking, don’t let your emotions dictate your talking points, composure or volume. Keep practicing until you are comfortable.

The Big Question

Your company has been hiring and is doing well financially. You’ve got evidence to support your worth. You know what type of information your manager will want to see. You’ve practiced what you want to say, memorized the major points you want to make. It’s time to ask for a meeting to your boss.

Present your research. Spell out what you see as your future with the company. Demonstrate not only your worth now, but in the future. What needs does or will the company have that you are in a position to fulfill? Leverage this potential. Be warned, however, that highlighting your value to the company should never devolve into a comparision of your skills or workload vs. other employees. Be assertive and persuasive that you have earned a raise, rather than complaining or feel it is something you are inherently owed. Showing you have confidence in yourself means the company’s confidence is not misplaced. Raises are not a pissing match and treating them as such will quickly lose you any equity you’ve built up by doing your research.

After you’ve presented your case there are two common ways to end the negotiation. You can ask an agreeable question – “Based on this evidence of what I’ve achieved, wouldn’t you agree that a 5 percent raise is warranted?” or make a statement – “I am in a position to fulfill these future needs, and have delivered a considerable amount of work, improving my department’s output, and therefore believe this raise is in line with my ongoing duties.”

An underutilized tactic to end your request is awkward silence. It’s inherently awkward, asking for a raise, and your desire to fill the silence will be strong. However, it’s best to wait for your boss to speak first, to respond to the request. After you have asked the question, don’t add further justification – you should have already made your points clear.

Be Prepared For a “No”

Despite all your hard work, your raise may be rejected. But, the negotiation does not have to be over. Instead of a raise, perhaps you’ve earned a bonus, or more flexible working hours. You can also find out what it will take to turn the “no” into a “yes” in the future. What can you do to earn a raise that you haven’t done, in your manager’s eyes? Instead of a negative, turn it into a positive – a goal that you can aim for. Ask for an actionable plan and follow-up meetings, paving the path to a raise when you are eligible. Continue to keep yourself abreast of the company’s financial information. Continue gathering evidence of your progress. Next time, you’ll have even more confidence, more data to show, and an even better chance for a raise.

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A former newspaper journalist, Cole spends his free time reading, writing, playing video games, watching movies, and learning about every subject under the sun. He lives with his wife and daughter in Idaho. Follow Cole on Twitter: @ColeMayer42

This post was updated June 22, 2017. It was originally published January 12, 2017.