Compensation

Raise Your Chances of Getting a Raise

Learn how to make a case for a raise and increase the chances of your boss saying yes.

There’s no doubt about it: asking for a raise is one of the most vulnerable moments in a person’s career.

And it isn’t just because of the inherent awkwardness that comes with any conversation about money. It’s because the rate of achieving a positive outcome is surprisingly low. According to a study published in 2018, men who asked for a raise were successful 20% of the time, while women who asked for a raise were successful only 15% of the time.

You can really give yourself a leg up if you pay attention to the responsibilities of those in the role above you.

While fluctuations in company budgets and other factors—like whether or not the country is on the brink of recession—play a role in salary decisions, experts say employees who come prepared and anticipate what their manager is looking for have the best chance of success. So before you set a meeting with your boss, read on for tips on how to ask for a raise and get it.

Think beyond the annual review.

Many people assume annual performance reviews are the once-a-year chance to make a case for a raise. But asking your boss for periodic check-ins can help ensure you’re delivering on expectations and keep you top of mind come raise time. “Eventually you’ll be knocking out those performance objectives so quickly, your boss might be the one to start the money conversation,” says Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry.

Perform above your pay grade.

We often focus on standing out in our current roles. But you can really give yourself a leg up if you pay attention to the responsibilities of those in the role above you. A junior director at a marketing firm, for instance, might talk to his or her boss about what a director role entails, and then seek out opportunities to take on more of those responsibilities. Don’t worry about coming across too strong: if you’re able to stretch your current duties, and still deliver the goods, it isn’t sucking up. “It’s proving you have something that others within your current position don’t,” says Tom McMullen, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry.

Focus on the business, not yourself.

Sure, you may be tempted to remind your boss of all of those late nights and weekends you pulled, but the best way to ask for a raise is by talking about how your efforts saved the company money, increased sales, or furthered an important initiative. Come prepared with specific examples and back your performance up with data wherever possible—e.g., “Sales are up 50% when we only expected them to be up 20%.” This shows that you’re invested in the overall company and not just yourself.

Share accolades regularly.

Instead of waiting until raise time to present the positive feedback you received from clients and colleagues during the year, make it a consistent and subtle practice. When a client emails you to say you’ve done a marvelous job on a project, copy your boss on your reply and thank the client for the kind words. (If it was a team effort, be sure to mention that in your response.) By doing this, you’re sending a positive signal to your boss that things are going well with that account—which he or she will want to know anyway—while also showing your support for the team’s work.

Have the conversation face to face.

While it’s true that millennial managers say online messaging is their preferred mode of communication, conversations about pay should be done in person. Having a discussion about raises is one of the “most important interactions” a boss and employee can have, McMullen says. “I’m not a fan of having these discussions by email or text.” If you work remotely, set up a time for a video chat, so you don’t miss out on this important face-to-face moment.

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