How and When to Negotiate a Pay Raise

Knowing how and when to negotiate a pay raise is a critical skill needed throughout your professional career.  Here are some tips to help you. 

Just Ask

This one is pretty self explanatory, yet probably the hardest one unless you are prepared!  It’s great to be proactive and ask for a raise when warranted. Of course, before you get there, it’s always helpful to give your employer a good reason to give you a salary increase.

Timing is everything

When you walk into your manager’s office and just ask for a raise, and it’s unexpected, you will probably have an uncomfortable conversation, unless you can make a really compelling business case; even then, if it comes out of nowhere you might not get what you want.  First off, try to time your ask during your review.  If you don’t have a review scheduled, then reach out to your manager and ask for a meeting after you’ve done well on a project or taken on additional responsibilities; let him/her know that you want to discuss your compensation so that everyone is prepared.

Know what you are worth

Before asking, it’s a good idea to know what you are worth in a similar position at another company.  This can be done by doing a quick search on Google, Indeed, Monster or CareerBuilder.  Oftentimes, companies or recruiters will include salaries in their postings.  You could also ask a close friend if you are comfortable enough, or you could speak with a recruiter.  

Be professional

When broaching this topic, remember that your manager may be just as uncomfortable as you are in having this discussion.  With that in mind, try to keep the tone as low key and conversational as possible, and be very professional.  Also, make it as win-win as you can.  Your manager needs a compelling reason to make it happen for you and sell it up the chain if applicable.  Don’t bring things up like my “cubicle mate makes more than me” or something similar. Be about you, and only about the value that you provide to the organization.  Don’t threaten to quit (unless you are really prepared to do so) if you don’t get a raise.

Build a compelling business case

This is the most important, and probably the one thing that can get you what you want.  This is the part where you get to go over all of your accomplishments.  You get to show how much money you saved the company, how much money you made for the company, how your idea/project created efficiencies in workflow, how the software you created to be used in-house can be sold to your competitors to add a new revenue stream for your employer.  You get the idea.  Make it compelling.  Give them numbers, prepare some slides, whatever you can do to sell your case.  Make it really hard for them to say no based upon your accomplishments.  Do not bring up your personal financial needs; make it all about the employer and the value you provide.

Be flexible

Sometimes, the timing is just not there, or you can only get less than you wanted.  There really may be no room in the budget and your manager’s hands are tied. This is where you need to show flexibility and compromise.  Time to show even more value and make the case that you really are a team player.  Here are some ideas: try to get a performance based bonus later in the year based upon some new objectives; try to get some non salary perks, like a car allowance, expense account, extra vacation, additional benefits, a bigger office, a better parking spot, a new title. Agree to revisit in a few months.  Be as flexible as you can and with the right manager, you will be able to get something.

Be prepared for No

If you get turned down, you can say something like “thank you, I understand.  I appreciate the opportunity to make my case; maybe we can revisit this in a few months”.  Remember that the “no” you just heard may just be about right now.  Take a longer term view, and ask your manager when would be a good time to revisit, or maybe agree to some goals for you to hit in order to have this discussion again.  This will show your manager that you really want to add more value to the organization.  Sometimes, a “no” now can lead to a “yes” down the road.  You’ve planted some seeds in your manager’s head and it just might bear some fruit a few months later.