Ask Yourself These 6 Questions Before Asking for a Raise
Knowing when to ask for a raise can be a bit of a dilemma. Time it right, and your supervisor may see your request as a savvy, confident business decision. Congrats, you’ve improved your chances of getting that raise and bettering your work satisfaction!
Time it poorly, however, and your supervisor may see your request as greedy, tone deaf, or even insulting. This can make things uncomfortable at work.
How do you know when it’s the right time? By asking yourself questions that lead to an objective analysis of the situation.
1. What is my market value?
Research whether you are overpaid, underpaid, or being offered a fair salary for your position. If your current salary is average or higher, asking for a raise may backfire.
Be cognizant that average earnings for the same job will differ from place to place, much like cost of living. You can get a sense for your area’s pay range by visiting the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, your state department of employment, and Salary.com.
2. When was my last raise?
Typically, you should wait a year before asking for a pay raise. That's the rule, but there are exceptions. If you’ve gone five months since your last raise but have taken on many more responsibilities, you may be able to request a pay adjustment.
What if you haven’t received a raise in several years? The average inflation rate is roughly 2 percent per year. This means that any year you don’t receive a 2 percent pay bump, you are effectively making less the next year. Consider asking for a cost-of-living raise.
3. Does my work history show I've earned a raise?
Your goal isn’t to convince your boss you deserve a raise; it’s to show her you’ve earned one. Review your work history and determine if your value to the company has increased. Did you meet expectations? Did you exceed them? Have you taken on additional responsibilities and succeeded? These are good indicators your raise request will receive serious consideration.
4. What is the current state of the company?
As we mentioned, timing is everything. Nothing seems more insensitive to a supervisor than asking for a raise when hours are being cut and layoffs pending. The reverse is true, too. If your company is posting record earnings, now is a good time to broach the subject.
We recommend not asking if your company is undergoing a merger, acquisition, or restructuring. This adds another decision to a period fraught with them. Instead, work diligently to make the transition go smoothly. Then ask for a raise.
5. How much do I want?
Using your research, determine a realistic target range you can be happy with. Settling for less can make a victorious moment taste bitter. Asking for too much can make you look greedy.
When negotiating salary, be sure to ask for the high-end of your range. This creates an “anchor point” for the rest of the negotiations to revolve around. If you don’t offer the first number, you may find yourself struggling against an anchor point that is far too low.
6. What if my boss says no?
Have a backup plan. For example, you could renegotiate for compensation other than salary. A better 401K match? Profit sharing or a new bonus structure? More vacation, remote work, or other work-life balance consideration? Know ahead of time what you’d consider and how it equates as a raise replacement.
And the hard one: What if your boss offers you nothing? Will you stay at the position a bit longer for the experience or to take advantage of networking opportunities? Or is it time to update your resume?
None of these is easy to answer—the last one being particularly daunting. But by asking these six questions before asking for a raise, you not only increase the chances that you’ll receive one. You ensure you have the knowledge to plan for many different outcomes.