5 Proven Approaches to Asking for a Raise (2018)

Peggy Olson talking on the phone in an episode of Mad Men
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Invest your time and energy into solid preparation.

Asking for a raise is never an easy thing, especially if you're a woman.

According to a 2015 study, "women are more likely than men to have a bachelor's degree and a white-collar job, yet continue to earn less than their male counterparts."

Even if you believe you're more than deserving of one, the thought of telling your boss you require more compensation for the work you're doing is truly terrifying. You need to figure out the best way to go about it and ensure that you've done all the work to prove you should get a bump to your pay grade. And most women haven't been taught how to do so, nor are their efforts well-received by their bosses.

Nevertheless, it's a conversation that has to happen. So what steps can you take to get the raise you deserve?

Negotiation strategist Carrie Gallant is breaking down everything from why women find it so difficult to ask for a raise and how to bring up the discussion with your boss to what you should and should never do when talking about an increase in pay.

Why Women Find It Difficult to Ask for a Raise

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There are many reasons women hold themselves back from asking their superiors for a raise. One of them being they didn't negotiate in the first place.

"If she did not negotiate when she was offered that job, as statistically she may not have, then it feels a lot harder to ask for something now that she accepted without question before," Carrie states.

Carrie points out that another reason women don't ask for a raise is because "many women have not been taught or learned how to negotiate."

Instead, they believe asking for a raise can appear aggressive and greedy, opting to wait until their boss decides to give them one on their own. Yet another major reason women are weary of negotiating a bump in pay.

"As girls, women have often been taught not to ask for what we want, or to not be too greedy,' to play nice and be a 'good girl,' and to put other's needs first," Carrie says. "Internalizing these messages can block women from asking for what they want, because they don't want to risk hurting someone's feelings or creating what they might perceive as conflict. Asking for a raise can feel confrontational or adversarial—and this puts many women off."

But if a raise is really something you want (and know you deserve), you have to ask for it. It's not going to magically appear on your paycheck every two weeks unless you do something about it.

The Best Way to Bring Up the Discussion of Wanting a Raise

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Feeling ready to ask about a raise? You're probably wondering the best way to bring it up to your superior. Do you set up a meeting, ask them in passing, or is there another way around it?

Carrie states that "the best way to bring up a discussion about a raise is to set it up, both for yourself and for the decision-maker."

Making sure your boss is aware of your accomplishments and your desire to advance in your career on a constant basis will also help you when it's time for your annual performance review.

"Don't take them by surprise," Carrie says. "Seed your interest in being promoted, and your desire to advance in your career, throughout the year—especially when you receive positive feedback. Keep your boss up to date on your accomplishments, so you don't have to bring it all up at once during an annual performance review."

The best time to bring up receiving more compensation is when it's linked to an important milestone in your career. And setting up a specific time will allow you to prepare in advance, so you don't feel rushed or unprepared when the discussion rolls around.

"Ideally, like your request to a significant event," Carrie notes. "For example, 'Jane, now that we have delivered on the ABC project, I'd like to set up a time to discuss my compensation. What's a good time to meet next week?'"

Carrie also stresses the importance of word choice with this type of situation.

"Word choice is powerful—use the word 'compensation' instead of 'salary,'" she says. "Compensation is broader, and opens the discussion to more options than salary alone, and signals your interest in the exchange of value—i.e. your work, track record and potential exchanged for your compensation."

It's the little things that make all the difference.

5 Things You Should Always Do When Negotiating a Raise

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Negotiating compensation for your work is tricky, but Carrie is breaking down the five things you must do when discussing the subject.

Prepare and Assemble Your Data

Know what your salary should be in your company's industry. If someone doing the same job as you is being paid more at a different company, bring this research with you to the meeting.

"Outline your track record in this job to date. Get data on where you should be in your compensation, given your company's industry—how would your current compensation compare at your company's competitors?"

As previously mentioned, it's a bit tougher for women to a) ask for a raise and b) ultimately be given one.

"Research consistently shows women are promoted based on what they have done, while men are more likely promoted based on potential—be prepared to speak to both aspects," Carrie shares. "These are the value points for your organization. Showcase your potential—the value-add for your boss and your organization."

Connect the Dots for Them

This step is all about making it easy for your boss. Show them how you can help them achieve their goals along with the company's goals.

"Show them the data and link it to the company's goals, mission, and values," Carrie states. "Link it to your boss's goals, too. What do they want or need to achieve? How can you help them get what they want? Make it easy for them to say yes, and to justify your raise."

Match Your Approach to How They Communicate

Rather than attempting to fight them on everything, learn to relay this information in the way they communicate. It'll be easier for them to understand and show how valuable you truly are.

"This showcases you as a valuable employee who understands how to work with your boss," Carrie says."

Recruit Allies

When in doubt, bring in backup. It'll only make you feel more confident to have someone with you who can vouch for all the hard work you've done for the company.

Carrie recounts a time when one of her clients requested help from her supervisor, which only aided her in her quest to receive more compensation.

"My client prepared and talked through her planned request with her supervisor before her scheduled meeting with her VP, the decision-maker," she says. "With her supervisor on board, she had more confidence going into the meeting, and her VP was primed to agree to a 20% increase."


Rehearsing your speech is a critical step in making sure the process goes as seamlessly as possible.

"Practice out loud," Carrie notes. "Until the words form in your mouth and someone hears them, they are just thoughts in your head."

Rather than just practice with yourself, it's important you run it by someone who can offer trustworthy and positive feedback.

"The best rehearsal is with someone who can provide objective and productive feedback—a coach, trusted peer, or friend," Carrie says. "At minimum, practice in front of a mirror. If it feels weird or uncomfortable—do it! Asking for a raise is uncomfortable, don't kid yourself."

3 Things You Should Avoid Doing When Asking for a Raise

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While there are things you definitely should be sure to do, there are also three things you should avoid doing when asking for a raise.

Don't Do It on the Fly

Trying to do it in the moment may seem less stressful, but it'll only set you up for failure—especially if it's something you're not used to doing.

"The weight of your past avoidance, cultural expectations, and biases can feel heavy, cause you to get flustered, and fall into your old pattern anyway," Carrie notes.

Don't Ask When Your Boss Is Under Pressure

Asking for a raise is all about timing, so don't pester your boss about it when they're in crunch time or about to head out on a big trip. They'll likely forget about your request and you won't get the raise you wanted.

"Don't ask when your boss is under great pressures, such as year-end, just before they leave on vacation, or before a big meeting," Carrie mentions. "Your raise will be the last thing they will want to consider."

Don't Wait Until After Your Annual Review Is Over

A mistake people often make is waiting until after their annual review to ask for a raise. But if your review was a positive one, be sure to note you'd like to talk about compensation then and there.

"If your review is a positive or glowing one, that is absolutely the time to segue into a conversation about your compensation," Carrie states. "At minimum, set up the time to have that conversation as soon as possible, so you can reference those glowing remarks that will be fresh in your boss's mind."

How to Counter Your Raise Being Turned Down

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Even if you do everything according to plan, there's still the possibility that your request for a raise will be turned down. Though that outcome is rather discouraging, it does not mean you'll never get an increase in pay.

Carrie mentions to "ask them what else is possible or maybe request a smaller salary increase with a clear plan for an increase in 3 to 6 months."

It's also critical you listen to the reasons given for your raise request being turned down.

"Is it performance-related? Perhaps your review showed you have growth areas. Focus on negotiating a plan for improvement," Carrie says. "Clarify your performance expectations so you know exactly what you need to do. Is the company in economic downturn? Discuss alternatives that will enable your career to progress while the company gets back on its feet. For example, peg a future date for a salary increase, or one-time bonus, as the company's performance gains. Precedent in salary increase? Ask for bonus instead."

There are many ways to get achieve what you want, you just need to get a little bit creative with your approach.

If all else fails, Carrie notes you should "be prepared to look outside your company for comparable compensation indicators and to consider making a move."

Your current job may not be willing to pay you a fair amount, but someone else will. 

"Having information that another company offers higher compensation may help you get that raise in your current job, Carrie says. "They may not want to lose you, and the cost of turnover generally far outweighs the cost of retention."