The Dos and Don’ts of Asking for a Raise

You know your worth, and your boss should, too. How to negotiate your way to better pay.

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DO: Consider the timing

 “If you make a big mistake the week before, don’t ask about a raise the following week,” says Anna Post, an etiquette expert at the Emily Post Institute. A great way to solidify your value is to ask for a raise a couple of weeks or a month after a big success or recognition, says Jessica Miller, author of A Woman’s Guide to Successful Negotiating.


DO: Schedule a meeting for before the end of the fiscal year

Make a point to find out when your organization’s fiscal year ends and be sure to talk to your superiors about anything financial before then, says Ayana Ledford, executive director of Progress, a foundation that advocates for gender equality through negotiation. This will help avoid the dreaded “We don’t have it in our budget right now.”


DO: Discuss a raise before your review

Once the time for reviews comes around, bosses have already made the decision about whether you’re getting a raise, says Miller. Also, it’s likely that everyone else in your office is asking for a raise around this time. Beat the pack and bring it up to your boss three to four months before the sit-down.


DON’T: Mention your market research directly

While it’s good to do some research as a reference point for salary negotiations, you shouldn’t bring it up in conversation with your boss. Saying something like “I believe $X would be fair” will help you to hit the mark without offending your superior. “The market isn’t paying you—your boss is,” says Post.


DON’T: Limit your research to the Internet

While you should check out industry magazines and sites, the best way to gauge your market value is by talking to friends in your industry. Ask some of your peers whether they think $X is the norm for your position, or find out if they would accept the job for that salary, says Ledford.


DO: Consider getting other offers

As you prepare to ask for a raise, consider quietly interviewing with other companies, says Miller. It will help you gain confidence and possibly leverage.


DON’T: Let your boss think you’re seeking another job

If you decide to use other offers as leverage, be careful not to give the impression that you’re actively seeking another position. Explain to your boss that you love working for her and that you’d much rather stay at your current company, says Miller. “You want to get your boss on your side, not turn her into an adversary.”


DON’T: Bring up personal issues

Don’t mention your needs at home—like a mortgage or kids’ tuition expenses—in a conversation about a raise. This is not your boss’s responsibility, says Post: “Put bluntly, most bosses don’t care, and they aren’t there to take that into consideration.”


DO: Quantify your successes

Prove how valuable you are to your company by putting your achievements into measurable units. For example, mention the amount of time you’ve worked on specific projects or the amount of money you’ve helped make for the company. You want them to be afraid to risk losing you, says Miller.


DO: Ask for more than you’re worth

After doing some research, be honest with yourself about what you think you’re worth, and then ask for a little more than that. “You need to believe that you’re valuable,” says Miller, “and if you can’t convince yourself that you deserve it, there’s no way you can convince someone else.”


DON’T: Bring up a coworker’s salary without thinking

Before comparing your salary with coworkers’, consider why they may make more than you—longevity, responsibility, time spent at the office. You need to be sure that the work and effort you put in is comparable, says Post.


DO: Use the review as a map

If you’re not getting a raise at a current review, show your boss that you’re willing to earn it for next time, says Miller. Talk to her during the sit-down about what tasks and responsibilities you should take on to bring yourself to the next level.


DO: Ask for a timetable

The old “get it in writing” might be a little too pushy and aggressive when you’re requesting a raise. “You want to be quieter and subtler, but direct,” says Miller. Instead, ask your boss when you should expect the change to take effect; that will give you a date to him to, says Ledford.


DO: Think beyond salary

Sometimes feeling valued doesn’t have to include a higher income. Be creative with your needs, thinking about what you want and what will make you feel recognized, says Ledford. This could include more resources, vacation time, or support.


CLICK HERE for tips on how to deal with your boss.


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First Published March 11, 2011

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