When to Ask for a Raise at Work

How Often Should You Ask for a Increase in Pay?

women talking across office table
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Money is hard enough in the first place for most people to talk about. Throw in the stress level of doing so with your boss, and it can be an anxiety ridden proposition. When and how often to ask for a raise is a question every employee ponders as it's important to make sure you're receiving the compensation you're entitled to, but also wise not to aggravate your supervisor in the process!

Some organizations are proactive with salary increases and review employee performance at regular six or twelve month intervals, adjusting compensation in conjunction with those appraisals.

However, many organizations will only award increases if requested by an employee. 

How Often to Ask for a Raise

In most cases, you shouldn't ask for a bump up in salary more than once a year. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, like if your employer refused to offer you a raise six months ago but promised to revisit the issue in another four months based on performance goals or available funding. 

Another window of opportunity to bring up a raise might be after a significant achievement, like landing a big client, orchestrating a successful event, securing a major grant, introducing a successful cost cutting measure or closing a big deal. 

In general, you should not ask for a raise until you have worked in a position for a full year. 

Be Prepared Before You Ask

However long it takes, don't ask for an increase in compensation until you have lined up a compelling rationale for a raise.

  Keep a daily or weekly journal of your accomplishments on the job so you have evidence to point to when making your request. 

Emphasize results that you generated with an impact on the bottom line for your department, whether that led to increased sales, cost savings, quality improvements, or employee retention, for example.

Mention if you have added skills (through a class or training), taken on additional responsibilities, completed a project successfully, or surpassed the goals set at the start of the year. 

Keep in mind that for a manager, simply handling the responsibilities detailed in your job description doesn't justify a raise. Managers look to employees going above and beyond the required levels of work and productivity. Document the things you have done which your manager values and thus make her look good as well. 

Before asking for a raise, research the average salary for your position in your area. Is your salary at the market rate? Lower? Higher? Use your research to bolster the amount you're asking for.  

Time Your Request

Timing matters when it comes to asking for a raise. Don't ask for one when your boss is having a bad day. And hold off from making a request if the company isn't doing well. (If news breaks that a major deal fell through, for instance, ask to reschedule the meeting about your salary.) 

Consider, too, when raises are typically awarded. Then, aim to make your request a few months in advance. For instance, if your company awards promotions or cost-of-living raises at the end of the fiscal year in June, aim to make your case for a raise in April.

That will give your manager time to consider your request and meet with others responsible for determining who gets a raise (and for how much). 

Don't Complain!

This isn't the time to whine about how much more everyone else is making than you or how you take on twice as much work as they do. Even if it's true, the tone you set won't make you look good. Also, don't talk about how much your own expenses, like rent or loans, have gone up. Your outside expenses are not part of your manager's concern or consideration.

Is a Promotion a Possibility?

Keep in mind that one of the best ways to enhance your pay is to secure a promotion.  If there is a suitable opening above your level or if you can justify reclassifying your job at a higher level, then ask management about the possibility of a promotion.

 

Promotions are often accompanied by more significant raises than would normally be awarded as part of regular salary adjustments. Pay raises associated with promotions are often in the 10 - 15 percent range, while salary increases for performance are typically 1 - 5 percent.   

How to Ask for a Raise

As you can see, there's nothing spontaneous about asking for a raise. You'll want to be well prepared before requesting one. Keep these 10 do's and don'ts in mind. And, while some experts agree that it's best to ask for a raise in person, there are advantages to sending an email, instead. For one thing, you may feel more comfortable making your case in writing, and your manager may prefer having some time to review and consider your request. 

Here's a sample letter asking for a raise to review, along with a sample email message.