LiveCareer Blog

How to Ask for an Overdue Raise

  Employers appear to be thriving in the post-recession economy, but worker salaries aren’t keeping pace. If your salary isn’t rising fast enough to keep up with your expenses, it’s time to get the raise you need and deserve.   At the peak of the recession, unemployment hovered around 10 percent and stagnant wages cut deep into the financial stability of households struggling to keep up with the rising cost of basic expenses.   Fortunately, the worst of the downturn is well behind us. So far, 2014 was the best post-recession year for the job market and the average American household. Employers added about 2.95 million new jobs, and unemployment rates dropped to about 5.2 percent. In 2015, the positive growth curve continues to snake upward, but a stubborn problem remains: across multiple industry sectors, salaries have not been keeping pace with the increase of opportunity nor the rising cost of living.   If your salary seems to be caught in a holding pattern and your annual raises have stalled or disappeared altogether, what should you do? How can you convince your boss to bring your wage growth back on track?   Keep these considerations in mind.  

Things Won’t Change on Their Own

  No matter how well you get along with your direct supervisor or how much you contribute to the company using your talents and your hard work, one fact remains: Your employer will happily pay you the lowest salary that you’re willing to accept. If your salary is too low to meet your needs or compensate for your contributions, this affects no one in the company but you. Until you speak up, nothing will change. Don’t expect favors to fall from above, and don’t assume that the moment company profits begin to rise, you’ll feel the effects at your level. A salary increase will require action on your part.  

Consider your Leverage

  Again, if you request a salary increase, your employer will need some convincing. At the very least, the matter will be investigated, and the investigation will begin with one question: Why? Why should you be paid more? In order to answer, you’ll need to free yourself from your dependence on this job. What can you do to increase or demonstrate your value to other employers? Could you easily find another job? What are the market rates for your specific talents and skills? Where would you turn if you had to find work elsewhere? Are you willing and able to go back to school to expand your skill sets? Recognize your options – but don’t threaten your employer with these – and you’ll increase your bargaining power.  

Set the Rules

  Before you approach your boss, know exactly what you plan to say, know the exact amount you intend to request, and know exactly how you’ll respond in the event of a no. Don’t simply place the conversation in your supervisor’s hands and place yourself at the company’s mercy. Make your expectations clear and establish a clear course of action if the company ignores your request or gives you the runaround. For example, if your boss answers by saying something vague like, “I’ll look into it,” clarify how long this will take so you can set a date for a follow-up meeting.  

State, Don’t Ask

  When you request your salary increase, recognize that you’re “asking” for something that technically belongs to you. You’ve earned this increase; it isn’t a benevolent favor. Make sure this shows in your confident body language. Make your request in a seated position, during an established meeting session. Don’t chase your boss down the hallway blurting your request while competing with other distractions and demands. During your meeting, make clear eye contact and prevent your sentences from rising in pitch at the end as if you’re turning your statements into questions. Be ready to share the research that led you to the number on which you’ve settled, and be prepared to prove how you’ve added value to the company.   — For more information about getting a salary bump, visit QuintCareers Getting the Raise You Deserve page.