How to ask for a raise


Sometimes you have to be the one to pop the question: May I please have a raise? It's never easy, but there are ways to improve your odds of hearing Yes. Career consultant Maggie Mistal shares her advice on how to ask for a raise.

How to ask for a raise

As companies look to cut costs and stay competitive, “automatic” raises for tenure or seniority are becoming less common; so asking for a raise may be necessary. Here are some tips to help you lay the groundwork for that well-deserved reward.

  • Timing is everything! Time your request with a successful accomplishment. If you’ve recently completed a challenging project or have received positive feedback for the work you’ve done, use that opportunity to ask for a raise or bonus.
  • If you have a “boss from hell” and you have asked for a raise you deserve, but you know you will not get one from them, seek out a Human Resources contact and explain your situation. Companies do need to keep people within certain salary bands and one manager shouldn't be holding their department down. HR may be able to help the manager understand this.
  • Put yourself in your manager’s shoes. Avoid looking like a nag by couching your request in terms of what your manager is trying to do. If your manager has a hot project, offer to help him or her achieve it. Helping your boss achieve their goals will help you achieve yours. They, like you, would like a raise or bonus as well.
  • When you ask for a raise and your request is denied, try to understand why. Don’t be afraid to ask, “What’s behind the no?” or “Why not at this time?” (Respectfully, of course!) If a raise isn’t an option, ask about other options. Perhaps they can recommend you for a bonus or grant an extra week of paid vacation or comp time for your hard work. Try to keep the conversation going so you can understand what the real issues are.
When asking for a raise the two most important things are:
  1. Remember, while doing your job is important, most companies want to know, “What have you done for me lately.” Track your successes and communicate them to your bosses so they know all you’ve done and why they can recommend you be rewarded.
  2. Do your homework and make sure you know what you’re worth in the marketplace.





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DENISE: Have you been wondering how you should ask for a raise? Well we’re going to have that answer for you. I’m Denise Richardson, this is, our guest is Maggie Mistal. She’s a life purpose and career coach and you can hear her on Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius. This is such a topic because people feel as though they need a raise, they want a raise, they don’t know how to go about asking.

MAGGIE:  There’s the, the dynamics of the whole corporate world that are really playing into this, too; not just the fact that people aren’t asking for raises, but companies aren’t as apt to give them as they used to be. If you’ve been there for ten years, or been there for any period of time, you know, it used to be that a raise was built in; now it’s not really happening as much as it used to.

DENISE: How do you lay the groundwork for that bonus or for that raise?

MAGGIE:  Right. Well you want to ask at the right time. Timing is everything; that’s just a great phrase to keep in mind. So if you’ve just come off a great project where you’re really, you know, put your time and effort in, and the boss is just ecstatic with the results, and they’ve even told you so: that is a perfect time to bring up, you know, I’m proud of this work, it’s been a really great experience; I’m just curious to if I can expect anything, you know, additional compensation, whether a raise or bonus, in return for all the effort that I put in.

DENISE: And they say no; what do you say?

MAGGIE: Really. Well, I’m glad that, you know, had the conversation with me. What’s behind the no? Why not, why not at this time?

DENISE:  You, you must have encountered people who say, I’ve got the boss from hell, and I know I deserve a raise but I know I’m not getting it from that person.  How do you circumvent that person to make what you need happen?

MAGGIE:  If you know you’ve done a good job, and people throughout the company know you’ve done a good job, it’s just your manager: talk to an HR contact that you have there. You know, find someone in HR that you can bend their ear, let them know about your situation and see if they can’t coach your manager in such a way. Because there are certain rules and, not so much restrictions, but companies do need to keep people within certain salary bands. So, you know, one manager in a company just can’t keep his or her department down; they really have to stay current with the rest of the organization. HR can help in that situation.

DENISE: What borders on nagging?

MAGGIE:  If you don’t want to be a nag, always couch your requests in terms of what your manager’s looking to do. So if your manager needs to put in place a brand new system by this time next year, you can talk to, well I really, I’m going to help you with that, I’m, you know, really a team player. Here’s the things I can do. And, you know, do you know actually, by the way, if because we’re all going through this effort, if there’s more compensation that’s going to be tied to any of this, because we will have more skills and experience? Because your manager in that situation also has an interest in getting a raise, if they’re in that project with you. So couch it, always put yourself in your manager’s shoes, and you have a much better chance of communicating in a way that they can understand.

DENISE:  If the boss says outright, no, I’m not giving you a raise, what do you do and how do you interpret that?

MAGGIE:  If your manager says no, absolutely cannot. Well, maybe you can put me in for a bonus then; I know we have a bonus pool, that’s something, you know, maybe you can even up it by five percent because of this work. ‘No, can’t do that either.’ Okay, well how about an extra week of vacation? I could really use that. Is that something you can do? ‘Huh, maybe we could do that.’ Well –

DENISE:  Vacation with pay or vacation without pay?

MAGGIE:  Vacation with pay, vacation with play. Comp’ed time – there’s different names for it in different industries, but your manager has some control, so don’t just stop when the person says no; give them some other options. And again, try to keep the conversation going; see if you can get behind, well what’s this no about? Why are they saying no? And then you can address what the real problem is.

DENISE:  Maggie, what’s the bottom line in asking for a raise? What are the two things that you really need to do in that process?

MAGGIE:  Doing your job is important, but most companies will say, what have you done for me lately? Right so, so make sure you do your homework and you know what you’re worth in the marketplace, and also track your successes so that you know, not only why you’re worth that, but maybe even a premium, as well as communicating those successes to your boss so when the time comes for them to say, Denise needs a raise, they know the three key reasons why, and all the great accomplishments you’ve had.

DENISE: And we know why you’re successful Miss Maggie Mistal.

MAGGIE:  Thank you.

DENISE:  Thank you for being with us.

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  • Maggie Mistal

    Maggie Mistal Career Coach, Martha Stewart Living Radio Maggie Mistal is a certified life purpose and career coach. Her passion is her career consulting practice, working with individuals to identify their ideal careers and helping them make career changes. more about this expert »

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