How to Ask For a Raise or Promotion

20 Nov 2015 by


Asking for a raise can definitely be an intimidating task.  However, if you have excelled in your job and given 110%, don’t shrink back in fear.  Have courage, be confident in your value, and ask for that raise!  There’s a good chance you will be rewarded.  Research shows that 77% of employees who have asked for a raise were given one, and 68% of employees who asked for a promotion were promoted.

Working at a job long-term where a raise is never given or where compensation is inadequate for the work done often makes employees:

  • Feel uncomfortable and insecure about the value of their work
  • Lose enthusiasm for their jobs
  • Harbor feelings of resentment, frustration, and distrust
  • Have low self-esteem


Don’t assume that a raise will just come to you.  Overcome your hesitation and do what you can to deserve and receive one.  Read on to learn when and how to ask for a raise or promotion.

When is it a good time to ask?

As far as what time of year you should ask, talk to coworkers, review the company handbook, or simply ask your manager to find out when raises are generally given and when would be the best time to discuss your salary.   Companies usually budget a specific amount of money to be used for raises at a certain time of year.  Don’t make the mistake of waiting to discuss your salary during your six-month or annual review—this is likely too late.  Writer and former human resources professional Suzanne Lucas of EvilHRLady.org advises, “Start talking to your boss about getting a raise three to four months in advance.  That’s when they decide the budget.”

When to talk to your boss about your salary

Once you know the general time that would be good to bring up a raise, make an appointment with your manager so you know he will have the time set aside to talk and consider your proposal. Don’t just catch him right before lunch or at the end of the day. Try to schedule a time when he won’t be extremely busy with tons of things on his mind.

Prepare and present:

First, long before asking for a raise, make your career goals known.  Be open with your manager about your career goals and aspirations.  If he has an idea of what you are working towards, it won’t come as a surprise when you ask to be promoted.  He will understand your desire for increased responsibilities and opportunities, and will likely admire your ambition and want to help you accomplish your goals.

Second, make a list of your achievements.  The best way to do this is by taking notes throughout the year as things happen.  That way, you will have your list ready to pull from when the right time comes to ask for a raise or promotion. Take notes on really successful projects, increased responsibilities, specific praise you’ve received for your work, etc.

Often times the hardest working employees do a lot of work that goes unnoticed because they are independent and self-sufficient. They don’t need checking up on, and they take care of their own work. If this is you, you may have to go over the work you do beyond your basic official responsibilities so your manager is aware of exactly how much you have been accomplishing.  Don’t believe the idea that being the employee that has worked there the longest is enough to get you a raise.  Amy Hoover, president of Talent Zoo, corrects this assumption:

“A common misperception in corporate America is that longevity equals a promotion. That’s simply not the case in our modern work culture.”

Jacquelyn Smith from Forbes.com adds, “Just because you’ve had X months or years in your role, doesn’t mean you’re automatically qualified for, or entitled to, a promotion. Your contributions need to create value, and you should be perceived as the most logical choice for the new role.”

Plan how you will show that you have gone above and beyond at work.  Give examples of specific projects you’ve done recently that show your value.  Explain how your work has benefited the company.  Discuss your accomplishments and skills in terms of how they would carry over into the next role that you aspire to.  It’s possible that your manager does not actually have the final say in whether or not you get a raise or promotion, so be very clear so your manager can pass on all of this information to his boss.  You could even type up a clear list of accomplishments, responsibilities, and skills that qualify you for a raise or promotion and give that to him.

What to present to your boss for you to get a raise

Third, compare your compensation to others with comparable positions in your geographic area, and that have similar levels of experience and skill.  Do this by looking at job postings, talking to other people in your field, and asking recruiters for information. If possible, also find out what your specific company usually budgets out for raises and how much of an increase employees generally receive.  Having an idea of how much others are making will boost your confidence in what you deserve and will be helpful information when negotiating.  However, the purpose of this is for you to accurately assess how much of a raise is fair and realistic.  Do not use this information to whine to your boss about how much everyone else is making.

Put yourself in your boss's shoes

Put yourself in your manager’s shoes.  What are your boss’s interests and goals?  What is important and valuable to him and the company?  Align those things with your case and show how the hard work you do for the company helps him and the business.  Hannah Morgan from U.S News Money advises,

“Plan your conversation with your manager. Ask questions to uncover your manager’s biggest challenges, priorities for the upcoming year and what your manager needs help with. Armed with this information, plan your response based on the solutions you can deliver.”

Good managers want to see their employees progress and succeed in their careers. Show him that you are giving 110% to your job, and he will most likely want to help you grow.

Be straightforward, but respectful.

Say what it is that you want and exactly why you deserve it.  Once you’ve demonstrated that you are excelling at your job, tell your manager you would like your salary to reflect your work.  However, speak with respect and professionalism.  Diana Faison, a partner with leadership development firm Flynn Heath Holt Leadership, described the tone you should use as the “Three C’s.”  She said, “You’ve got to be calm, and conversational, and to establish an air of collaboration.”  In other words, be direct and confident, but don’t get emotional.  Talk to your manager in a way that shows you both want what is best for the company.

The 3 C's

Here are a few strategies to consider:

  • You could ask for a “promotion in place,” meaning not an official new position or job title, but rather increased responsibilities (or perhaps you have already taken more on) and an increased accompanying salary.
  • You could name an amount or wait for your manager to name an amount.  If you name an amount, you could aim a little high to then negotiate to where you actually have in mind, but be careful with this. You don’t want to say an amount that’s too high, or you could appear out of touch.  You can name a specific salary amount or a percentage, it doesn’t matter.
  • You could make your request in the form of a question: “Because I’ve accomplished X, Y, and Z, wouldn’t you agree, a 5% pay increase would be appropriate?”
  • You could make a more firm request: “I accomplished X, Y, and Z, have developed these skills, and taken on these responsibilities.  Therefore, I believe a 5% salary increase is in line.”
  • Once you’ve made your official request, be silent.  Wait for a response.


For examples of more exact wording you could use, click here.

Practice, practice, practice!

Write down exactly what you want to say.  Include all of the accomplishments, responsibilities, and skills from the list you put together, as well as how you want to start the conversation and then ask for the raise or promotion.  However, avoid rambling on and on.  Be concise!  Once you have a seamless script, rehearse it again and again until you feel confident and comfortable.  Practice speaking slowly so you don’t rush through everything you have to say when you get nervous.  Rehearse in front of a mirror so you can see and adjust your body language as well.  All of this practice will help you combat your fear and speak clearly and smoothly.

Practice what you'll say in front of a mirror

The Just Don’ts

  • Don’t compare yourself to your colleagues to make you look better. This doesn’t make you look professional or like a leader. Never complain or whine about others—this lessens your credibility. Stay away from negativity, especially in writing.
  • Don’t just ask for a raise or promotion out of the blue. Have a recent accomplishment that backs up why you should get a raise.
  • Don’t bring emotion into it.  Be business-like and professional.  Avoid raising your voice or showing signs of frustration or anger non-verbally.  Keeping your emotions under control allows you to stay focused and think clearly and rationally.
  • Don’t threaten to leave if you don’t get the position. A key part to getting promoted is showing your dedication to the company, so threatening to leave might just hurt your chances. Even if this technique worked, it could leave a bad taste in your manager’s mouth and ruin your relationship afterwards.
  • Don’t make the conversation all about you. Instead, talk about the good of the company and what you can do to help the business. Show that you care about the company and its success.
  • Don’t ask for too many things at once. Decide what it is you want most. A raise? A promotion? New privileges? You could ask for something a little different.  Perhaps you most want more vacation days or additional (paid for) training or courses to open more doors.  Pick one and go from there.


What to realistically expect

Nowadays, raises are typically only only once per year, although employee demand in your field and the status of the economy are contributing factors.  Companies usually budget a 3-5% increase for an employee’s annual raise.  However, do your research before you make a request.

Realistic raises in salary

If asking for a promotion, a 10% increase is reasonable.  However, do your research in this situation as well.

If the answer is no…

If you are denied a raise, you could ask for a bonus, more paid vacation days, or paid-for training classes.  Since these aren’t a commitment to a permanent salary change, the company might be more willing to comply.

If things don’t go how you wanted, don’t just wallow in sadness.  Ask what you would need to do to get a raise or promotion down the road. If your manager doesn’t have an answer, this reflects poorly on him and the company and you should take that into consideration and decide if there is much of a future for you there. If he does have a real answer, you now have specific things to work on.  This isn’t the end!

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