Do you feel like you're not paid enough money for the work you do? If you do, you're not alone.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for workers in the U.S. in the third quarter of 2020 was 8.2% higher than the previous year.
But even though it may be on the rise, median wage is just one way of looking at what you earn. Employees may find themselves earning higher wages or salaries, but also dealing with higher healthcare costs (or other costs, such as housing). And many employees may make more money, but work harder.
Many workers feel that their compensation has not kept pace with the contributions they are making to their company. If you're one of those people who feels underpaid, what is the best way to ask for a pay increase?
How to Ask For More Money
The basis for any request for additional compensation should be a clear track record of solid performance.
If your employer conducts regular performance evaluations, then you may already have documentation in place. If not, ask your supervisor if she can schedule a review so that you can get some specific feedback on your performance, and formally establish some objectives for the next year.
Keep the focus on your job performance, rather than on your personal circumstances when you're discussing salary.
Track Your Performance
Make sure that you keep a record of your daily and weekly accomplishments, and any data supporting these achievements. Even though you're doing a terrific job, your boss may still need reminding.
Don't wait until you ask for the raise to share your accomplishments.
Keep your supervisor in the loop about your progress with an ongoing stream of communication about your activities. In particular, it's helpful to let your supervisor know:
- When you receive praise or acknowledgement (especially from management-level employees or people in other departments)
- When your work helps increase the company's revenue or decrease cost
- When you go above and beyond your job description
Document Your Value
Research compensation and salary trends for your field through surveys by professional organizations, data on average salary increases, online salary tools, and informal dialogue with professional colleagues.
Once you can document the value that you have added to your employer and establish what you’re worth in the marketplace, it's time to ask your supervisor to schedule a meeting to discuss your salary. This might occur naturally at the end of an already scheduled meeting for your performance review.
TIP: If you're asking your manager for a meeting specifically to talk about salary, mention it when you request the meeting.
Summarize Your Accomplishments
Prepare a one to two page summary of your accomplishments, to highlight the reasons you have earned a salary increase.
Then, during your meeting, you'll verbally ask for a raise. No need for a long statement. You'll want to open up the conversation, mention your accomplishments, then ask for a raise.
For example, you might say:
Thanks so much for meeting with me today. I'm hoping we can chat about some of my recent accomplishments, and then discuss my salary. As you know, I recently launched the XYZ project on deadline, and below budget. I've already heard from the sales department that it's helping with lead gen. I've also been able to do ABC and am looking forward to X additional initiatives. I'm excited about what I've accomplished—and looking forward to what's to come. With all that said, I'd like to talk about my compensation.
You can keep it general ("I'd like a raise" or "I'd like to discuss my salary"), or you can ask for a specific number ("Based on my salary research, I'd like an X percent raise").
Be careful that you don't imply an ultimatum, or convey frustration or any negative emotion. Be ready to calmly counter any objections which you can anticipate. Pay raise negotiations often involve a back and forth exchange, not just an initial request by an employee.
Your rationale for a pay raise should be entirely based on the quality of your work. Avoid the temptation to present personal reasons such as family responsibilities or additional expenses which you have incurred.
Share Future Goals
Along with detailing why your accomplishments and work at the company merit a raise, it can be helpful to mention your plans for future projects. This solidifies that you want to stick around and that giving you a raise will result in more of the same high-quality work you're already doing.
Pick the Right Moment
Salary decisions should be based on business motivations, not personal factors. Still, it's a smart idea to pick your moment to request a raise.
If your company has annual performance reviews that are tied to raises, that's the best time to make your request. Or at some companies, raises may be most common at the close of the fiscal year.
But if the company does not have that structure in place, try these tips to schedule the conversation:
- Make sure the company's performance is strong (or level) — if you can, you'll want to avoid asking for a raise the day after a company-wide meeting on the company's underperformance.
- Catch your manager in a good mood — is your manager always in a good mood on Fridays? Schedule accordingly. Similarly, try to avoid scheduling on busy days or right when your boss has a major presentation or something stressful in the works.
- Time it to an accomplishment — if you just wrapped a major, impressive project, that's a good moment to ask for a raise, since your strong performance will be fresh in your manager's mind.
- Give advance notice — consider scheduling the meeting a week or two in advance so your manager doesn't feel trapped or surprised by your request.
If You Get Turned Down
In the case where your employer turns down your request for a raise, ask what you might do to qualify for a bump in salary. Work with your supervisor to establish specific objectives to enhance your performance and a timetable for reaching those goals.
If your supervisor raises a legitimate performance issue, discuss the steps you need to take to overcome the problem and a timeline for review.
It is not uncommon for employers to use a salary freeze as a reason for refusing an increase, even though they may affirm that you might otherwise deserve a raise. Explore alternative scenarios with your supervisor whereby you might increase compensation, such as a promotion or position upgrade. Be prepared to show how your role has evolved over time, or to mention ways that you could add value in a new role.
In this era, the most common way for many salaried workers to secure a raise, unfortunately, is to change employers. If you receive an offer from another company, your current employer may match or exceed that offer to keep you on staff. Of course, there is no guarantee that this will happen, and you should be prepared to change jobs if you pursue this strategy as a way to earn more money.
Some employers will react adversely if they even think you are seeking alternative employment, so be very discreet if you decide to pursue other opportunities while you are currently employed.