15 Signs It’s Time To Ask For a Raise — and How To Do It

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Many employees dread asking for a raise, even if they deserve it. However, knowing when you’re in the perfect situation for a salary negotiation can take the edge off.

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“Negotiating a pay raise is about timing, belief in oneself, and ability to articulate and support the case for a pay raise,” said Andrew Snyder, a psychotherapist and executive coach.

GOBankingRates spoke to a number of career experts about scenarios where the employee might have the upper hand in asking for a raise, and now you can use these tips and tactics for negotiating a better salary.

Last updated: Sept. 13, 2021
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1. The Market Rate for Your Job Is Higher Than You’re Being Paid

You’ve done your homework on the pay rate for your position and realize you’re underpaid. You can use the compensation rates to your advantage when you choose to have the pay discussion with your boss. Just make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

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What You Should Consider With a Raise When You’re Underpaid

“When evaluating compensation, it is not just about money,” said Kathleen Downs, senior vice president at Robert Half Finance & Accounting. “How much vacation time do you have? Do you have flexibility as a valued employee that you may not enjoy with another employer? What is your potential upward mobility over the next couple of years? Make sure you’re looking at the full package.”

Of course, just because the market rate for your position is higher than you are being paid doesn’t mean you’re going to immediately get a raise or that your employer can afford to pay you more. In that situation, it might be better to move to a city with more opportunities.

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2. You’ve Taken On Additional Job Responsibilities

Have your job duties expanded substantially? Is your to-do list longer than your monthly grocery list? If so, it might be time to speak up at work.

“When you’re asked to take on responsibilities, not in your original job description or you’re supervising more people, these can be good times to ask for a higher salary,” said Downs.

Of course, it all depends on how well you are doing at these added responsibilities.

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Determine When Your Workload Increase Merits a Raise

Even though this might add merit for a raise, Downs cautioned there is a balance between taking on additional tasks and gaining critical skills through your employment. You might want to tread lightly if you’re learning invaluable lessons that give your resume a boost.

Furthermore, your boss might intentionally give you a more dynamic workload to gauge your ability to handle it when considering a raise or promotion.

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3. Your Annual Review Is Coming Up

The meeting to discuss your performance is happening whether you like it or not. If you know you’re in good standing, it would be an ideal time to have the raise discussion, according to Mike McRitchie, a career coach, resume writer and business strategist.

It should be quite easy to strike up the discussion if your boss is already raving about your work. You can easily pivot off a notable accomplishment that he or she brings up.

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How To Ask For a Raise During Your Annual Review

Come prepared. Maybe your boss has never said a nice thing about anyone. McRitchie recommends logging your accomplishments over the year and have the information on hand at the meeting.

If it’s your first review with the company, he advises asking the manager ahead of time how the review meetings are typically handled. You can also ask trusted co-workers for an inside scoop so that you’re best prepared.

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4. There’s an Offer Letter on the Table From a Competing Company

You’ve been hunting to see what other jobs are available, and there’s an offer letter with your name on it. This can be your ticket for obtaining a raise if you wish to stick around.

“Typically, this turns into your current company manager asking what it would take for you to stay and not take the other job offer,” said McRitchie.

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Weigh Your Job Options Accordingly

Of course, this will only happen if you are in fact a performer and valued employee. However, if the offer you’re getting is way beyond what your current company can afford to offer you, then they might just wish you the best, McRitchie said. It would be smart to prepare for both scenarios, and prepare your finances for a potential job change.

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5. The Company Is Doing Well and You Can Show You Contributed

If the company is performing highly and you can show how your efforts have contributed to the success, then this is an excellent time for salary negotiation, according to Cheryl Palmer, a career coach and founder of Call to Career.

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Quantify Your Work Measures To Get That Raise

“Before talking to the boss about a raise, I suggest that employees do their homework,” said Palmer. “If the employee is in sales, it is very easy to show how the employee contributed to the bottom line since sales [are] very numbers-driven. But even employees who are not in sales can point out the contributions they have made to the company.”

Even quantifying time or cost-saving measures can help to make a persuasive case for a raise, said Palmer. For example, “improving customer service can lead to client retention as well as acquisition, which in turn translates into a measurable contribution to the bottom line,” she said.

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6. When You’ve Been the Company’s Biggest Fan

Anytime there’s a public function for the company, you’ve shown up. Maybe you also have taken the initiative to spread positivity about the company, its products and its sales through social media. Sound familiar?

According to Howard Fox, a career coach and owner of Fox Coaching, you should be documenting these things in your career journal, as they are useful when asking for a raise.

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Going the Extra Mile Strengthens Your Argument

“Employees tend to see the work they do in terms of the roles, responsibilities and tasks they are asked to perform — kind of like receiving a gold star for the work they’ve done,” said Fox.

Sure, there can be others who perform the same job duties as you, but do they go above and beyond in these ways? This can be the differentiator, according to Fox. So use these instances to strengthen your argument for a raise.

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7. You Created Something of Immense Value

Have you designed a system or tool that has positively impacted your company’s bottom line? Doing so while excelling in your current position could put you in a prime position to ask for a raise, according to Chantal Wynter, an author, speaker and career coach.

“For example, if you work for quality control and you created a tool to track the timeliness of corrective action for defective items showing the time wasted and the number of corrections needed, by using this tool, you are able to pinpoint a bottleneck and provide a solution,” said Wynter.

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Use Your Work Contribution as Leverage for a Raise

If you know that you contributed in such a way, whether with or without recognition, go ahead and toot your own horn and bring this to your boss’s attention. Just be sure you can show how this initiative has helped the company financially and that it does link back to you.

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8. You Receive a Promotion

Perhaps you’ve taken a job promotion at your company or currently have your eye on an opening. Generally speaking, a company might hire from within to save time and resources — specifically monetarily. But you shouldn’t let them devalue your worth by not paying you more for the new role.

“If a company can get away with hiring internally without giving a pay raise, they may try to do so,” said Hallie Crawford, a career coach. 

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Research How Much Your Raise Should Be With a Promotion

“So let them know what you have researched and what you feel would be a fair amount. Then, you can negotiate salary as you would for any new job position,” Crawford said.

When you do your research, be sure to look not at the company but the general going rate in your area.

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9. You’ve Nearly Accomplished Your Work Plan

Everyone should have a work plan that outlines goals with the potential to earn a more lucrative pay. If you don’t, it’s not too late.

A manager who is willing to help you win will work on a plan with you and promise to promote if you achieve the goals, according to Andy Chan, a career coach and founder of Prime Opt, a career coaching center.

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Your Completed Project Should Transition To a Conversation About Pay

“An opportune time to discuss salary or promotion is the time when the entire plan comes close to the end, or when an employee is working on the last stage of the discussed work plan,” said Chan.

This is the right timing for both an employee and an employer because there are already delivered results, according to Chan. “An additional benefit is that this is also the time when one’s contribution can be seen or quantified,” he said.

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10. Your Employer Will Lose Money If You Quit

Employers are in business to make money. If you’re the cash catalyst, you’re in the perfect position to ask for a raise, according to Amy Cooper Hakim, an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and consultant at The Cooper Strategic Group.

“From a purely financial standpoint, an employer is more likely to agree to give a raise to someone who brings in clients and business than to someone who does not,” she said.


Make Sure Your Work Is Solid

Likewise, Hakim said the employer is more likely to give a raise to someone who is a solid producer than to someone who is not. Of course, this can all be subjective, so make sure you have the research to prove it before having the raise meeting.

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11. You’re the Only One Skilled In a Task That Is Business-Critical

Training someone else means your company will have to invest money in a person who might not stick around long enough for the company to reap the benefits. Your boss would much rather spend time producing revenue with a highly skilled existing employee, even if it means giving a raise.

“When an employee is needed for his skillset, and when no one else can do the job as well as he, then that employee has the upper hand to ask for a raise because the employer recognizes the value that he brings to the company and to overall company goal attainment,” said Hakim.

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Asking For Too Much Could Hurt You

Just be sure you’re not asking for too much in terms of a raise. Otherwise, your boss might show you the door because you’re too expensive to keep. That’s why it always pays to know your worth and what it will take to keep you there.

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12. You Consistently Exceed Performance Goals

Are you the star performer at work? You might want to consider asking for a raise.

“Employers understand that rewards encourage positive behavior,” said Hakim. “If an employee is a solid performer who consistently exceeds performance goals, then the employee is more likely to have the upper hand when asking for a raise because the employer doesn’t want to discourage the employee’s current performance.”

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Just Inquiring About a Pay Increase Could Work To Your Advantage

Knowing you’re valued is a major confidence boost. A major blow to morale would be getting denied after asking for a raise. Would you be able to perform at the same level if you felt undervalued? Generally speaking, employers would rather not run the risk of ruining your current performance by denying your request, according to Hakim.

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13. You Covered For Your Manager

Bosses want to know they can leave the company in good hands if they can’t be there. If you can keep the ship running without any issues, it is a big deal, according to Adam Goldberg, director of talent strategy for Walmart eCommerce, who has given out raises before. If you have significant wins during that period of time, even better.

“Bosses are typically extremely grateful in those moments and it may be a better time to have a compensation discussion,” he said.

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Make It Clear You Could Handle the Extra Work

“It is a good time to explain to them how you felt empowered by the experience, how you enjoyed the extra work, and how you feel like you might be ready for additional responsibility,” Goldberg said.

In that conversation, Goldberg said you might also be able to say something that plants the seed for a raise, like, “please try and remember this moment during salary review time, it would mean a great deal to me to see something come out of my continued hard work and dedication to the company.”

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14. It’s a Few Months Before Raises Come Out

Raises are generally given out the same time each year, according to Goldberg. As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm, which translates into you asking for a raise early.

“Oftentimes, people wait too long and they miss the compensation planning process that management goes through,” he said. “It is important to let your management know about your compensation desires before they start planning.”

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Plan Ahead To Negotiate That Raise

So how do you go about this? Goldberg suggests asking your management team when compensation planning time is and have a salary negotiation discussion ahead of it. When you do have that meeting, you’ll want to be prepared with a list of accomplishments and be able to show how you helped them succeed monetarily.

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15. There Has Been Company Turnover

Turnover can be worrisome to management, according to Goldberg, because it can put the company in a fragile state. If you’re sticking around, this would be the time to have an honest discussion about salary.

“You can tell them how you have seen people leave, how you know the kinds of salaries others are getting elsewhere and at the same time remind them of your commitment to their company,” said Goldberg.

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Be Bold Enough During Changing Times To Ask For a Raise

Basically, the ball is in your court to ask for a raise.

“It is a time when they might have an ability to backfill positions at a lower salary and redistribute some of those dollars to others,” said Goldberg. “It is a time when they can reshape the former incumbent’s job, give you some of their responsibility and possibly even some of their dollars as well.”

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