Should You Ask For a Raise During the Pandemic? Here’s What 10 Experts Say

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Dobrila Vignjevic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Asking for a raise is never an easy conversation, and it can be even trickier now with many companies struggling to stay afloat financially. But there are some situations in which you feel you might be owed one — perhaps you were in talks for a raise before the pandemic hit, or maybe you are taking on more work or more risk than you were before.

GOBankingRates spoke to career experts to find out if it’s still OK to ask for a raise in the current climate, plus how to approach the subject if you do decide to head to the negotiating table.

Last updated: Sept. 9, 2020

Tara Goodfellow, Career Consultant: Yes

Tara Goodfellow, a career consultant and owner of Athena Consultants, believes that you still can ask for a raise.

“Just because you’ve been working remotely, doesn’t mean asking for a raise is off the table or inconsiderate,” she said. “Yes, these are trying times. Yes, many folks are without employment, are underemployed or are furloughed. However, many of us are working extra hours, wearing extra hats, taking on new responsibilities and ramping up pretty darn quickly. Also, for many companies, they are saving thousands on travel and other expenses.”

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Lauren Hasson, Salary Negotiation Expert: It Depends

Lauren Hasson, founder of DevelopHer, a platform that teaches women how to negotiate for higher salaries, said that whether or not you should ask for a raise depends on your specific circumstances.

“It depends on how your company is doing financially,” she said. “If your company is really struggling and having to make tough decisions like furloughs or even layoffs, then it is best to hold off on expecting a raise right now. But a number of companies are doing alright or even better than expected. If this is the case, then absolutely make your case for a raise, especially if you are working extra to help make the company make ends meet.”


Gaurav Sharma, Career Advisor: It Depends

Gaurav Sharma, career advisor and founder of BankersByDay.com, which provides resources to students and young professionals for banking and finance careers, also said that you have to take your individual circumstances into consideration before asking for a raise.

“You should almost always ask for a raise as part of your normally scheduled performance review process,” he said. “That is what those reviews are for — your performance is discussed and so should your compensation. I cannot stress this enough — people who don’t ask for a raise in these reviews usually end up getting less than those who ask for it. Even if you are not given a raise immediately, your line manager and HR will know what your expectations are and are more likely to accommodate you next time.”

“I also feel it’s OK to ask for a raise if you have a drastically increased work-load or added stress as some people have experienced as of late,” he continued. “Many people are wearing more hats now and having to learn new skills. All of these are valid grounds for asking for a raise and should form the basis of your argument when you make your pitch. Lastly, if your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are better than average, then that is proof that you are providing your company with more value and you should be compensated as such. Include all these points when you make your argument.”

However, you should hold off on asking for a raise if your employer is in a tough spot financially, Sharma said.

“In such cases, it is best to ensure that your efforts are recognized and your employer knows that you are merely deferring the rewards to support the company in their time of need,” he said.

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Monique Mollere, Recruiting and Staffing Expert: It Depends

Monique Mollere, senior vice president of Talascend, a national staffing company, said that “if you are working in an industry that has continued to be stable, busy and profitable throughout the pandemic then it may be appropriate to ask for a raise.”

“The request should be based on [one of] the following: your performance review has come up for consideration if on a regular schedule; your role has changed and you have taken on additional responsibilities; you have met or exceeded the goals/performance expected of you over the last year; or you have obtained additional education or certifications that add value to your role and the company.”

However, there are certain circumstances that would make it inappropriate to ask for a raise: “Your company has been hit hard financially by the pandemic in the form of loss of revenue, lay-offs, furloughs or pay reductions; or you have not met the goals or performance expected of you over the last year,” Mollere said.

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Bart Turczynski, Career Expert: It Depends

Bart Turczynski, a career expert and editor-in-chief at ResumeLab, said that whether or not you should ask for a raise depends on the state of your company.

“If you feel your company has major cash-flow difficulties, you may want to think twice before asking for a raise,” he said. “First, it’ll likely have the same impact as a fly on a windshield, and second, your request might come off as profoundly inappropriate and bruise your professional reputation down the road within the company. That said, if you know for a fact that your employer is not only making both ends meet but is thriving in this challenging climate, you can safely ask for raise.”


Cynthia Orduña, Career Coach: It Depends

Cynthia Orduña, a career coach with a background in HR and recruiting, also said that the financial state of your company should determine whether or not you ask for a raise.

“If your company has been heavily impacted, had to lay off employees and is losing revenue, then now is definitely not the time,” she said. “No one can stop you from making the ask, but the answer will most likely be no. However, if you’ve been a part of a company that happened to gain traction during the pandemic causing your team to have to hire more staff and you to expand on your responsibilities, then that’s an ideal time to ask for a raise.”

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Matt Erhard, Recruiting Expert: It Depends

Matt Erhard, managing partner with the recruiting firm Summit Search Group, said that “asking for a raise is definitely trickier during the pandemic, but I think it’s appropriate for some people to do as long as they approach the situation in the right way.”

Erhard said that whether or not you should ask for a raise depends on what industry you work in and how your particular company is weathering the storm.

“It’s definitely a situation of needing to ‘read the room,'” he said. “If your company has laid off workers, there probably isn’t any extra payroll room for raises. Other industries have started to stabilize, though, and there’s been time for managers and HR workers to adapt to working from home, so stress levels have dropped in many cases. If you’re in a situation where your usual performance review (and associated raise) was postponed because of the pandemic, it seems an appropriate time to bring it up. It may also be a good time to ask for a raise if you’ve been especially beneficial to the company or outperformed your expectations during the crisis.”

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Ashley Stahl, Career Expert: It Depends

Ashley Stahl, a career expert with SoFi, said that whether or not you should ask for a raise depends on your current job responsibilities.

“If you are in a high risk-exposure job where coming to work is now a risk to your health, it is safe to bring up the conversation of additional pay,” she said. “You are putting your life at risk and there is nothing more valuable than that. In some instances, employees have taken on additional work and roles within their team due to COVID-19. If this is the case, you may want to broach the topic of a temporary pay increase or raise while you tackle these additional responsibilities.”

But there are some scenarios in which you should not ask for a raise right now.

“If you are in a job that is not high risk, non-essential and the business is struggling, this may not be the best time to ask for more money,” Stahl said. “It can come across as insensitive and rub your employer the wrong way. While it may be tempting to ask for more money given the added stress and difficult work settings, do what you can to save this for your next performance review.”

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LT Ladino Bryson, Career Advisor: No

LT Ladino Bryson, a career advisor and CEO of vCandidates.com, said that although there is “nothing wrong with asking for a raise at any time,” now is probably not the right time to ask.

“In current times, I would not suggest requesting a raise,” she said. “These are times in which most employers reflect on the needs of the company before themselves. This is when many CEOs or business owners will not take a salary, opting to use the funds for the business. You should count your blessings that you are still employed.”

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Ron Auerbach, Career Coach: No

Ron Auerbach, career coach and author of “Think Like an Interviewer: Your Job Hunting Guide to Success,” does not recommend asking for a raise during the pandemic.

“The reason is very simple: The economy has been devastated and the situation is still rather uncertain,” he said. “With this uncertainty, businesses tend to be more cautious and tighter with their money. Asking for a raise at this moment in time, in my opinion, just makes you look bad and shows you’re unaware of all the uncertainty out there.”

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If You Do Decide To Ask, Here’s How To Do It

Although the experts are somewhat divided on whether or not now is a good time to ask for a raise, if you feel it is in your best interest to do so, keep these tips in mind before approaching your boss or manager.

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Ask Yourselves These Questions First

Before you ask for a raise, take the time to do some self-reflection and ask yourself these questions, Turczynski said: “Did I recently work on projects that helped save money or time for the company? Do I meet — or better yet exceed — my targets regularly? Do I take extra responsibilities that help showcase I’m willing to walk the extra mile? Have I had some significant accomplishments in the last three to six months?”

“When you can say yes to all, or at least most of the above questions, that’s when you know you deserve a raise like Dorothy deserved the ruby slippers,” he said.

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Have Concrete Evidence of the Value You Have Added

“If you’re going to approach your supervisor with a raise request, be prepared,” Goodfellow said. “Make a list of how you’ve continued to add value. Have you saved clients? Have you decreased expenses? Shifted to an online platform seamlessly? Kept your team engaged and motivated? Increased revenues? Streamlined or automated processes? Your boss may normally be too busy to take note of all of your responsibilities and accomplishments, but probably more so now that just about everyone is working remotely, so you need to be your own advocate.”

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Also Share What Value You Plan To Bring in the Future

“When you broach the topic of a raise with your boss, be willing and able to outline the additional work you plan to take on or what projects you are spearheading that will lead the business to growth,” Stahl said. “When they see the value you will add compared to the price point you are asking for, it will become less of an emotional decision and more of a strategic partnership.”

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Have the Conversation Over Video Rather Than by Phone

“I’d set up a time for a video call,” Goodfellow said. “It’s good to take note of someone’s expressions and reactions.”

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Do Your Research

Research typical salaries for people in your role so you know what to ask for, Orduña said.

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Lead With Empathy

“Raises and promotions may be the last thing on your boss’s mind right now, so frame it as opening the door to the conversation while also understanding their position,” said Maryna Shkvorets, a public speaking coach who helps clients with career conversations and negotiations. “Show curiosity about what your boss needs from you to make it happen.”

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Ask Open-Ended Questions

“When you do sit down with someone to negotiate, make sure you are asking open questions,” said Alexandra Carter, director of the Mediation Clinic at Columbia Law School and author of “Ask for More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything.” “People who ask open questions get more than those who don’t. Don’t ask questions that only require a yes or no answer, like ‘Can you give me a raise?’ Instead, ask questions that start with ‘what’ or ‘how,’ like: ‘What can we do to get me closer to the right compensation level for this role?,’ ‘What would you need to see to know that this proposal made sense?,’ ‘How have you successfully mentored other people into management?'”

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Frame Your Raise as a ‘Win-Win’ Situation

One negotiation tactic is emphasizing that a raise for you is less of a cost to the company than having to replace you.

“Ultimately, it all comes down to the value you bring to the company,” said Ho Lin, a career expert with MyPerfectResume. “If your accomplishments and extra projects you’ve taken for the betterment aren’t enough, try to illustrate the time, cost and growing pains it would take for the organization to bring in your replacement. In other words, without coming in cocky, you’re trying to let them know that a raise for you a truly a win-win scenario for both parties.”

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Be Open To Alternatives

Your employer might say they simply don’t have the budget to give raises right now, so prepare other options that could compensate in the meantime.

“What else would be a value add? Perhaps extra vacation to use within the next year, an option to earn a certificate or further your expertise to become a subject matter expert,” Goodfellow said.

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Ask To Revisit the Discussion Later

“If your organization is under financial pressure, it’s probably not the right time to ask for a raise,” said Terry B. McDougall, career coach and author of “Winning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms.” “However, you can potentially still address the fact that you’ve fulfilled what was expected and let your boss know that though you know the timing isn’t right to fulfill on the raise, that you hope when things return to normal that you can revisit the discussion.”

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