Career How to Talk to Your Boss About That Raise

These six tips will give you the knowledge and courage you need.

By Kelly Meehan Brown Illustration by Elena Lacey
PUBLISHED 01/12/2023 | 7 MINUTES

After two years without a pay raise, Katherine Brown—now founder and marketing director of her own company, Spyic—approached human resources, armed with the knowledge that her male counterparts earned more than she did. Brown felt belittled and hurt and let her emotions get the better of her. She didn’t come off as professional or prepared, and her request was denied.

The most common reason employers give their employees for not granting them a raise is budgetary constraints—but 52% of women are given this excuse compared to 44% of men. And while one gender is not more likely to ask for a raise over the other, women are more likely to state that they’re uncomfortable negotiating a higher salary.

Some good news: Raises in 2022 are predicted to return to pre-pandemic levels, according to The Conference Board, a nonprofit data center. So what are you waiting for? You know you deserve it, and it’s probably long overdue. Here’s how to ask your boss for a raise.

Time It Right

The best time to ask for a raise is yesterday. Second best: today. Third best: tomorrow. You get the point. That said, Gala Jackson, director of coaching and lead executive career coach at Ellevest, advises first figuring out what the process is for getting a raise or promotion at your company—which might mean a series of conversations, not just a one­and-done pitch.

There is also some value in waiting for particular times of the year, says Liz Hogan, career expert and professional resume writer. “Many employers conduct a quarterly review and a budget analysis at the end of the year. These are the times they’re expecting to talk with employees about possible raises.”

Request a Formal Meeting

Don’t spring the conversation on your boss while she’s having her morning coffee or casually passing by in the hallway. Letting her know in advance and setting up a formal meeting come off as more professional and make the conversation seem more legitimate.

“Don’t blindside them. Set your boss up for success, too,” Jackson says. “Let them know that you’re thinking about your future with the company and about your goals for next year.”

Come Prepared

You’re asking for a raise, so you should come prepared to present the reasons why you deserve one. Jot down all your accomplishments over the previous year—making note of particular projects you’re proud of and why—and gather specific data or statistics that demonstrate how effective you are at your job.

“Be ready to show how you’ve contributed to the company’s growth and success, and clearly state what you personally bring to the table,” Hogan advises.

If you’re struggling to advocate for yourself, Jackson recommends asking yourself the following questions: What would happen if I didn’t come to work? What wouldn’t get done?

Have a Clear Target

Go into the meeting with a specific salary or range in mind. Conduct market research beforehand to find out the average salary for your position. Note: Just because someone has the same title as you doesn’t necessarily mean you should be making the same salary as them; they could have higher qualifications, more experience or stellar job performance.

Jackson advises looking at the job description for the level above you to help gauge how much you should be asking for. “If you see you still have room to grow, maybe ask for a lower percent increase in pay,” she says. “But if you’re already meeting the demands of the next level, that same percentage may not be enough.”

Ask HR what the salary range is for that higher role, Jackson adds. “You should position yourself at least at the midpoint of that range.”

Don’t Accept Right Away

You did it! You took charge, believed in yourself and proved your worth to your employer. Now, take a deep breath and some time to consider the offer, especially if it’s lower than what you wanted.

“Accepting an offer can be quite the adrenaline rush, but it’s important to remember that knee-jerk reactions can get you into trouble down the road,” says Matthew Warzel, president of resume writing firm MJW Careers. “What you do today can impact you later in life by tens of thousands of dollars.”

This is ultimately a business decision, Jackson says, so don’t be afraid to make a counteroffer. “This is a mutually beneficial relationship,” she adds. “Negotiate. It’s not a closed question-and-answer session. It’s a process.”

Still not getting the pay you wanted? Proceed to step six.

Consider Other Benefits

Compensation can come in many forms, says Maia Monell, chief growth officer and co-founder of financial well-being platform Ask for other benefits like flexible work hours, transportation reimbursements or employee stock options.

“But it’s important to maintain your momentum,” Jackson says. “Make sure to have a game plan for what you’ll do if you cannot reach negotiation terms that work for you.”

Final Thoughts

Remember, if you don’t ask, you won’t get anything. And as the old adage goes, if at first you don’t succeed, use these tips to prep and try again! That’s what Brown did. Six months after her initial rejection, she followed a similar plan and got the raise she deserved.

Millie content is licensed from Meredith Corporation, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle and more.

Kelly Meehan Brown is Millie’s editor and an Irish expat who has been covering all things at the intersection of money and fun for the past five years. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and one-eyed black cat.


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