January 8, 2019 ・ Written by Katta Hules

Tell your boss you’re worth more

Tips for asking for a raise

Tell your boss you’re worth more

Let’s say you’ve been at your job for a while now and you’re good at it, but you’re not making enough money. Maybe your circumstances have changed and you need more to cover the bills or maybe you’ve been there long enough and done enough for your company that what you’re getting paid is no longer what you’re worth. As a freelancer and someone who works in retail, this is a situation I am quite familiar with.

But, wow, is it awkward to ask for more money. So should you keep quiet and wait for your boss to give you a raise? That depends. Does your company do scheduled annual raises? If so, have your raises been adequate in the past? If the answer to either of those questions is no, then read on.

To start, let’s talk about when is a good time to ask. Firstly, don’t ambush your boss in front of other people. It’s awkward and even if you wrangle a raise from that encounter, it’s bound to foster resentment. Instead, ask for a meeting, ideally at a time when they aren’t busy. If your company does annual reviews or you’re up for a promotion (ideally more responsibility should always equal more pay), those are great times to bring up a raise as well.

After you’ve set up your one-on-one meeting, it’s time to prepare. Do some research. What are other people in your position (or if you’re up for promotion, the position you’re going for) making? How long have they been with the company? If your company discourages these kinds of discussions remember: they cannot legally keep you from discussing your wages and compensation with other employees. That said, if you still don’t feel comfortable having that kind of discussion with co-workers, you can search what the average salary for your job position is or reach out to fellow BrightCrowd members.

Once you know the range of salary you could be making, determine what you want to make. What would ease your budget or make up for any emotional wear and tear your job may cause? Figure out that number, and then ask for a higher wage so you can negotiate down to your number. For example, my partner was up for a promotion recently. They surveyed the people in the position they were going for and found out what other people were making, and asked for that number, knowing that because they didn’t have the same number of years there, they wouldn’t get it. The salary they were able to get was slightly lower–and exactly what they’d hoped for.

When you have your preferred salary and the number you plan to ask for, it’s time to marshal your evidence. You may be so good that it’s not even a question if you should get a raise, but come prepared anyway. How long have you been there? What are people around you making and how does that stack up to what you make? What standout work have you done? Have you improved the way the company operates? Have you brought in a lot of clients/money/social media traffic/accounts/etc.? If you have numbers to back up your claims, all the better. Bragging can be uncomfortable, but consider this the sequel to your job interview. It’s no time to be humble.

Another aspect to bring up is if your circumstances have changed or you just can’t live off what you’re being paid. Don’t give them a sob story. Nobody enjoys being guilt tripped. However, if you are in financial straits because you’re not getting paid enough, lay out what the problem is. For example: “I love working here but between my student loans, taking care of kid/parent/sibling/significant other, and my bills, I’m not able to make ends meet. Is it possible to get more hours or raise my salary this amount?” Emotional appeals tend to make people uncomfortable, so keep it short and lead with all you’ve brought to the company first.

Because emotions tend to make people uncomfortable and in some cases, defensive, leave your anger at home. Even if in your research, you find out a new hire is making a lot more than you despite their relative lack of experience, don’t fly off the handle. Instead, consider it the gift that it is: a big piece of leverage. Recently, at on one of my day jobs, my boss hired a new employee at a rate much higher than even some of the longtime employees at her level. When that came out, several employees were able to go to him and use the new employee’s salary to get a raise appropriate for their experience level and years with the company–elevating them to a wage higher than the new hire’s.

Speaking of leverage, you might be tempted to threaten to leave if your demands aren’t met. Don’t do this unless you’re seriously considering it or have an attractive job offer on the table. Even if you think you’re irreplaceable, your boss might not. It’s something I’ve seen backfire before.

So you’re prepped and ready for your meeting. You get in there and lay out your arguments convincingly. If your boss says yes, congratulations!

But what if they don’t? What do you do? This comes down to a question of financial survival. Can you live comfortably off what you make? By that I mean, can you save enough of a buffer to not go into massive debt in an emergency situation or to allow you to take a big step in life (moving, starting a business, property ownership, child rearing, going back to school, etc.)? Will this job possibly lead to a better opportunity within the next few years? Do you love your job? If most or all of the answers to these questions are no, you might want to consider going back on the job search. Don’t up and quit, but weigh your options and be smart if you decide to leave.

Asking for money and justifying how you’re worth it is not a comfortable experience for most people, but doing it can improve your finances and quality of life. Even if you get turned down, asking for a raise can galvanize you to take your career in a new direction.