How to Ask for a Raise

Asking for a raise is as easy as wrangling three kids, a Golden Retriever and two dozen balloons on a windy day :) Ok, that’s not easy at all, but totally worth it when you see their ear to ear smiles.

It’s the same story when asking for a raise. Totally worth it! And most likely totally deserved!

With over a decade’s worth of experience in corporate America, in a variety of senior leadership positions, specifically human resources, I have been a part of hundreds, more likely thousands, of conversations regarding salary.

It never ceases to amaze me how few people negotiate their salary when being offered a job or a promotion. Please don’t do this! Neglecting to negotiate can leave you at a disadvantage as you grow in your organization and your career. Starting out being paid under market value will only keep you behind the curve, and we can’t have that!

So what do you do if you’re one of those people that has accepted a position without a proper negotiation or if you’ve been with your organization for a while and are starting to feel that you should be earning more?  You ask for a raise!

But how do you go about in a way that ups your chances of actually getting it?

There's good news, I’m here to help!

Step 1 - Choose the correct language. Let’s first talk about how we want to position this “raise”. I want you to speak of your potential raise in different terminology. I suggest you use the term “salary review”. Raise sounds like an ultimatum and we want your boss to actually consider this proposition, right! Make it easy for them by asking for something they can immediately and easily say yes to, a salary review.

Step 2 - Figure out why you deserve a salary review? Don’t even think about approaching your boss and asking for a salary review if you are not deserving of it! If your performance is suffering or you’ve been told that you are not meeting expectations, than I’m sorry to say, you don’t deserve a raise. So don’t ask. Ok, got that out of the way! If you do believe you are deserving of a salary review, you need to know why. Have you worked at the company for a long time and feel you have fallen behind market rate? Have you taken on more responsibility or additional projects that justifies better compensation? Give some serious thought on how you specifically have contributed to the company and why you deserve a detailed salary review. Then practice making that case to yourself before you ever approach your boss.

Step 3 - Research and research some more. Are you already being paid at or above the market rate for your position? If so, it’ll be hard to make the case for a raise. I hate to tell you this, but chances are if you’ve been at your job for more than a couple years, you may indeed be below the market average. And if you didn’t negotiate your original salary offer or any subsequent promotions, than I’m sorry to say my friend, but you’re being underpaid! Check out websites like or for some general ideas. You can also get real salary data from people in your industry who are roughly at your level, you’d be surprised how readily people are willing to share this info if you just ask them. Accurately knowing what you’re worth is half the battle so don’t neglect this important step!

Step 4 - Write a “pain letter”. What’s a pain letter you ask? It's something you write to your company's leadership outlining your contributions or the ways you have helped eliminate company “pain”. It ultimately outlines the reasons behind your request for a raise. You may not ever have to share it, but doing this step will help you to articulate your case in a way that focuses on the company. Why is writing a pain letter so important? Because the harsh truth is that your company cares about company growth and company profitability more than you. Ouch, I know! Putting your argument in words they can relate to will help you clarify your message and be better positioned to get your raise!

Step 5 - Schedule the meeting! It’s time to get on your manager’s calendar. I suggest you make it clear that you’re requesting a salary review from the very beginning. Telling someone that you need to meet with them, but not saying why is ambiguous and will have them drawing all sorts of conclusion about what you may want. Money conversations can be awkward, and your manager may want to do some prep work beforehand. You have a much better chance of getting what you want out of this meeting if it isn’t a surprise!

Step 6 - Make it a team effort. Get your boss on your side! Simply make your case and ask for their help or guidance. It’s very likely that your boss may need to go up a level to get permission, or they may need to work with their human resources partner on understanding what your companies salary guidelines are. If this is the case consider asking your boss if they would like you to present them with a written document outlining your thoughts. (This is when you can share your pain letter!) Be patient. Do not issue any ultimatums. Remember this should feel like a win-win conversation.

Step 7 - Put their minds at ease. I highly recommend telling your boss that you are on the same team and you’re excited to further contribute to the company. Even if the truth is that you’re already mentally half-way out the door. People typically are not willing to give a raise to someone who may be leaving! Tell the best version of your story, be humble and gracious and thank them for their time.

Step 8 - Establish next steps. Before you go, be sure to get a commitment from your boss on when they’ll follow up with you. Ask if there is anything else they need from you at this time. You may want to set a meeting on the calendar for your follow up conversation so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and so you don’t feel like you’re nagging if you end up not hearing back timely.

While asking for a raise can be awkward and difficult (just like wrangling kids, dogs and balloons) it is so worth it! You should be paid fairly for the hard work that you do.

Talented, deserving people that are underpaid, that struggle to understand or communicate their worth or that have little to no passion for what they do makes me sad! These are some of the reasons I became a career coach! You deserve more and I love helping you get it!

Thanks for reading!

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