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Michael Woodward Ph.D.
Michael Woodward Ph.D.

How to Confidently Ask for a Raise!

Four steps for easing the anxiety of asking for a raise

Courtesy Michael Woodward
Source: Courtesy Michael Woodward

Asking for anything can be uncomfortable, particularly money. When it comes to haggling for a boost in your salary, it can get even more uncomfortable. The bargaining mindset really isn’t natural for most of us, particularly when it comes to conversations about salaries. In the U.S. we don’t have the same sort of bargaining mentality you see elsewhere around the world. Consider your last trip to the grocery store. Did you challenge any prices? The fact is we are conditioned to accept that the price offered is the price you pay, no questions asked. Unfortunately, this mentality has carried over to how we are compensated for our work. Consider these findings from a 2012 LinkedIn global salary survey around salary negotiation:

  • 39 percent of American professionals are anxious about negotiating salary
  • Only 26 percent of women feel comfortable negotiating compared to 40 percent for men
  • Of the eight countries surveyed by LinkedIn professionals, people in the U.S. were the most anxious about negotiating!

What's more, according to

  • Only 12 percent of Americans ask for a raise
  • 44 percent never bring up the subject of getting a raise

Asking for a raise is about having a conversation. You shouldn’t feel that it needs to be contentious or adversarial. Managers are often just as anxious about these conversations as you are. Keep in mind, negotiating is a part of business and the squeaky wheel does in fact get the grease. The research has shown this. So, when mulling over whether to have that dreaded salary conversation, consider the following:

Get over it

Asking for money can feel a bit self-serving. However, keep in mind the greatest asset any company has is its employees. The cost to recruit and on-board a new hire is far greater than the cost of keeping a high potential employee happy, not to mention the hits to performance and morale that voluntary turnover can cause. Nobody cares more about you than you do. Don’t be afraid to step up and ask for what you deserve. This isn’t personal, it’s about business. Negotiating is an integral part of business and most managers understand this.

Know your value

If you want that raise, you are going to have to be a little self-aggrandizing. It’s just part of the process. Part of building up the nerve to have the conversation is assessing your value and being ready for some pushback from your boss. When preparing to make your case, sites like offer salary research tools that provide valuable information on salaries across a range of industries. Professional associations are also a great resource as they typically conduct salary surveys on a regular basis. Being armed with salary data from your industry is important.

The next step is to assess your value-add to the organization. The most powerful way to make an argument for a salary increase is to speak in terms of dollars. Break down your value-add in terms of revenue generation, cost savings, loss prevention, or return on investment. Even if your impact on these areas is indirect, do your best to demonstrate your connection to them. Also, be sure to reach out to satisfied clients, vendors, and business partners for testimonials and anecdotal stores that show your value. It’s all about making the case!

Time it right

Just like most of us, managers tend to have short memories and will often take a “what have you done for me lately” view of your value. Take advantage of this by coordinating your approach with the completion of a major project or a recent high profile win. Also, be sure to understand the compensation policies and process of your company. You don’t want to ask your boss for something they don’t have any control over. Often salary increases are tied to annual performance reviews (unfortunately) or fiscal calendars. Take these factors into account when deciding on the timing of your request.

Also, make sure you are in a positive state of mind and genuinely feel good about your work. According to the survey 44 percent of those who felt satisfied in their jobs got the raises they asked for where only 20 percent of those who felt dissatisfied were successful in getting the raises they asked for. Mindset matters!

Have an end-game

The last thing you want to be doing is figuring out your options while in the midst of a negotiation. You need to have your options ready before walking in the door. Any good salesperson walks in to a negotiation knowing what they want to walk out with. You should have a defined salary range in mind along with other negotiating chips like vacation time, flex time, health benefits, child care, and expense accounts. Be sure to shoot high and have a minimum goal in mind that combines all aspects of your compensation package.

Bottom line: By not asking, you guarantee yourself a no!

About the Author
Michael Woodward Ph.D.

Michael Woodward, Ph.D. is an organizational psychologist, executive coach, and faculty member with the Institute for Management Studies.

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