How to Negotiate a Raise

Nearly one-quarter of Americans are not satisfied with what they earn, according to a poll by Gallup. And yet, another poll by PayScale tells the second part of the story: Those who don’t ask for raises are unlikely to get them, and those who keep asking for raises increase their likelihood of making more money.

But how can those looking for more money even start the conversation? Here are some tools and best practices that can be used before and during salary negotiation to increase the chances of earning a raise.

Know Your Value to the Company

“When you’re essential to your company, the negotiation is much easier,” says Larry Light of Forbes. “Prepare a list of achievements to make your case for a pay raise. It’s not enough to state that you deserve more money. Remember: Show, don’t just tell. Make sure you capture the moments of praise so you have great examples to share with your boss.”

Back up your request for a pay raise with evidence and data. Can you demonstrate that you increased the company’s bottom line? Do so. Specific examples of your achievements allow you to build a stronger case.

It’s important to know the other side, too. The Toulmin Method, a powerful tool for making an argument, says, “Don’t avoid the opposing side of an argument. Instead, include the opposing side as a counterclaim. Find out what the other side is saying and respond to it within your own argument.” If you’ve made mistakes or missteps at your job, be aware of them. Be ready to talk about them with your boss.

Know Your Market Value

Every job has a market value: the average salary and upper and lower salary ranges for that job. Research yours. Services like Glassdoor, Comparably, and PayScale are all useful for researching your market value. When understanding how your salary compares, look at factors such as job title, job responsibilities and regional averages — cities such as New York or San Francisco will have different salary ranges than cities such as Burlington or Worcester.

Know Your Environment

You can use these same online tools to find out more about your company. Employee reviews or average salary rankings can tell you both if you’re earning a typical salary for your company and how open the company is to offering raises.

Pick a Figure

Once you’ve done your research, decide to ask for a specific figure, and stick to it.


“Don’t let the first time you are asking for your raise be the actual meeting with your boss,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of SixFigureStart and a Forbes contributor. Find someone who can take on the role of your boss and practice negotiating together.

Choose the Right Moment

Don’t spring a salary negotiation on your boss without giving him or her any time to prepare. It’s best to learn when your company will hold performance reviews and talk to your boss about the possibility of negotiating a pay raise a few months earlier, according to Lydia Frank of PayScale. “If you wait until the performance review process is underway, often the decisions about salary increases have already been made by the management team,” she writes.

If They Say “No”

Your boss may tell you a raise isn’t possible. If your boss denies your request, there are a few ways to continue the negotiation.

  • Present your employer with alternatives to a monetary raise. Extra paid time off, flexible hours and other less tangible benefits can increase your quality of life as much as a higher salary. Come up with a few of these alternatives beforehand.
  • If your employer continues to say “no,” ask for specific feedback. As Erin Burt of Kiplinger says, “Ask your boss candidly what it’ll take for you to get a raise by that time — and then do it.” Once you have that information, get your boss to agree on a specific period of time after which you’ll reassess your eligibility for a pay raise.
  • If, after all of this, your boss continues to refuse, thank him or her. Keep things professional. Don’t underestimate the power of an ambiguous response such as, “I understand your position.” It may be time to consider moving on to another place of employment.

If They Say “Yes”

If your employer agrees to a pay raise or additional benefits, get the agreement in writing. Ask for a specific timeline during which you can expect to get your new salary increase.

A Leg Up on Salary Negotiations

Money reports that one of the groups most likely to receive a pay raise when they ask are those with an MBA. Rivier University’s online MBA program can help you get the salary you deserve. Degree tracks are available in management, information technology management, and marketing.

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