How to Ask for a Raise (Even When You’re Scared)

It’s no secret that women are more afraid of asking for a raise than men are. This definitely contributes to the payment imbalance between the sexes. Think about it. Would you pay extra, for anything, unless someone asked you very specifically?

Now you’re in your boss’s head.

Last year, I realized I hadn’t negotiated a raise in three years. I also realized that if I didn’t say something, my rate of pay would remain the same. Three years is a long time to go without an increase in pay. So I spent many sleepless (or stress-sleep-filled!) nights thinking about approaching my boss. I talked to friends. I talked to family. I talked to a career coach. And I was able to negotiate with my boss successfully!

It was the single scariest thing I’ve ever done in my entire career.

So, learn from my process! Here are 10 steps you can take to ask for a raise — even when you’re scared. Good luck!

  • 10-Step Process: Ask for a Raise (Even When You’re Scared) 1 of 11
  • 1. Think About Timing 2 of 11

    How long have you worked for the company? What time of year is it? What day of the week? If you haven't worked at the same company for more than six months, bookmark this process and wait. Is there an annual review time? Great! Even if there isn't, studies show Thursdays are the best day of the week to ask for a raise. Also, the fourth quarter is traditionally the best time of year to ask for a promotion, since that's the time that everyone is thinking about budgets for the next fiscal year.


    Image by Morant, Nicholas, 1910-1999. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  • 2. Research the Salary Range for the Position 3 of 11

    Use a tool like Get Raised or Salary.com's salary negotiation tool to figure out where you fall in the salary range for your position, and know how much to ask for. Understand that your boss isn't likely to double your salary, even if you are that underpaid. It's clear that there will be limits, but using tools to figure out industry ranges will help you figure out at least where to start.


    Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • 3. Use a Script 4 of 11

    Write it down! This is the absolute best idea if you think you will be scared. I wrote down everything I wanted to say, then rehearsed it six, seven (I lost count how many!) times before finally feeling confident and comfortable. Rehearse in front of a mirror and don't use apologetic body language when you get to the point where you're asking for more money.

     Use this formula for a script: "I have been working here for X years, and I really enjoy it. In that time, sales have increased by Y (or whatever metric you use for measuring performance) while my salary has remained the same. I would really like to see an increase of $Z thousand dollars." And Z should be a reach. The amount that's ideal. Don't tell your boss what you'd settle for. This is the time to ask for the ideal raise. Let your boss negotiate down.


    Image by Thiel, F. W. (Frederick William) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  • 4. Schedule a Meeting 5 of 11

    Since you'll be asking for a raise on Thursday, send your boss an email Monday afternoon. Make it short and sweet, and ask for a meeting. "I'd like to discuss my future with the company. Do you have a few minutes on Thursday?"


    Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • 5. Show Off! 6 of 11

    When Thursday comes, bring a brag sheet with you. It's a one-page summary that shows exactly how awesome you are as an employee. List any accomplishments, awards, and customer or coworker testimonials ("You saved me when you did xyz!" emails definitely count as testimonials!) you've received since your last review. You want to demonstrate your value to your boss. If you can't quantify it in dollars (and most departments can't) you want to quantify it some other way.


    Image by Thiel, F. W. (Frederick William) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  • 6. Speak Slowly 7 of 11

    When Thursday comes, you may very well be nervous. You'll no longer be scared, though, because you'll be prepared! It'll be very tempting to rush into your boss's office, steamroll through your brag sheet, thrust it in your boss's face and rush out the door. This, of course, is not the way to do it. Instead, speak slowly. Talk calmly. Be confident. If that means waiting to have coffee until after your meeting, so be it. The coffee will be a delicious reward for having a tough conversation.


    Image by Lewis G P [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  • 7. "Think Like a Man" 8 of 11

    I use quotes around this phrase because usually this kind of rhetoric makes me angry, but in this one case it makes sense. Ask your male friends how they would go about asking for a raise, and they may not even understand why it's such a hard thing to do. When I asked, "Would you be more nervous asking for a raise than you would be asking for more pens in the supply area?" most of my male friends said no. "If I felt like I needed more money, I'd just tell my boss, the day I was thinking of it," said one of my guy friends. This mentality is something to emulate. Clearly, I can't think like that and I wouldn't expect you to either. However, if you think "More pens in the supply area" or something that you're equally unafraid of asking for, you'll be able to set yourself up mentally.


    Image by Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  • 8. Use as Few Words as Possible 9 of 11

    This might seem counterintuitive, but if you can, speak succinctly. In fact, the fewer words you use, the more confidence you convey. Too much explanation, too much justification, too many words can be construed of signs that you lack confidence. 


    Image by Lewis G P [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  • 9. Ask Questions About Your Future 10 of 11

    After you've given your "Here's what I did and here's what I would like" speech, ask your boss how he or she thinks you're doing, and where he or she sees your career. Don't ask where they see you in five years; ask where you can make the most impact in the next 12-18 months. See if you are seen as upwardly mobile.


    Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • 10. Learn Something From This Meeting 11 of 11

    If your boss tells you that you're on track to stay in your current position, or if you feel like there's not much room for upward mobility (and upward mobility is something you want) understand that it might be time to move on. You'll learn a lot from the salary negotiation meeting. Some of it will be communicated verbally, but much of it will be communicated non-verbally. You might see facial expressions in your boss that say "no" when you ask about your future. Listen. Pay close attention. Figure out if you're going to stay, or whether it's time to move on.


    Image via Wikimedia Commons

Article Posted 5 years Ago

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