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How Often Should You Get a Raise (and how to ask)?

No one enjoys feeling like they are being underpaid for their work, but for many employees, bringing up the topic of a raise can be an uncomfortable subject to broach. A recent survey by Indeed found that only around 19% of Americans are satisfied with their current pay. More than half of the respondents stated they would be open to changing jobs just for the extra money.

If you’re wondering whether it’s time to request a raise, you probably have a long list of questions about the process and what to expect. Maybe you’re wondering whether you actually deserve a raise in the first place. Perhaps you know you want a raise but are still searching for the right time to ask.

Don’t make the mistake of selling yourself short just because you aren’t familiar with the compensation process. In this post, we’ll break it down for you.

When Should You Consider Requesting a Pay Increase?

There are a few milestones at which most people can expect a pay increase:

When You Receive a Promotion

When you take on more job duties or assume a new role with your company, your compensation should similarly increase. A promotion is one of the most common reasons for a raise. You’re doing more complicated, valuable work – so you should get paid for it.

As Part of an Annual Process

Many companies have automatic annual raises for their employees, and you may be eligible to receive these throughout your time with the company. These raises help offset inflation and its associated cost of living increases. On average, these raises are typically 3% or less, however. Sometimes, these smaller raises come alongside performance-based raises.

If You’re Underpaid

Another time you may receive a raise is if you realize that you’re being underpaid for your work. This situation is perhaps the trickiest to navigate, mostly because you accepted your current salary at some point in the past. Now, you’ll have to “prove” that the salary is no longer adequate. In addition, company budgets differ from one business to the next, and the concept of “fair pay” can be a somewhat subjective term.

When You Receive a Job Offer

If you receive a competitive job offer while you’re employed, this is the best opportunity to ask for a raise. Why? Even if you’re not planning on leaving your current job, informing your manager about another offer could help you negotiate a higher salary to keep you on.

When Should You Ask for a Raise?

Time your request for a raise right and you’ll have a better chance of success.

Don’t rush it

For instance, rushing a request before you’ve been with a company for at least six months doesn’t bode well. Typically, such a short timeframe indicates that you haven’t had a chance to demonstrate your skills fully. If you wait at least half a year or longer, you’re more likely to have your request fulfilled.

Likewise, if you’ve already received a raise in the last few months, it’s improbable that your company will give you a second raise so soon after.

Plan your request in advance

You may be tempted to mention a raise for the first time during a performance or compensation review. Consider bringing up the idea of a raise as soon as a couple of months before the formal review. Even if you don’t directly ask for a raise, you can plant the seed in your manager’s mind so they know you’re actively considering your compensation rate.

You’ll also have more time to “get the ball” rolling, so to speak, giving your boss and other higher-ups more time to reflect on your work and crunch the necessary numbers. By the time your performance review comes around, there’s a possibility that your salary increase has already been discussed throughout the chain of command.

Schedule time with your manager

Bring up the topic of a raise during a specially scheduled meeting with your manager, even if they aren’t the one who makes the final decision about salaries. A one-on-one meeting with your boss gives the two of you the chance to privately discuss your reasons for requesting a raise. Having your manager put in a good word for you can greatly increase your chances of actually seeing a bigger paycheck.

Force the conversation with an outside job offer

Have you thought about applying for a job outside your company? You can use a competitive job offer to leverage a higher salary with your current employer. If there’s a chance you’ll be leaving your position to pursue higher pay, your employer will be much more open to boosting your salary to keep you on.

Tips for Asking for a Raise

One of the very first steps you’ll want to take before requesting a raise is to familiarize yourself with your company’s policies. This step may seem like a no-brainer, but paying close attention to the formal policies your company has in place can help you get a clearer understanding of your chances of a raise.

Understand the Performance Evaluation Policy

Ideally, you’ll have reviewed your organization’s policy during your initial interview and onboarding process. However, you can always revisit these policies in your employee handbook or with the Human Resources department. The performance evaluation policy typically outlines the frequency of the reviews (i.e., quarterly, biannually, annually, etc.) and can shed light on when raises or promotions are considered.

Learn the Compensation Policy

The compensation policy is another document you’ll want to study in depth. Here, you’ll find details about how your company determines employee pay. For example, your position may have a base pay with increases for performance as well as equity compensation, such as stock ownership.

You can also inquire about your company’s salaries versus others in the same industry. Learn where your company gets its salary data and how they aim to stay a competitive employer. You’ll also want to take note of the levels of job seniority and the pay range for each compensation band within the company.

Consider Your Peers’ Salary

Do you know how much your peers are making? Discussing salaries can feel a little awkward sometimes, but it can be helpful to gauge whether you’re being paid less or more than someone who is doing the same job you are.

When considering requesting a raise, take a subjective look at your job performance. Are you highly productive? If so, do your coworkers and managers view you in the same light? When you feel confident that your work is recognized as valuable, you stand a better chance of securing a raise as your company will work harder to keep you on (i.e., offering you more money).

Do you know you’re a hard worker but aren’t sure others are aware of your efforts? Before scheduling that meeting about your raise, first, ensure your entire team is clear on what you do and how well you do it.

The Conversation: Template to Ask for a Raise

When you feel you’re ready to request the raise, take advantage of an upcoming milestone to begin the conversation. You can time your formal request around a job anniversary, the start of the new calendar year, a performance review, etc.

How to begin the conversation with your manager

This benchmark can provide a natural segue into the conversation. For example, you can start off with something like:

“We are coming up on my three-year anniversary with the company, and I’d like to discuss an increase in my salary.”

Your manager will likely want to hear the reasoning behind your request, so be prepared to have supporting information on hand.

“Over the past few months, I’ve assumed several duties that were once part of X department, and I’m also supervising more team members than I was previously. My current salary does not reflect these extra job duties.”

During the conversation, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Does your manager agree that you should get a raise?
  • If so, what kind of timeline do they foresee?

If your manager doesn’t seem to think your situation merits a raise, it will be much more difficult to achieve one. Ask your manager:

What do I need to become eligible for a raise? Are there specific tasks or milestones you want to see completed?

How to manage up and navigate organizational process

Sometimes, your manager may think you deserve a raise, but the barrier lies with upper management. In that case, don’t be afraid to ask what you need to do to convince them that you deserve a salary increase.

What sorts of achievements is upper management looking for when determining whether I receive a raise?

When you leave this meeting, you should have a sense of how likely it is that you’ll receive a raise and what steps, if any, you need to take to become eligible for one. Regardless of the outcome, it’s always a good idea to plan a follow-up conversation. You can revisit the topic with your manager by saying something like:

As we mentioned before, I’d like to revisit my request for a raise. I’ve completed X, Y, and Z projects since then and would like my request reevaluated.

A last resort can be to apply for another job, even if you don’t intend on leaving. Having a competitive job offer in hand basically forces your employer to take a hard look at your salary and how much they are willing to keep you on board with the company.

After Your Raise

Starting that initial conversation about a raise can be difficult, but you never want to undersell yourself with any employer. With clear communication and expectations, these conversations don’t have to be a source of anxiety.

Other Resources

By Taylor Thompson

Taylor is a co-founder at Purpose Built Ventures, where he helps launch mission-driven companies. Before Purpose Built, Taylor led growth at Almanac, strategy for Curious Learning, and product at PharmaSecure. His work helps 100,000s of people collaborate at work, 4 million children learn to read, and protects billions of medicines from counterfeiting. He has hired dozens of people, helped raise more than $50 million, and contributed to HBR.org as a researcher with Clay Christensen. Taylor is an Echoing Green Fellow, and he has degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School.

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