The business world is fantastic. It's also challenging. Over the course of your career, you'll face ethical, cultural, political, and personal dilemmas in the workplace. You'll work with difficult people. You'll find yourself in compromising situations. You'll have to balance who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you.
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Asking For A Raise

Three Questions To Ask Yourself
Before You Ask Your Boss For A Raise

Simply wanting or even deserving a raise,
doesn't mean you'll get one.
Answer three simple questions to improve your chances.

Ask a room full of people if they want a raise, and every one of them will say yes. I mean, who wouldn't want a raise? Ask those same people if they deserve a raise, and they'll answer "of course" without hesitation. (Now, how likely is it that everyone in that room actually deserves a raise? Just for fun, let's assume that they all do.) Now ask everyone in the room why they deserve a raise. I guarantee you'll hear a chorus of random, sarcastic, and largely uncompelling reasons.

It's clear that simply wanting a raise isn't enough to get one. Even when we deserve a raise, we don't always get one. Why? Most people are uncomfortable asking for a raise. In some ways, it's easier to suffer and complain about not getting one. Others ask for a raise, without considering how to make it easy for their boss to say yes. 

Any number of approaches may work when it's time for the hard conversation with your boss. Whatever approach you choose, if you answer three simple questions for yourself before the conversation, you improve your chances of getting a raise. Here's what to ask:
  • Why do I want a raise?
  • Why do I deserve a raise? 
  • How do I best ask for, and get, a raise?
Don't risk leaving money on the table that would otherwise be in your pocket. When you're thoughtful about your approach, you're much more likely to get what you want. This is true in any life circumstance, but especially when it comes to asking for a raise. 
How do you give yourself the best possible chance when asking for a raise?

 It's As Easy As 1-2-3

You've heard me say before that you need to be clear on what you want in order to get it. You also need to be confident when you ask for what you want. The only way you can be clear and express yourself confidently... is to be thoughtful before you open your mouth to speak. Here are three important questions to consider before you ask your boss for a raise.

1.  Why do I want a raise?

On the surface, this may seem like a silly question. Who cares why you want it? You just do. Here's the thing when it comes to asking for a raise. Your motivation colors everything you say and do as you pursue a raise. All your boss cares about is whether you deserve it relative to everyone else on the team. He or she isn't particularly concerned with why you want a raise. Any motivation you have around "want" can muddy the water in your discussions. 

We all have hidden motivations at times. As a result, there are certain traps that we need to avoid. Let's look at a few examples of why you might want a raise so I can illustrate the point.
Hard Work 
"I need motivation to keep working this hard. More money will make it worth it." 
Maybe you're feeling overworked and under-appreciated. Your workload may be overbearing with no relief in sight. The company may be taking advantage of your work ethic. You're may feel like you're working way too hard for it to be "worth it" at your current salary.
The Trap:  Your boss cares less about effort and more about results, right or wrong. It's just part of being in the business world. Jobs require hard work. Sometimes they require very hard work for extended periods of time. Hard work on its own rarely warrants a raise. It's more about what you're achieving with all of that hard work.
"I'm entitled to a raise. I should be making more money than I am." 
You may work harder than other people. You may have more responsibility. It's possible that more is expected of you than others. You see other people getting raises, inside or outside the company. You should be getting one too. 
The Trap:  Your boss likely hates an attitude of entitlement. There is no "should" in business. You can't be compelling in asking for a raise if you feel entitled. Feel deserving based on your contributions instead. It's a subtle but important difference. 
"I'm not being compensated fairly. I feel disrespected and under-valued." 
Sometimes you just believe you're not compensated fairly. It can be hard when a colleague gets a raise or promotion. You may feel your performance is as good, or better. In some cases, you may find out that a co-worker makes more money than you. Sometimes they make a lot more money. How is that okay? Shouldn't you expect to be paid fairly and equitably compared to others?
The Trap:  Comparing yourself to others is a slippery slope. You'll be more successful with your boss, and gain more favor, if you make your case based on your own merit. It's not your business (in most cases) how others are compensated and why.
Personal Circumstance
"My personal situation requires me to ask for a raise. I need to make more money." 
Sometimes you're compelled to ask for a raise because you received another offer for more money. Or you may be having financial challenges at home and simply need more money to support your family. These personal circumstances are real and challenging.
The Trap:  Your personal situation is exactly that. Personal. Companies rarely respond well to a non-performance-based request for a raise. If you have a genuine interest in staying with your company, and more money is required for you to stay, have an honest discussion with your boss. Just be prepared to leave if you don't get it. The shadow of a threat remains long after the discussion and impacts your perceived loyalty long-term.  
It's completely natural to have any of these motivations at times throughout your career. Understanding the thoughts that are running laps in your mind... actually helps you clear your mind. You're then prepared for a conversation with your boss about why you really deserve a raise vs. why you want one. Don't let your hidden motivations impact your tone or language during a discussion. Identify them. Understand them. Then quiet them, so you can focus on #2 below.

2.  Why do I deserve a raise?

This question is a tough one, because sometimes you absolutely will deserve a raise and other times, you just won't. Don't waste your time or your boss's time if you can't clearly identify why you deserve a raise. You'll just create discord and disappointment if you ask for a raise and have no justification for why you deserve it. This is the time for tough love with yourself. Just wanting a raise isn't enough to warrant asking.

To determine whether you deserve a raise, consider these criteria.
Your Performance
Are you a top performer relative to your peers? Are you meeting or exceeding your manager's expectations? It's sometimes hard to remember that doing a good job is expected and required to keep your job. It doesn't merit a raise. To deserve a raise, you need to perform better, smarter, or faster than what was expected of you. 
It's also important to evaluate effort vs. results. Hard work is great, but again, largely expected. What matters are the results you achieve with all of your hard work. What do you have to show for your effort? What tangible results exceeded expectations? In what ways did you outshine the performance of others in similar roles? Did you take on substantially more work than others? Did you complete harder assignments? Did you deliver stronger results? 
If you can't answer "yes" to some of these questions, you'll have a hard time justifying a raise. It's not impossible; just hard. Move to the next category below.
Skills & Responsibilities
Have you taken on additional responsibilities since your last compensation discussion? Have you volunteered for projects or participated in initiatives beyond your daily work responsibilities? Have you acquired new skills, allowing you to take on additional responsibilities moving forward? 
You become incredibly more valuable to your organization when you can do more work, or more complex work, than others. Adding new skills allows your company to use you in new capacities to meet the changing needs of the business. The trick is to learn skills that are valued by your boss and your company if you want them to factor into greater responsibility or more money. Showing initiative and enthusiasm to use your skills beyond what's required scores points as well.
Market Value
Are your skills in high demand? Do you have unique capabilities that make you more valuable to your organization? Is the business moving in a direction that makes your role or function more important? 
While we'd all like to think that we're valued only based on our own merits, the fact is that market "supply and demand" influences our value to a company. Be aware of what your company needs and values at any point in time. Before you assume you deserve a raise, make sure that the value you provided yesterday is still valuable today. The more your company and your competitors value your particular mix of skills and competencies, the more likely you are to be considered deserving of a raise.
One more note:  If you don't know whether you're paid fairly for your skills or your position relative to the broader marketplace, do your research. If you're in the United States, use sites like or to determine fair wages for your position in your city. Similar resources are available internationally. Also check with your Human Resources department to see if there is a salary range for your position. That way you'll know if you're currently in the bottom part of the range, which bodes well for a raise discussion. You may find that you're already in the upper range of your salary potential, which makes getting a raise less likely.
3.  How do I best ask for, and get, a raise?

Once you're clear on why you want a raise and you've determined that you deserve a raise, you're ready to have the conversation with your boss. Most people find these conversations challenging. There's uncertainty about what to say and how to say it. There's even more uncertainty about what to expect in response. Increase your chance of success by being prepared.
If you've done the work to understand your underlying motivations, you're ahead of the game before you start. One of the biggest factors in your success is setting the right tone for your conversation. This is driven by your intention. Know that if you ask and don't get a raise, you're no worse off than you were before the discussion. Set the intention that you'll be compelling, straightforward, and fact-based, and ask for what you want and deserve. Also tell yourself that you won't be emotional, defensive, or reactionary no matter what happens. Avoid the traps of "want" and focus on "deserve" instead.
Productive Discussion
If you approach the discussion with your boss by communicating the following information, in whatever way feels comfortable to you, you're more likely to get what you want. The key elements are:  "I like my job. I'm committed to the company. I look forward to what lies ahead. I've worked hard and delivered solid results to the business. I believe I deserve a raise based on my performance, my responsibilities, and the value I bring to the table. I'm confident you'll agree when you see the information I have for you."
Always document, on one page if possible, your key results and achievements. Whatever you believe shows that you deserve a raise, include it, and hand it to your boss at the start of the discussion. Then walk your boss through the key points.
The "Ask"
You will rarely get what you want unless you ask. Don't expect your boss to determine what amount of raise will make you happy. Determine in advance what you want and be prepared to ask for it clearly. Example: "I would like to be at $x, which is an increase of y% from my current salary. Based on my research, this is fair for a position like mine in this location. This new salary is also within the range for my position, according to Human Resources."
This part of the conversation isn't easy for anyone. It's just part of the process if you want to ask for a raise. Practice this if needed to get comfortable making a specific request of your boss. Don't ask for a raise without being specific. You won't get what you want. 
Your Reaction 
It's highly unusual for a boss to have the ability to grant your request for a raise on the spot. Your goal should be to get your boss to agree that an increase is warranted and to pursue it on your behalf. Patience is sometimes needed. Be persistent, but patient through the process.
It's possible that your boss will challenge your facts or perceptions. Remain unemotional, always. Ask questions if you disagree. You'll gain insight and buy yourself time to consider a response. It's okay to challenge your boss's perception, as long as you do it respectfully and productively. The facts are your friend in these conversations, so stick to them. 
If you feel cornered at any time, or the conversation takes a turn you weren't expecting, you can always say, "You've given me a lot to think about. I'd like to spend some time considering your perspective and schedule a follow-up if that's okay."  
Always be prepared for the response that raises are not being given. This is where Plan B comes into play. Identify, in advance, other things that could be valuable to you in lieu of money. It may be more flexible hours, a different shift, a different title, or more vacation pay. Have a short list in the back of your mind. Ask for one or more of these things as an alternative to a raise if needed.
If the discussion is final, that no raise is warranted or being given, and alternatives aren't available, your biggest challenge is to remain unemotional. Anger, disappointment and frustration are hard to hide. Focus on being practical instead. 
Ask your boss what it will take for you to receive a raise in a particular period of time. Examples include: new knowledge, added skills, stronger results, more responsibility, or more initiative. As for specific guidance about what you'll need to achieve. Confirm the information back to your boss verbally. Document your understanding of the discussion and expectations as well, and forward it to your boss as follow-up. This creates a verbal and written record of your discussion. It serves as an agreement "in principle" as to how you can get what you want over time if you can't have it immediately. While you can't hold your boss to this in all cases, it gives you a platform to re-open the conversation at a later time.
Bottom Line

Asking for a raise isn't fun for most people. It's a lot more fun, though, when your boss says yes. The point of this article: make it easy for your boss to say yes.  You have more influence than you think, but it requires you to prepare in advance for a conversation about compensation.

Understand your motivation and avoid falling into traps that focus on why you want a raise vs. why you deserve a raise. Be clear about why you deserve a raise and practice how to present the information in a compelling manner to your boss.

Be confident and firm in your discussion. Disagree constructively if you and your boss don't see eye to eye. If the conversation takes a bad turn, ask for time to reconsider and exit the discussion. Come back at it fresh with new information if possible. If you ask for a raise and your boss says no, see if you can negotiate something else of value. If you absolutely disagree and you're unable to negotiate an acceptable solution, talk with your Human Resources department for perspective. Never threaten to leave unless you're prepared to follow through with an immediate resignation.

The hardest part of asking for a raise is the potential of rejection. Remember that this is a business transaction, not an evaluation of your personal self-worth. It's very hard NOT to take it personally when someone is putting a dollar value on your worth to the company. It's challenging to remain unemotional about the outcome.

Be honest with yourself about whether you deserve a raise. If you do, and only if you do, put yourself in your boss's position. Think about what will compel him or her to say yes. Do the work in advance. Be confident and compelling. More times than not, you'll reap the reward of a bigger paycheck.

More soon,

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