How to Negotiate a Raise Like a Pro

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Being paid fairly for the work we do is important to all of us. But what do you do if you feel like your pay isn’t reflecting your hard work? You try to negotiate a raise.

While it sounds simple, negotiating a salary raise might be one of the toughest challenges you face in your professional life.  Most of us aren’t trained in high-level negotiating, and even less in the complex world of organizational psychology and HR.

So before you request a meeting with your supervisor, read on for the best tips and tricks for how to negotiate a raise that will both increase your take-home pay and leave you and your manager smiling.


Know Why You Want a Salary Raise

Research shows that feeling underpaid is the top reason for worker dissatisfaction. But at the same time, we tend to overrate the happiness that we assume we will obtain from more money.

Think carefully about why you want to negotiate a raise. Do you feel like your work is worth more? Do you know your colleagues at a similar level are getting more, or is it simply an economic desire to more comfortably see through the month? There are no right answers here. But your response will influence how you prepare for your meeting.


Preparation is Key

The only way to successfully negotiate a raise is with data-driven preparation and a focused drive. Don’t rush into asking for a salary raise – you’ve probably already been putting it off for some time. But taking the time to research salary bands for your type of position as well as prepare all other necessary information will certainly pay off in the long run. It’s much harder to fight data than emotions, so present your case as logically as possible.


Know Your Worth

Figuring out exactly what to ask for when you will negotiate a raise might seem daunting. Starting with too high a number will likely get a rejection, but not asking enough could leave you feeling like you sold yourself short and that you lost the opportunity to ask for another salary increase for at least twelve months. Luckily, there are lots of options and resources out there designed to help you generate a dollar amount for your request. The first way would be to approach HR in your company and ask for the salary ranges for your job level. This might seem intimidating, but that is what HR is for. They should also keep your request confidential so you don’t need to worry about your boss being informed. If you don’t have an HR department or it seems too risky, take your research online.  

First, have a quick look for similar jobs to yours in your local area. Job postings may indicate a salary range. Otherwise, get creative and dig into jobs and company review websites that list salaries as well as sites like LinkedIn that have a salary calculator. Other good options include:

Another tactic would be to use contacts from similar-sized companies.  Money is still an awkward topic for many, so don’t go right in and ask people exactly what they are earning. Instead, ask them what they think people at your level in their company might be t


We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that attempting to negotiate a raise adds another set of challenges if you are a woman. While women ask for raises just as often as men, they are much less likely to get them.  According to the Harvard Business Review, women are given their requested raise just 15 percent of the time, while men’s salaries are increased after asking 20 percent of the time. The HBR study asked 4,600 randomly selected employees across 800 workplaces questions about their experiences asking for better wages and the reasons they had or not pursued a raise. The results shatter the myth that women don’t get because they don’t ask out. Sadly, the study, which you can read in full here doesn’t have any concrete answers why women aren’t rewarded as much as their male counterparts, but it does mean if you have both X chromosomes you’ll need to work (as usual) just that bit harder.

How to negotiate a raise like a pro

There are some great women-specific resources to help you not only calculate your salary but also provide advice on workplace equality and activism. Check out:


Know What Your Company Can Afford

It’s crucial that you have insight into your company’s financial position before you try to negotiate a salary raise. It may be hard to get the full picture halfway through a financial year, but use data from last year in addition to paying attention to any water cooler gossip that will shed light on the company’s position. Lookup reports from the head of sales, note any recent press releases and investor news that might provide insight too. It is also critical to understand your companies’ policies and rules on pay increases before you request a meeting. Some companies might have a very clear procedure for wage negotiation that doesn’t allow employees to make individual requests. Your HR department should also be an asset to you here. 

how to negotiate a raise

This is also a good time to reflect on who exactly you are going to ask. Take a look at your company’s structure and decide who is the correct person in the hierarchy to discuss your future salary raise with. In some cases, it might need to be your manager plus an HR representative.


Build Your Case

Just walking in and asking for money isn’t likely to cut it. You’ll need to present a well-prepared argument for why you deserve this salary raise. Develop a file of your achievements and success in the last year or relevant time frame. Even if there have been targets you missed gathering data and evidence of where your work has contributed to team success, growth, and company morale will be useful in showing your worth. Use a variety of resources to tell the story from hard data to any personal feedback you may have received from our colleagues. 

In addition to what you have achieved, prepare a future performance plan. Show what you are going to bring to the company in the next 12-24 months.  This will not only show your boss that you value your current workplace and want to continue to make an impact there, but it will also remind them of what they might miss out on if they don’t take your request seriously. Use the language of value here. Demonstrate how you can provide a great return on investment for the raise they are surely going to want to give you. This is a good time to include how your salary increase will have other benefits to the company and to your manager themselves. Brainstorm and identify harder to quantify ideas, such as loyalty and team morale.


Practice Makes Perfect

Try out your pitch on a friend or confidante. Get feedback on everything from your presentation to your posture. If you aren’t used to 1:1 meetings with your supervisor or if you rarely make public pitches, practice will be everything. There isn’t any need to learn a speech by rote, but get comfortable with the numbers and make sure you have the answers to any obvious questions ready.

salary negotiation

Finally, get a pal to help you pick the right outfit. If your normal office wear is jeans and a sweater, don’t suddenly rock up in a three-piece suit. But a slightly more formal outfit will definitely convey that you are taking yourself and your request seriously.

Know the Best Time to Ask for a Salary Raise

Be strategic about when to make your meeting.  Think about this both big and small picture. First, consider the annual cycles of the company. Don’t ask for the raise just as the new financial year starts, better to wait until halfway through the year when there is less budget pressure around.

Second, consider your manager’s personal schedule. Friday at 4:30 p.m. probably isn’t the best time to have a super productive meeting – unless that’s when you know your manager is most relaxed.  Request a meeting through the usual channels and be clear about the content without giving too much away.

Choose Your Words Wisely While Negotiating a Raise

You have done all the thinking and comprehensive preparation, but what exactly should you say when you sit down to negotiate a raise? Try a combination of assertiveness and open conversation. Begin the conversation with something like “after reflecting on my performance, experience, and achievements over the last 12 months I believe I deserve a raise.” Follow that up with a question that invites them to share their thoughts such as “what is your take on that?”

Be objective. Getting a salary raise or not isn’t a reflection of how much your boss likes you. So try and keep emotion and personal relationships out of it. Use objective language that keeps you cool and professional. 

Listen to your manager and be ready with your responses. Don’t try and get all your facts and figures out if they aren’t needed. Listen carefully and follow their cues to in setting the conversation pace.

To Compromise or Not to Compromise?

I had a friend recently who asked for a pretty significant salary increase in line with a big jump in responsibilities.  Her manager made a counter-offer that still seemed generous but she turned it down. Her reasoning? Never compromise. “If I take their offer they will always think I overvalued myself and in turn will undervalue me,” she explained. “I’m better off sticking to my pay grade, proving myself through actions and then returning to the table. It’s not ideal but I know I’ll get the best outcome in the end.” The logic is sound but not everyone has the insight or strength to take such a hard-line approach. The lesson here is to know what you would be willing to walk away with before sitting down.

Got Rejected? What’s Next?

Maybe the company really doesn’t have the money at the moment to increase your salary or the timing just isn’t right. Are there other things aside from salary that you can ask for that will potentially increase your job satisfaction as well as help your manager and company reward your efforts? Brainstorm a list of things you could request outside of a specific pay jump.  

  • The ability to work from home
  • Paid training or further education
  • Increase in vacation days
  • Company shares
  • New technology 

Getting creative here will both leave you feeling like you really achieved something while demonstrating to your manager your incredible negotiation skills.  

If you get a flat rejection after all your hard work with no explanation – it might be the time to consider moving on to another company or even a complete career change

If you do get feedback on your performance, ethics, or attitude try not to use it to your advantage. Spin the sting of rejection into a chance to re-evaluate yourself and grow for the next opportunity. If the job search is overwhelming, reach out to us for some support and guidance.

Success? Lunch is On You

salary increase approved

Congratulations, your hard work has paid off and your salary increase has been approved!  Sadly, this isn’t the time to rest. Take the performance plan you took into the meeting and figure out your next moves to ensure you are absolutely on track for your next raise. Now is also a great time to reflect on your larger career goals and set yourself a five-year plan. 

Use this checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything before preparing and asking for your next pay raise. 

Know why you want it
Being true to your motivations will help you prepare and succeed in asking for a raise.
Know what you are worthResearch a figure you can justify based on market trends and your own experience.
Preparation is keyCompile a file of all your achievements, company savings, and feedback to clearly demonstrate your value.
PractiseMake sure you have all your talking points ready.
Choose your time Be strategic in requesting a meeting.
Choose your wordsBe professional and prepare to listen.
To compromise or not to compromise?Decide before you go in what you will be willing to walk away with.
No money in the potWork with your manager to find other ways to be rewarded for your efforts such as more time off or flexible working conditions. Or, start to look for a new job.
SuccessCongratulations! Enjoy your new pay raise and stay focused on your goals.
Jessica Miley

Jessica Miley

Jess Miley is a freelance blogger and founder of Ways Art Residency. She is excited about the good, the bad and the ugly of AI and its effect on how we work. Ask her for a new podcast recommendation.

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