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How to get the raise you deserve at work

Use empathy and compassion to guide the conversation, instead of being adversarial

(Photo: iStock)

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Asking for a raise can be a nerve-wracking, unsettling, or anxiety-causing. You think you deserve a better paycheck, but do you know how you’ll convince your manager? Research from the Society of Human Resource Management shows that nearly 80% of people feel uncomfortable discussing salary and other employment terms with their managers. So, how do you broach this subject with your boss? Here are some things you can do to get the raise you deserve.

Do your research

Draw up a list of things you’ve accomplished at work since your last raise, goals you’ve met, any new initiatives you worked, and key areas where you excelled or showed your commitment. Also, list things about yourself—both performance-based and behavioural—to know the unique strengths that set you apart from the rest. Research online to see what other competitors are offering for your position and set realistic expectations. If it’s your first time negotiating a raise, talk to a trusted friend or colleague in the company to get advice on how you can approach your boss about the same.

Once you have your personal assessment and research in place, you’ll be in a better position to make a strong case for yourself and reach out to your boss. Don’t treat this like a one-time event. Instead, evaluate yourself periodically to see where you stand and how you can improve to make your pitch stronger.

Once you have your research in place, you will be in a better position to make a strong case for yourself and reach out to your boss for a raise.
Once you have your research in place, you will be in a better position to make a strong case for yourself and reach out to your boss for a raise. (Photo: iStock)

Timing is everything

Most companies have an annual performance appraisal cycle. If you’re planning to have the conversation outside of that cycle, keep in mind the situations at work. If you think your boss is overwhelmed or there is a financial crunch in the company, it might not be a good time to have the conversation. Figure out a time when your boss is ready and willing to have a performance conversation and raise this issue.

Practice, practice, practice

Take out some time before the review meeting and think about how you’ll approach the conversation. You could do a mock conversation with a family member or friend. When you rehearse your pitch, anticipate the questions you might be asked. Put yourself in your boss’ shoes and figure out what will keep them engaged in the conversation or how they’d react to your pitch.

Be confident

People tend to evaluate competence on factors other than your ability to produce results. Research shows that people who respond in positive, confident ways about their abilities are perceived to be more competent, regardless of the actual outcome or performance. To convince others about your competence, make it a habit to communicate that you’re good at what you do instead of being modest. In addition, look assertive. Maintain eye-contact and sit straight when you’re talking to your manager.

Don’t be a pushover

How do you advocate for something you want without burning bridges? Use empathy and compassion to guide the conversation, instead of being adversarial. Don’t frame your raise as an all-or-nothing request. Be open to hearing out the other person while communicating clearly what you seek. You can also frame it as problem-solving—highlight the interests of each party and figure out ways for satisfying each other’s needs. For instance, if your boss says they are short on the budget to meet your desired hike, see if there are ways to agree on a lower hike, and think about performance bonuses, or quarterly appraisals, etc.

Use the I-we strategy

Make a pitch—not just for yourself—but for your company as well. In case you’re not being paid as per industry standards, instead of being angry, frustrated or passive-aggressive about not meeting industry standards, re-phrase your pitch to focus on the organization. You can say, “I know this is inconsistent with our organizational values and I know we’re going to want to fix this.”

Use what-if responses

If your boss responds to you with generic suggestions, use “What if” questions to guide the conversation to a specific, tangible plan of action. For instance, if your boss says you need to become more involved or take up more initiatives at work to get an increment, ask them specific “What If” questions. “I’ve an idea for an email campaign, what if I work loosely with the marketing team in formulating it?” or “What if I take the lead in creating a communications strategy for online marketing?”.

You can also discuss a timeline and how you plan to work on the same. The idea is to concretize a plan of action and gain your boss’ trust while showing that you are receptive to feedback.

Negotiate for benefits

Don’t negotiate salary alone. There are other non-monetary aspects that often have more impact on your job satisfaction. Think about the motivating factors at work and think about how you want to advance professionally. Maybe there is an exciting project you want to lead or a proposal you’re keen on working and would like to devote more time there in addition to your regular tasks. See if you can come to an agreement on how to grow yourself as a professional rather than just increasing your monetary value in the organization.

Prepare for pushback

Be ready to hear a “No”. It’s highly likely that your request for a raise is denied. Avoid feeling too emotional in the moment. The one thing you should absolutely not do is threaten to leave the company or say something you might regret later. What you can do it to stay prepared. Have a backup Plan B in place. It could mean you ask for other benefits like bonuses, or flexible work hours, etc. Or, you can take on more responsibilities and work to start showing initiative.

The idea is to not show your disappointment but to think creatively about how you can influence your boss positively. Show them you’re committed to your work and want to advance in the company.

This article was first published on, a digital learning platform for graduating students and millennials.

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