How to Ask for That Long Overdue Pay Raise

In today’s economy, your salary should be meeting your needs, however sometimes it just doesn’t catch up with the rising cost of living. Asking for a raise is nerve-wracking for any employee. According to, a 4% raise every three years can increase your lifetime total earnings by more than a million. If you think you deserve that long overdue pay raise, here are some tips to get it: 

  • Watch Your Language

What you say is important when asking for a raise but also watch how you say it. Your wording can impact how your boss may react. For example, try asking for a “SALARY ADJUSTMENT” rather than a “pay raise”. A “raise” may sound like extra money but a “salary adjustment” would appear like matching your salary with your current market value. In line with the idea of your market value, mention your strengths rather than highlighting the negative. Dwelling on the negative can appear lazy and self-absorbed. Nobody wants that kind of person in a team. Go over your accomplishments and hard work without being a whiner to win over your boss. This can open up proper negotiations for your raise. Never bring up your length of stay. Saying you have been in a certain position for a year or two means nothing. The length of time in the same position is not equivalent to your performance or salary. While it is common that there is a raise every year, employers are smart enough to see who deserves a raise after some time at the job. Focus more on your accomplishments so you can prove yourself. Do not expect to get a raise if you just performed your minimum tasks – if you want more money, you have to justify your demand with top notch performance. This also means doing more than what is required of you. Salary increases are for top performers and those committed to excellent work. Watch out that you do not point out that you are doing the work you are supposed to do as a case for your increase. 

  • Timing Is Everything

How often does a raise happen? A raise usually occurs once a year but is becoming less frequent in the past years due to financial events. Before you walk into your boss’s office, make sure you are aware about the company’s status. Did the company recently let go of people? Are you getting memos on how to cut costs? Check where you company stands financially before you calculate your numbers. You can base this on the quarterly or bi-annual company report to make sure your boss can actually afford your request. It would appear unprofessional if you start asking for a raise without considering the company’s current status. If your company has just announced a good profit margin or record-breaking sales numbers, go confidently to your boss for a raise. They will also be more open to salary negotiations knowing there is money to give. However, even then do not go straight to asking for a raise. Always start off by discussing with your boss your current performance and value to the company.

  • Do Your Research

You should consider your salary negotiation as any business meeting that involves research and preparation. If you are indeed asking for a salary adjustment, research the current market value for your position based on someone with the same years of experience and educational background. Never ask for a ridiculous amount of money, as you will appear irrational and greedy, and take also into consideration your location. You can compare your salary to the current market but never compare it to a co-worker. You should focus on your value without being a sour grape. A salary increase generally falls in the range of 1-5%. Your boss will raise his/her eyebrow if you start asking for a 20% increase. Do you research, consider all the main factors, and then exercise good judgment when determining the amount you want to negotiate. Do not be discouraged – surveyed employers and not one of them had fired or demoted an employee just because he/she renegotiated their pay rate. But be prepared to answer questions from your boss during your meeting. How you view your performance may not be the same from your boss’s standpoint, so be open to ask and answer questions.

And if you do not get your desired raise, know what to say after they say “no”. Then ask yourself – “What would it take to earn a raise in the future?” This will make you a mature and professional employee.