Asking for a raise can be anxiety-inducing, but that one conversation can also mean having more money left over at the end of the month. We asked Robin L. Pinkley, co-author of "Get Paid What You're Worth: The Expert Negotiators' Guide to Salary and Compensation," for tips on how to best make the case.
Just do it. "The most important thing is to just do it," Pinkley says. You'll obviously want to strategize when and how you ask for a raise — more on that later. But no one else will ask for you. It pays to advocate for yourself.
Give to get. Once you've summoned the courage to ask, what do you say? "If I can't explain to them why we'd be better off doing what I want than not, then I don't have any reason to be in that room," Pinkley says.
What do you bring to the company that no one else can? Is your salary below market rate for your experience and responsibilities? If you can point to ways that you've helped the organization succeed, you have a clear justification for your request. "The goal is to get; the strategy is how do I give to get," Pinkley says.
Know your negotiation partner. Not only must you explain why your request is reasonable, but you also have to make sure your boss cares about your arguments. Some work better on certain supervisors than others. For example, Pinkley says that if you tried to argue for a raise with one dean at Southern Methodist University where she teaches by leveraging a competing job offer, he would just shake your hand and say, "Good luck."
Make it easy for them to say yes. Along with considering the tactics your negotiation partner will respond to best, think about the wider context of your company. If business is down, it's a bad time to ask for a raise. You should also time your request with your review cycle.
"If I wait until they tell me what my increase for this year, that's a bad time to ask," Pinkley says. "If I think I'm going to want a substantial increase, I'm going to go and talk about it well before the typical time."
Honesty can pay off. Some experts caution against threatening to quit if you don't get your way. But Pinkley says, "They need to understand if you have a walkaway." Be straightforward if you can't stay at a job because you can't make ends meet. It's reality, not a threat.
And be honest with yourself about whether you have a case for a raise. If you truly believe you do, but your company can't or won't give it to you, it might be time to move on. Just ask for clarity on the obstacles that are preventing it from happening before you pull the trigger. The feedback might convince you that staying is best or help you negotiate your next salary.