The Best Time to Ask for a Raise

Dear Anita,

How do I tactfully go about asking for a raise? I have been with the company I work for a year and a half now and no one has brought up the issue of yearly raises or performance reviews (small company, less than 15 full time staff between two offices, one of which I am the office manager). My responsibilities have greatly increased in the last year and a half. Also, we have some part-time janitorial staff who just got raises to equal my wage.

Dear “All in Good Time,”

Alas, some small companies without a specific person in charge of human resource issues can often be remiss in employee relations. Since you’ve never been informed about the company’s policy or customs for pay increases, you’ll have to ask now. Not for a raise just yet, but for the criteria with which the company and your manager determines pay increases. (Incidentally, the review at the end of your probationary period is a good time to bring up this subject in future positions.)

Sometimes you have to be assertive more than subtle. Bring up the topic with your manager. “You know, in a year and a half, we’ve never talked about the company’s procedure for pay increases. Could we set up an appointment so I can learn how and when I may be eligible for a raise?”

Some businesses dole out raises only at employees’ annual reviews, though that does not seem to be the case for you. At those companies, it’s a good idea to have a conversation several months in advance of your annual review to ascertain conditions for a possible raise. If your manager indicates you may be lacking in one area, there is time to improve before your anniversary date.

For companies without annual performance review policies, use common sense when planning the timing of your raise request. Make sure your business – and your industry at large – isn’t struggling. While you may not have access to the company profit & loss statement, your instincts, observations and, yes, even office gossip can give you a picture of the soundness of the enterprise. If your company has just landed a big client or received a large order, indicating an upwards arrow on financial charts, this could be a great time to ask for an increase in wages.

Manager Giving a lot of workLiz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, recommends these five best times to ask for a raise:

  1. Ninety days before your annual review
  2. At the start of a big project
  3. When you take on a huge new responsibility
  4. When you’re given another person’s workload
  5. When your boss acknowledges your contribution

Prepare your argument with tips from my post, Achieving the Annual Raise. Point out that you’ve picked up new skills and have been killing it (or in office parlance, “performing at a high level”) even with all the increased job functions you have been given. For other readers, if you have a shiny new new degree or certification, it may qualify you for a bump in pay.

In my blog post, The Best Time to Interview for a Job, research helped pinpoint the optimum day and time for an  interview – Tuesday.  The same theory about avoiding Mondays and Fridays applies to asking for a pay increase. Perhaps the “morning morality effect” found by Harvard & University of Utah researchers can further assist in setting your raise request meeting. Take advantage of your boss’s higher instincts and ask to increase your wage on a midweek morning.

Readers: How (and when) have you tactfully asked your employer for a pay raise?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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I Resolve… to Get a Raise
Achieving the Annual Raise
Didn’t Get a Raise

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mary Phillips
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 10:02:20

    One more thing (from someone who has worked for small businesses in a similar situation). Do your homework on what other people (both genders) are earning in your area doing the work you do (not always reflected by job title). That way you can be realistic and fair both to the employer and yourself.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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