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

I Resolve… to Get a Raise

Dear, Anita,

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to be better with money. I even made a budget, which I’ve never done before. But now I see that I really need to make more money. I’m gathering up my courage to ask my boss for a raise. What is the best way?

Dear, Going for the Gold,

Getting a raise is a common work-related resolution. Even though the pundits tell us we are out of the recession, gone are the days when an annual raise is a foregone conclusion. First, does your company conduct an annual performance reviews? You may not even have a chance of a raise until your official review rolls around. If your company does not have an annual review system, be sensitive to the timing when asking for a pay increase. If your company has had a setback or is in the midst of a struggle of some type, you may want to wait until the skies have cleared to ask for more money.

Should You Ask for a Raise? Prepare Your Case. If your annual performance review is coming up, don’t just go in to passively listen to your supervisor’s evaluation. Prepare some talking points ahead of time. List your accomplishments for the year: What challenge did you overcome? What big project did you finish successfully? How have you contributed to your company’s bottom line? What are your unique strengths?

Walk the Walk. You can’t just talk the talk; you have to walk the walk – every day, not just the two weeks prior to your raise request. (Do you really think the cop doesn’t know you are speeding when you brake suddenly after you spot him?) Be punctual … every day. Do your best work… every day. Have a great attitude… every day.  Even if your performance evaluation is months away, start laying the groundwork now.

Increase your Value. Just doing what you were hired to do by rote is often not enough to get the raise you want.  You must complete your tasks with excellence, and for a larger raise, with that little something extra. You may need to take on additional duties to warrant a raise. Or, you can increase your value to the company by suggesting cost-cutting measures or ways to boost sales and revenue. If your review isn’t for many months, there is time to learn a new skill or prepare that proposal outlining your big ideas.

Know Your Worth. While discussing salaries with co-workers is generally frowned upon, you will want to do some research about the going pay rate for your position. Check out online resources, such as’s Salary Search or Instead of asking your boss for a specific dollar amount, suggest a range. And don’t be surprised if you don’t get an answer on the spot. Your supervisor may need to crunch some numbers or get approval from higher management. Do try to get a sense of the timeframe for a final resolution before leaving your meeting.

Alternatives to Raises. If your raise request is initially met with a “no,” think outside the box when it comes to salary negotiation. Could you work at home one day a week, and save childcare costs? Even at the same pay rate, that amounts to increased dollars in your wallet. Would your company be willing to offer you a one-time bonus for a special project? Are they willing to pay for your continuing education, which will benefit you in your current position as well as in jobs to come?

The best way to get a raise is to make yourself invaluable, and make your boss look good to their clients or supervisors. My past blog, Achieving the Annual Raise, gives further tips for increasing your earning power.

Readers: What has been your most successful strategy to get the pay raise you asked for?

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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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