How to negotiate a pay raise (the right way)

negotiate a pay raise

Ever felt like you should negotiate a pay raise? I mean, who doesn't like more money, especially when you know the market is paying higher elsewhere (or, dare we say, within the same company)?

Ready to ask for that higher salary right now? In this post you will learn:

  1. What to Focus On: It's business, not personal
  2. Do Your Research
  3. How to Ask

Know you're worth more, but afraid to ask for a salary increase? Women are the worst at this!

In Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, the authors show women negotiate 30 percent less often then men and, when we do, we ask for up to $16,000 less.

Low confidence, and lack of female role models in leadership positions are to blame. I also argue women are taught that prioritizing money is unseemly, and the equivalent to greedy. Eff that!

The net result? In 2015, the gender wage gap narrowed by just .4 of a percent. In fact, the pay gap “has not shown a statistically significant annual increase since 2007,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau!

Not surprising, this affects our individual wellbeing.

A recent Payscale survey found nearly 60 percent of workers have never asked for a raise from their employer. It also found 44 percent of those who did discuss their current salary and requested higher pay, got one—and those who asked tended to be happier in their jobs than those who did not.

If you're one of the majority who have not approached your boss about a raise, start a plan of attack now. Here is how to negotiate a higher salary — or fees if you are self-employed or own a business:

A raise is business, not personal

The PayScale survey found employees avoid salary negotiation because they're worried about being fired or appearing too pushy (like women fear being called ‘bossy'?).

But a negotiation is not about whether people like each other; it's a conversation with the goal of coming to a mutual decision which benefits both parties. It can actually be a win-win situation, if you bring up the pay scale in the right manner.

If you are paid fairly, you are more committed to your work and company. Your boss feels more confident you will be a better employee and stay around longer. Bosses HATE replacing workers. It is expensive and time consuming.

Capitalize on that fear!

Do your salary research

First, understand your value in the marketplace to see if there is really wiggle room, or if you are asking for a pay raise without a good reason.

Check sites like PayScale and CareerBuilder, look at comparable job postings, ask your colleagues, and inquire with industry associations and recruiters. Then, define your boss's and the company's greatest needs and challenges. Understand how your past performance and current skills address those pain points.

Whenever possible, quantify your success and put a number on it. Prove how your marketing efforts drove this much more traffic to the company's web site, or that you exceeded sales goals, which meant X million dollars in more revenue for them.

If your firm's top priority is to grow a certain segment of their business, show how your deep contacts within the group have already led to the bottom line, and can stand to contribute even more next year. Focus on the other party.

Also, consider timing. If it's been more than a year since your raise or hire, or evaluations are just several months away, now is a good time to approach the boss.

Most companies stipulate a certain sum of money for payroll, raises, and bonuses, and some of that can decided based on performance reviews. That said, even if your colleagues warn you that a raise is not likely, consider going for it anyway. But if there have been massive layoffs or any other kind of financial crises, you probably won't gain anything from going for it.

How to ask for a raise

Approach your boss about meeting to discuss your salary. Keep communication in line with your normal exchanges.

For example, if your boss is typically very direct, also be direct. If you have frank weekly lunch meetings, bring it up then. If you chat face-to-face throughout the day, it may seem unusually passive to suddenly approach them by email. Likewise, if you're on instant message throughout the workday, suddenly popping into their cubicle could be surprising.

Use this type of language to set up the meeting:

“Can we meet in the next week to discuss my compensation?”

During the meeting, keep the tone light, direct, and non-emotional (it's business, not personal!).

Arrive armed with documents backing your performance, but start with a verbal, top-line summary of your accomplishments, as well as any additional responsibilities you've taken on during your tenure.

Don't forget to position your case to appeal to their interests. And don't take for granted your boss is aware of all of your duties or successes. If your research indicates you're paid below market, mention that, too. Here are some scripts:

“I believe my accomplishments deserve a salary of X, based on what other positions are paying, and my successes for the company.”

Always have a Plan B

In the event you're turned down, ask about other benefits.

For example, see if your company pays a “spot bonus,” a reward for a single project done well. Or counter with a more flexible work schedule, more vacation time, or increased training possibilities.

If you're find difficulty getting a raise in your current situation, consider looking for a new job. Some of the biggest pay raises typically come when workers switch companies.

More posts on how women can earn more

Women must share income figures to get ahead

Why you can't afford to do your own laundry

Are you part of the new Facebook group, Millionaire Single Moms? No income requirement, though BIG GOALS and a POSITIVE MINDSET required! Join now! 

Are you following my podcast Like a Mother With Emma Johnson? Here on iTunes!

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

1 Comment

  1. pranit on February 12, 2018 at 1:37 am

    Very nice article!
    currently i stuck with same situation on how should i negotiate my pay raise, i have searched for many tips on internet but finally came to this great article with best possible tips and guide to negotiate salary hike. Thanks a lot for sharing with us, will be so helpful with this!

Leave a Comment