How to Ask for a Raise - and Actually Get It

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By Hannah Morgan

Almost 60 percent of workers don't ask for a raise. Are you leaving money on the table?

Based on the findings from a PayScale salary survey, released today, 57 percent of people haven't asked for a raise in their current field. Why not? Thirty-eight percent said their employers gave them a raise before they needed to ask for one. However, many were not comfortable asking (28 percent) and some were afraid of being perceived as pushy (19 percent).

What can you learn from this study, and what can you do this year to increase your salary?

When to Ask for More Money

Timing is everything. This survey revealed that the best time to ask for a raise is when you are happy in your job – not once you start disliking it.

The survey found that 41 percent of satisfied employees asked for a raise, and almost half (44 percent) got what they asked for. However, less than 20 percent of employees who were dissatisfied with their jobs received their requested raise. Not surprisingly, employees who were dissatisfied with their jobs were more likely to ask for raises.

Your best chance for securing a higher salary happens before you start the job, and external candidates usually have greater bargaining power. Unfortunately, internal candidates fall victim to existing policies and precedents within the organization, such pay-band or job-level restrictions, which prevent you from exceeding a certain level.

Who Does it Best?

PayScale's study was broken down by various demographic information, and those who come out on top were high-income earners, lawyers and men.

The more money people made, the more likely they were to receive raises. Seventy percent of people earning more than $150K received the raise they asked for, while the same was true for only 25 percent of employees making between $10K and $20K. Employees with law degrees receive the raises they requested more often than any other degree holders.

Women tend to have more difficulty asking for raises than men. Only 42 percent of women versus 44 percent of men asked for salary bumps. Almost a third of the women who didn't ask said they felt uncomfortable negotiating.

How to Ask for More Money

Within PayScale's Salary Negotiation Guide, there are expert tips on how to initially negotiate a higher salary and how to ask for a raise. First of all, let's not call it negotiation. If we called it a conversation, it seems less ominous. As Victoria Pynchon, co-founder of, states in a PayScale Negotiation Guide article:

"That's all a negotiation is: a conversation between two or more people whose purpose is to agree to terms beneficial for all. The good news for women is that we love conversation. We're also pretty fond of agreement. And because we hate the word "negotiation" so much, let's just call it a conversation from here on out."

With that in mind, consider these tips:
  • Before you ask for a raise or attempt to negotiate, gather the facts and data. Know your worth in the overall marketplace and within your organization. Gather data that will reinforce your request, such as increased productivity, customer testimonials and other money- and time-saving successes.
  • Plan your conversation with your manager. Ask questions to uncover your manager's biggest challenges, priorities for the upcoming year and what your manager needs help with. Armed with this information, plan your response based on the solutions you can deliver.
  • Keep calm, and remove emotions from the conversation. Don't raise your voice or use non-verbal expressions of frustration or anger. When you maintain control of your emotions, you'll be able to think more clearly and rationally.
  • Chose the right words. Demanding more money because of how hard you worked seems logical, but it's unlikely work. Your manager needs to be persuaded. Use an assertive voice, and select your wording carefully to provide objective evidence that you're worth the additional investment. When posing your request for more money as a question, it sounds less demanding. Some experts suggest concluding your request with an agreement statement, such as: "And because I've achieved all this, wouldn't you agree, a 6 percent pay increase would be appropriate?" Others recommend asserting your success with a firm statement, more like: "I delivered measurable improvement in the department's performance this year, and I'm well equipped to help reach our goals to combine departments next year. Therefore, I believe a salary increase to $X is in line."
  • One trick most experts agree upon is using silence. Once you've made your request, close your mouth and wait for the response.
Final Takeaway

The big takeaway here is that everyone who isn't asking for a raise should develop negotiation skills. Negotiating doesn't mean just asking for more money. It is how you prepare and present your request that leads to successful outcomes. Without practice and experience, it feels awkward and uncomfortable to attempt to negotiate. Start negotiating today with family members, friends and even vendors in order to build your confidence and skill level.

Hannah Morgan writes and speaks on career topics and job search trends on her blog Career Sherpa. She co-authored "Social Networking for Business Success," and has developed and delivered programs to help job seekers understand how to look for work better.
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