Daily Tip: How to Ask for a Raise

shutterstock Fer Gregory

Last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made waves in the wrong sort of way, when he told an audience of women tech pros at the annual Grace Hopper Celebration that they should trust the system to give them a raise, instead of just asking for one.

While Nadella quickly walked back his comments, his gaffe raises an interesting point: How exactly does one go about asking for a raise? Taking a few simple steps could help boost your chances of success:

Check the Employee Handbook: Many organizations tether raises to annual evaluations, with precious little (if any) wiggle room for salary bumps outside of that process. If your yearly review is coming up within a couple months, “seed the ground” by beginning to make the case to your boss about why you deserve more money—that way, when the evaluation rolls around, you’ll have already made a comprehensive argument.

Timing, Timing, Timing: If your company just initiated a round of layoffs, it’s probably not the best time to ask for a raise. Many firms also don’t give raises on an annual basis “just because.” Your chances of success increase if you wait until you’ve racked up notable accomplishments above and beyond your normal duties. And never, ever ask for a raise simply because a co-worker happened to get one.

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Be Direct but Polite: While money is a hard subject for a lot of people to talk about, bosses prefer to get right to the point. Whether you set a specific appointment with your boss to discuss a raise, or bring up the issue in another context, prepare to make a polite and straightforward argument, backed up by supporting facts. “I’ve done a lot of things that I feel have contributed to the company in positive ways,” you might say, “and I think increasing my salary might reflect the added responsibilities I’ve taken on.” Make a comprehensive list of everything you’ve done beforehand and study it, so you can respond to any questions about your record.

Stay Reasonable: Asking your boss to double your salary could quickly prove disastrous, unless you’ve done something spectacular like single-handedly saved the firm from complete financial ruin. Even a double-digit increase might seem like too much to your boss, depending on the circumstances. If your company is in the habit of giving pay bumps that fall within a narrow range—say, 4 percent per year—your most likely route to success is to ask for something that stays within that range.

Stay Positive: Sometimes you don’t win. Not receiving a raise can prove a crushing disappointment, but don’t react by lashing out or whining to those around you. That sort of negative reaction could harm you in the long run.

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