• April 2015

When Is It a Good Time to Ask for a Raise?

By Barbara Mitchell
HR Expert and Co-Author of
The Essential HR Handbook and The Big Book of HR

The time to ask for a raise is when you’ve just done something so wonderful that the organization knows it can’t afford to lose you. At that moment, you hold all the cards, and the power is in your hands. However, how often does that happen in anyone’s career?

So, when should you ask for a raise?

I wish we didn’t have to have this discussion. I wish that organizations had good pay practices and paid fairly for the work done. I wish organizations did periodic salary surveys to keep current in their fields and ensure their pay practices were competitive and fair. I also wish I’d win the lottery!

There are only a couple of circumstances when asking for a raise makes any sense — and you stand a chance of getting one. Before you ask for a raise, ask yourself first if you are doing great work.

  1. Have you met your established goals or exceeded them? I believe it is a mistake to ask for more money if you are just doing the minimum to get by at work — you have to be better than just okay. You don’t necessarily deserve a raise just because your friend got one.
  2. Are you being underpaid? If you are performing at a high level and you think you are underpaid for your contributions, then it is time to research what your particular job is worth — in your industry, in a similar-sized organization, location, etc. You need more than just the observation that, ”My friend down the street just got an offer that is $10,000 more than I am making — pay me more or I walk.” You need specifics in order to make your point.

So do your research.

Salary data is available from places like Salary.com and Glassdoor.com, among other useful websites. But remember to compare apples to apples when looking at data — what are the job duties, what size is the organization; is it a for-profit or a nonprofit; is it located in a similar-sized city?

All these factors play into how organizations pay. If you have any colleagues who are in executive search, ask them what the going rate is for someone with your education, skillset, and job experience.

You also need to factor in what other rewards your organization offers, such as benefits, paid time off, and flexibility.

Most of us don’t think about the fact that our organizations pay at least a portion of our health care benefits plus Social Security and unemployment taxes as well as provide paid time off.

If your organization provides you with a year-end benefits statement, this is a good place to get information on how much your total package is worth — salary plus benefits plus government-mandated programs.

It may surprise you to see that your salary is only a part of what is called your “total rewards.” It’s important to consider the entire package when thinking about what you are worth in the marketplace.

Once you have the facts you need and you decide to ask for a raise, be sure to think through what your bottom line will be.

  • I recommend you role-play the discussion with a friend or colleague before you actually ask for a meeting with your supervisor.
  • Know whether you are prepared to hear a “no” response and what that will do to your commitment to your job and your employer.
  • Read up on negotiating skills in a book like Getting to Yes, by Ury and Fisher. It has been around for a while and is still an excellent resource for negotiating skills.

Remember: Before you ask for a raise — be sure you are a great performer and you’ve done your research.

I wish you success!

Thoughts, questions? Send me an email.


About Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors, and has consulted for organizations around the world.

She has served in senior human-resources leadership positions with Marriott International and at several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding The Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Her books include The Essential HR Handbook and The Big Book of HR.

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