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Just as it can be uncomfortable to quit a job, asking for a raise probably isn’t on anyone’s list of fun things to do. Nobody enjoys it. Even if you’re 100% sure you’re going to win Employee of the Year, asking for more money just feels . . . awkward.
What if there really were a way to get a raise without going through that anxiety-inducing, perspiration-filled pitch to your boss and have them respect you more in the process? Well, it’s possible. Here’s a crazy idea: Don’t directly ask for a raise. I’m being serious.
What if there really were a way to get a raise without going through that anxiety-inducing, perspiration-filled pitch to your boss and have them respect you more in the process?
This is how to ask for a raise—without actually having to ask.
1. Do a Thorough Self-Assessment
Now is the time to seriously reflect on your own work performance. Be honest.
Here are two questions to ask yourself:
- Am I going above and beyond in my current role?
- If I were my boss, what kind of person would I give a raise to? Think about the qualities your leader values and try to see things from their perspective.
And how do you make sure you’re going above and beyond at work? You can go the extra mile by looking for ways to jump in:
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- Look for people within your company who need help and help them.
- Look for problems you can solve and solve them.
- Look for projects that no one else wants to do and do them.
- Look at your job description and outperform it. If you haven’t reviewed your job description or expectations in a while, spend some time on that and think of ways you have—or can—take those to the next level.
2. Ask Your Peers for Feedback
In addition to taking a careful look inward, get an honest assessment of your work from some coworkers and/or managers you trust. Hopefully, this won’t turn into a roast session. The people who work closely with you every day are pretty likely to have feedback on some things you can improve, as well as some things you’re doing great at. Use this information to see if your self-assessment was accurate and to keep improving your job performance even before you talk to your leader.
These first two steps are crucial, because way too often, people ask for a raise just because they’ve been at the company a certain amount of time and think they deserve more money. But when you’re really outperforming yourself in your role, others will notice, and the raise just might be your boss’s idea, instead of yours. It does happen.
If you’re already killing it in your role with no sign of a pay increase, then you can take an even more proactive and direct approach.
3. Meet with your boss to create a growth plan.
Ideally, in a healthy work environment, you have regular performance reviews with your leader to talk about progress and goals. Even if you don’t, take the initiative and ask for one. If it’s not time for your annual review but you still want to have a conversation, that works too. Either way, this is the perfect time to bring up the topic of your professional growth.
Here’s the deal: More job responsibility and more value created for the company usually means a higher salary (unless you’re making commission in a sales role). So, you and your boss need to have a clear discussion about your opportunities to grow over time. That way, you’re bringing up both a raise and a promotion—but in a classy way that doesn’t put your boss in a corner.
More job responsibility and more value created for the company usually means a higher salary.
Here’s a conversation starter that will help set the right tone:
I’m really happy and grateful to be at this company (assuming that’s true) and I want to make myself more valuable to the team. Are you open to creating a growth plan with me that will allow me to grow professionally and financially?
As you can see, finances are still part of the conversation, but they’re not the focal point. When your leader sees that you’re humble, hungry and smart and that you’re serious about putting in the work it takes to earn more, they’ll be way more likely to want to give you a raise. And going in guns blazing, angry, offended or entitled will have the opposite effect.
When your leader sees that you’re humble, hungry and smart and that you’re serious about putting in the work it takes to earn more, they’ll be way more likely to want to give you a raise.
Here’s How Not to Ask for a Raise.
I’ve been here for one year, all my reviews are good, my coworkers like me, you like me—so how about a raise? Listen, folks: Being at a company for a certain period of time and checking off a few boxes does not guarantee you a raise! You should be increasing your value at the company if you expect to earn more money.
So-and-so makes more money than me. Comparison is cancer. Don’t do it. There could be a thousand different reasons one of your coworkers makes more than you—from coming in with more experience to having different responsibilities—and whining about it isn’t going to help your case.
If I don’t get a raise, I’m outta here. Shockingly, a threat or ultimatum isn’t going to result in your boss asking you to name your price over bourbon and cigars.
So, once you’ve presented this to your boss (the right way), listen to their feedback and spend some time creating that growth plan with them. They might ask you where you want to be in a month or a year down the road, so be prepared with an answer. And once you both come to an agreement, you can consider that a successful negotiation.
You should come away from this meeting feeling jazzed because A) you’ve been heard, B) you didn’t have to put anyone in an awkward position (yourself included), and C) you now have a concrete plan that you and your boss have developed together. You know exactly what to expect and exactly what you need to do to get where you want to be both professionally and financially.
An important note: If your boss is not open to creating a growth plan with you or discussing how you could move up at the company in the future, it might be time to think about whether or not this is the right job for you. Having no opportunity to grow is actually a common reason people leave their jobs.
4. Stay dedicated to the plan (and be patient).
Remember, this isn’t going to happen overnight. Don’t go back to your boss in a month and say, “See? I’m following the plan! Where’s the money?”
If you’re putting this plan into action in a healthy work culture—and if you are truly delivering what you’ve agreed to—you will get a raise without having to bring it up again. However, if it’s been a year since you and your boss developed your growth plan and you’ve been knocking it out of the park but have yet to see the raise or promotion, then it’s fine to request another meeting with your boss and (respectfully) reference the plan you created together. All the above guidelines still apply though.
Getting a raise and/or promotion takes time and perseverance. But if you’re in your sweet spot and truly passionate about what you’re doing, that’s the real reward. The raise is just a perk.
Need advice on finding your sweet spot?
I’d love to help. Listen to The Ken Coleman Show, and contact me with your career questions at 844.747.2577 or email@example.com.
About Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman is a career expert and national radio host of The Ken Coleman Show.
Pulling from his own personal struggles, missed opportunities, and career successes, Coleman helps people discover what they were born to do and provides practical steps to make their dream job a reality.
Listen to The Ken Coleman Show on SiriusXM or wherever you listen to podcasts and connect with Ken at kencoleman.com.