Asking for a Raise? Timing Matters

By Kristen Harris

You’ve been working hard, doing great work, contributing to your company, and you want to ask for a raise. But is now the right time? When and how do you bring it up? Is it too soon (or not soon enough)?

Asking for a raise is one thing; getting it is another. With a little forethought and preparation, you’ll improve your chance for success. Go barreling into the conversation without a plan or respect for business etiquette, and it can quickly become awkward.

The Etiquette of Asking for a Raise (or How to Not Make it Weird that You Want More Money)

#1: Talk to the right person.

Any conversation about your pay should be with your direct supervisor or manager, but realize that they may not be the final decision-maker. If their response is that they need to discuss it with someone else, respect that answer and ask when would be an appropriate time to follow up on your request. Even if you know who the final decision-maker is, do not go directly to them; this is one place where you need to follow the chain of command.

#2: Be sure the timing is right to justify an increase.

Have you been in the position long enough to prove your worth? Are you taking on increased tasks or responsibilities? Have you developed additional skills or experience? You may think “it never hurts to ask” but actually it can. Asking for a pay increase too soon or at an inappropriate time can leave a bad impression.

I believe pay increases should be tied to increased work contributions, not tenure. But, if you really need a time frame, don’t bring it up any sooner than 6-12 months into a new role. When hired, you agreed on a certain level of pay; asking for more after a few weeks or months is unprofessional and unfair to the company. They may hesitate in the future when perhaps you really have earned an increase; it’s hard to regain that trust.

#3: Schedule a time to talk.

Most people don’t like to talk about money anyway, so don’t spring this on your manager or just “pop in”. If you have a regularly scheduled one-on-one meeting with your supervisor, that’s the ideal place to start the conversation. If not, then schedule a time or check their calendar for some free time. When the meeting comes around, make sure it’s still a good time to talk because you want their undivided attention with no distractions.

#4: Choose the right setting.

Any conversation about pay needs to be one-on-one with your supervisor. If they have a private office that works; otherwise, ask to meet in another private location. You don’t want others overhearing your conversation, and definitely, do not bring up pay in a meeting or group setting.

#5: Know what you’re asking for.

Do your research, evaluate your role, and put together your case for why you’re worth the number you’ve come up with. Also, know the range you’d be fine with, and understand that there could be pre-determined pay ranges for each role in your company. Generally, the larger the company, the more structured the pay levels are. Your role might have an upper limit, and you may even already be at the top of that range. If that’s the case, ask what you can do to continue to grow and move into the next level. Check out Asking for a Raise? Four Steps to Getting What You Want and Pay Matters: Getting What You’re Worth to prep yourself.

Being thoughtful about the timing and setting of any conversation, including one about pay, greatly improves the likelihood that you’ll have a positive outcome. Be prepared and good luck!