Want a raise? Here’s how to ask your boss for more money

Centre your raise negotiation around how you're improving the company and not around personal reasons as to why you need the money, experts say. Illustration by Laura Whelan/Getty

The majority of Canadians aren’t happy with their paycheque.

A recent report by job site Indeed found that 83 per cent of Canadians are dissatisfied with their salaries, and more than half planned on asking their bosses for a raise.

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The only problem? It’s rare for companies (or bosses) to actually grant them.

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A study published in the Harvard Business Review found women ask for raises just as often as men do but are less successful at getting them. According to data, female workers only got a raise 15 per cent of the time, while men bumped their salaries 20 per cent of the time.

Still, there are ways to increase your chances of successfully negotiating a pay increase. Here are some tips on how to ask your boss for a raise.

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Pick the right time

According to Vancouver-based career coach Rebecca Beaton, asking for a raise isn’t a casual conversation, and it’s important you set a professional tone right off the bat.

“The goal is to have a one-on-one sit-down with your boss,” Beaton said to Global News.

While some workplaces address compensation during annual performance reviews, other employers won’t broach the topic on their own. If you find yourself in the latter category, you need to make the money conversation happen.

“Consider warming your boss up to the idea before sitting down to have the conversation,” Beaton said. “Be transparent with your boss that the meeting is to discuss compensation. This gives them time to prepare as well.”

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Catherine Thorburn, a Toronto-based life and career coach, said the best time to ask for a raise is when you have leverage.

“This could be after you’ve successfully completed a project that your boss was really pleased about, or it could be after one of your colleagues leaves and the company is short-staffed,” Thorburn said to Global News.

“They may be concerned about you possibly leaving for another opportunity that pays more and they will be down yet another headcount.”

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Timing is also about knowing when you’re entitled to ask for more money. If you’ve just started at a company and are still learning the ropes, you’re likely not eligible for a raise. But if you earned a higher title or your role has shaped into something more than it was previously, asking for compensation is fair.

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“If you’ve taken on additional responsibilities and done a great job with them, after about three to six months it’s time to ask for a raise,” Beaton said.

Generally speaking, if it’s been a year or more without a pay increase and you’ve excelled at your job, it might be time to ask for a pay bump.

But, a less-than-ideal time to ask for a raise, however, is right before a performance review. If your company does reviews for everyone around the same time, Beaton said it’s likely that “the budget has already been set and there will only be a limited amount [of money] to go around.”

Come prepared

If you want more money, you should be ready to explain why you deserve it.

To prepare for the raise conversation, Beaton said it’s important to have a clear salary goal in mind.

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“If you don’t have this then that’s more work for your boss, and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes,” she explained.

Thorburn said that you should head into the meeting with a sense of the standard salary range in your field.

“Research what typical roles like yours get paid within the marketplace,” Thorburn said. “[But] be sure to compare apples to apples. In other words, size, type of industry and location can all play a factor.”

Beaton echoes this and suggests looking on sites like Glassdoor or PayScale to get a sense of how much you should be earning.

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“If this approach doesn’t work, a good rule of thumb is a three to five per cent [increase],” Beaton said. “If you’d be happy with three per cent, try suggesting a range that’s higher than that so you have some wiggle room.”
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To prove your value to the company and to make a case for your raise, you should also prepare a list of your accomplishments — and gather proof.

“What are valuable things you’ve done to help the business since your salary was last set? Where have you gone above and beyond your regular job duties?” Beaton said.

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“Focus on what you did and the results you helped to achieve. The more tangible the better.”

While most of us hope that our bosses notice our hard work, play it safe and bring evidence of your success. Pull data or reports that show your wins or highlight the major projects you worked on.

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Thorburn added that you should also mention any courses or new skills learned since your last increase.

Be professional in how you ask for a raise

Beaton said it’s important to centre your raise negotiation around how you’re improving the company and not around personal reasons as to why you need the money.

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Saying things like, “I need a raise to cover my mortgage” or “I really need this to support my sick mother,” is not a good idea, she said.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business decision,” Beaton explained. “Your boss may have to take this to their boss so you want to focus on the impact you make in your job and how you help the bottom line of your employer.”

Thorburn said that knowing what you’re worth will help you position your argument accordingly.

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“There is nothing wrong with asking for a raise, provided you do it in a professional manner,” she said. “Be sure to always speak about your own situation and not compare yourself with other colleagues. That’s not a cool thing to do.”

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Be prepared if they say no

If your boss turns down your request for a raise, remain professional. It’s normal to feel disappointed, but how you handle yourself is important.

“Thank them for their consideration, and ask for their feedback as to why if they [can’t] provide it immediately,” Beaton said. “Follow up with asking what it will take for you to get a raise in the future and commit to a date where you will revisit the conversation.”


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