Show Me the Money: The Right Time (and the Right Way) to Ask for a Raise

Let’s face it – money is the reason most of us go to work. It would be great to be one of those terrific entrepreneurs who figures out the way to create income worth millions from under a palm tree, but the fact of life is that most of us are going to have to get income the good, old-fashioned way – by toiling for someone else.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure that you are receiving adequate compensation for your efforts. Most of us do focus on this aspect of our jobs before we accept an offer, but lose track of fair salary once we’ve been entrenched in a position.

Part of the problem is that, with today’s long hours and democratic office etiquette, our bosses are often our “friends.” That’s a great state of affairs when you’re enjoying a celebratory drink at the end of a long project, but not so good when you’re asking for money. Remember, it’s not polite to ask your friends for money – in fact, you’re really not even supposed to talk about it.

However, you can’t just wait around and hope that your “friend” remembers to reward your hard work with financial remuneration. The chances are that she achieved her current position by knowing how to manage a good team and keep her overhead low. The likelihood that she’s going to tell her superiors that her good buddy needs some more of their money is probably pretty low. To put it baldly, she looks a lot better by getting great results from a team of low-level monkeys than a team of high-paid professionals.

Your salary and compensation is your responsibility. If you’ve been working for a while and haven’t seen a noticeable increase in your paycheck, it’s time to take a big-kid pill and plan your attack.

The first thing to consider is whether you actually deserve a raise. Look back – honestly – at your accomplishments. Have you been largely responsible for the completion of a major project? Increased sales? Gone above and beyond to ensure any success on behalf of the company?

Then add to these questions the word consistently.

If the addition of the word consistently makes the statement true, you are definitely due for a raise.

Start your research. What is the industry standard for salary? What are most of your peers earning?

And, most importantly, what is it that you want? I once decided to forego a substantial raise in return for a benefits package that was generally not available for someone in my pay bracket. That was my decision. I asked for it, I lobbied for it, and I was able to prove my point.

You also need to determine what objections may arise if you ask for a pay increase. If your company is in the midst of vast layoffs to cut costs, your bid for extra funding may help management make a tough decision easier. No one wants to be the boss of someone who isn’t happy with what they have to offer.

If your company is in a happy financial place, determine what other obstacles may exist – a manager showing off a budget at 1999 levels, an upcoming review (in which case you may ask to expedite the review), or concerns about the War in Iraq or Britney Spears’ weak parenting skills. You know the hot buttons for your boss – anticipate them.

Be ready for more money and new responsibility. However, you also need to brace yourself for any fall-out. If you are not on very good terms with your boss, tread carefully.

I once had an employee who barged into my office and told me flatly that he had been offered literally twice the amount of money he earned at my company. He said that I had 24 hours to match that offer or else.

When I wished him well at his new company, he admitted that he’d invented to job offer to try to force my hand.

He wasn’t that valuable, and my hand wasn’t forced. Within a week, he was no longer employed in my office.

Dave Saunders helps people stand out and “Be the Brand” as a personal branding and marketing specialist. Manage your career online: Create, Enhance and Share a better resume, free at

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