How to Ask for a Pay Raise in 2021

“Why in the world would you want to ask for a pay raise in 2021, you should be happy to have a job.”  I’m sure you’ve heard this if you’ve mentioned to someone that you want a pay raise.  Of course you should always be grateful to have a job in this day and age, but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to ask for a raise when you think you deserve one.  Asking for a pay raise is definitely intimidating whether you’re a part time worker asking for a few extra bucks or someone who’s been in their role a long time asking for something more significant.

There are many different strategies you’ll hear when asking for a raise and many different factors you need to consider.  Unfortunately it’s not as easy as walking into your boss’s office (or virtual office) and them saying “You know what Johnny, you’ve been an amazing worker and I’m feeling good today, I’m going to add $20,000 onto your salary.”  If it is that easy for you, let us know where you work and if they have any open positions.  99% of those asking for a raise need to do it with some sort of finesse and not run into their boss’s office acting like a bull in a china shop (not sure if that’s still a legal term but hopefully you get the idea of what I mean…and for those of you who don’t, china refers to the stuff your wife registers for at Bed Bath and Beyond that is expensive and you use once or twice).

focused man working with female colleague in office

Anyway, here are some things to keep in mind when you’re asking for a pay raise (or pay rise for my Australian friends…read this to be in on that joke):

Timing , Timing, TIMING

I get it, you are anxious for more money.  Everyone is.  Except maybe Bill Gates (although he probably needs some now with that divorce on the horizon).  If you were to ask me last May if you should ask for a raise, I would have probably said no since it was the height of the pandemic.  Now that things have improved, it could be a different ballgame.  It is important to evaluate the financial well-being of your current company though.  If you are working for a place that is not doing well, it’s probably not the best idea to ask for more money that they probably don’t have.  Also, it’s a good idea to think about when you want to ask for your raise.  I wouldn’t suggest you do it on the Friday before Memorial Day when your boss is walking out the door at 4:59pm, or after the budget for the year has already been done.  You probably want to think about a time when your boss would be in a good mood and has time to have a conversation.  Many companies have performance reviews already built in to their yearly calendar, so this could make it easy for some of you.

cheerful diverse girlfriends reading document at table

Be Prepared

If you ask your boss for a raise and they ask you why, and you don’t have a great answer is a problem.  As great as it would be for a company to give you more money based on how much they like you, or your looks, or because you bring in fresh baked chocolate chip cookies every week, it’s unfortunately not practical.  Before you ask for your raise, you better be prepared to answer the why question.  You need to show how you’ve demonstrated value to the company and how much of an asset you are.  If you’ve had some big accomplishments during the year or crushed your goals and expectations, that would be a great thing to include in your conversation.  If you have documentation to back it up, even better.  Pretend you are a trial lawyer making a case for yourself, you need to have plenty of evidence. (if you’re a trail lawyer asking for a raise should be a piece of cake for you, minus the fact that your boss is also a lawyer that may out lawyer you.)

Manage Your Expectations

My philosophy in these situations are expect the worst and hope for the best.  There is a chance that you won’t get the raise you’re looking for.  Your boss may not be able to give you that type of money or he or she might not be able to give you anything at all.  Don’t give them an ultimatum or act like my son when he doesn’t get his 30th banana cookie of the day.  You also have to put yourself in your boss’s shoes as well and understand that as much as they like you, they can’t give you want you want.  If you feel like it’s unfair or you’re underappreciated and want to find another job, start looking.  Just don’t stomp your feet and pout or slam their door on the way out because that will only make your situation worse.

photo of women having conversation

Asking for a raise is a delicate conversation that needs to have a lot of thought put into it before it happens.  Brush up on your communication skills if you feel you need to before having the conversation.  Also don’t put too much pressure on yourself or else it may not be as successful as you want.  Understand the relationship you have with your boss and know what to say and when to say it.  Also, don’t blab around to your colleagues if you do get a raise or else that will create more problems that you won’t want to deal with.

If you’ve been successful in having a raise conversation let me know, and if you haven’t, let me know too and I can try and help you improve.  In the words of the guy from Taken to Liam Neeson….”Good Luck.”

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