How to Get a Raise From Your Boss Without Making Things Awkward


Do you dread the thought of salary negotiation?

You and everyone else. More than half of Americans have never even asked for a raise, with younger employees in particular citing discomfort as one of their main reasons for avoiding the talk. That makes sense; money is an uncomfortable subject in most contexts, let alone when you have to tell your boss you think you are underpaid.

But it's a shame to let shyness get in your way since workers who ask managers for more money, perhaps unsurprisingly, tend to earn more, according to a recent PayScale survey.

Don't fear: There's a way to do it right. Follow these five easy steps to get the pay bump you deserve — minus the drama.

Be sweet, not salty

Perhaps you get mad just thinking about how little you're paid, and how unfair it seems. However, it's best to leave your anger at the door of your boss's office, and slap a big smile on your face when you walk in.

Sure, being affable makes people like and feel more inclined to help you — an obvious reason to be pleasant during negotiations. But, according to a Pennsylvania State University study, smiling actually makes you appear more competent too.

Assess yourself ruthlessly

Don't be unrealistic.

Before you meet with your boss, write out, point by point, all the ways in which you are of value to your company — or, if you have a transactional job, all the ways in which you make the company money.

What skills do you bring that not many people have? What's your value proposition?

Assess your recent performance, taking into account not just successes, but also setbacks. And make sure you can spell out what you bring to your job that no one else can.

Then come up with a rough dollar figure in line with your industry's standard, using tools on salary comparison sites like Glassdoor and PayScale.

Make a case for why you're valuable

Of course, we all want more money. But you have to be able to make a compelling argument to your boss about why you're worth a certain amount more than you're already getting. 

"The problem most people have is they think they're going in for a battle, so they armor up and that can make you look desperate," said Margaret Ann Neale, organizational behavior professor at Stanford's business school and author of Getting (More of) What You Want. "There's nothing I can do to force you [my employer] to say, 'yes,'" she added. "What that means is I have to give you a proposal to show why it's in your interest to say, 'yes.'"

Try saying something like, "I've been assessing my performance and the ways I've helped contribute additional value to the company; I wonder if we could talk about partially sharing that value through a salary increase?"

Show that you've spent time thinking about the proposed raise, and that you didn't just pull a number out of thin air.

Research from Columbia University shows that specifying an unrounded figure (e.g., $57,520) can be more effective than naming a rounded number (e.g., $60,000) during a salary negotiation — and that suggesting a range, on the other hand, can show flexibility.

If you do put forward a range, be sure to put your desired salary at the bottom of that range. Don't say you want between $55,000 and $60,000 if you really won't be happy with less than $60,000.

But again, be realistic.

If you show that you value your company's resources — but you can justify why it ought to be spending more on you — your manager might be swayed, and play ball.

Structure your argument carefully

Don't lay out your entire case from the start: It is very unlikely your request for a raise won't be met with some pushback.

Think of it from your boss's perspective and imagine — if you were sitting in his or her chair — what possible arguments you might make for keeping your salary as is.

Save a few of the big compelling reasons you're "worth it" in your back pocket, to counter your manager's objections. Otherwise, you'll lose momentum and end up repeating yourself when your manager suggests a raise isn't feasible or entirely deserved.

Staying calm as you respond is also important, leadership experts suggest: You'll want to keep the tone of the conversation collaborative — not combative. Gently pushing back on any pushback can make it more likely that you'll ultimately come out on top.

Have a counteroffer

Nothing gives you leverage like a job offer.

"If you're negotiating a raise with your current employer with an offer in your back pocket, you are the one who is able to negotiate a great deal," Victoria Pynchon of She Negotiates, a career consultancy and strategist for women, told Forbes.

Generally, the more in-demand you appear, the more valuable you appear.

Just be careful: This method can backfire.

Be sure to emphasize to your boss that you are aware of and grateful for all that he or she has done for you, and that you would much prefer to stay on at your current position: You just want more responsibility and a salary to match. Always stress any potential upside to your employer, not just yourself.


Lastly, don't try this move unless you are seriously considering the new position. Bringing up a counteroffer can rub even the nicest managers the wrong way — which means you might get a hard no, or worse.

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