Money- Should You Ask For A Raise?


June 22, 2010

Money, get away.
Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay.
Money, its a gas.
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.
New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think Ill buy me a football team.

‘Money’ by Pink Floyd- The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

Money is always on an employee’s mind.  And, I’ve been getting questions lately about raises.  They want to know:

  • When is it ok to ask for a raise?
  • Can you ask for a raise during a recession?
  • Do you have to wait for a performance review to ask for a raise?
  • How do you know how much to ask for?
  • If another company is trying to recruit me, should I ask for a raise in my current job?

While there are no right or wrong answers here, I’ll give my 2 cents.  I personally do not believe in asking the boss for a raise. I do advocate for making sure your boss knows what you’ve been doing, when you’re going the extra mile, when you’ve landed a big account, completed an exceptionally challenging project, etc.  In most organizations, if your boss understands that you’re doing great things, an increase will come naturally.

If you still feel compelled to ask for a raise, there are a few things you can do to help ensure that you will have a positive result.

Organize the facts- Be prepared to discuss the accomplishments you’ve had that go above and beyond what is expected.  Especially today, when many organizations are having a hard time maintaining the revenue flow they once enjoyed, you will have to have concrete reasons how you have made a difference to the bottom line.  Have you completed a new degree?  Have you obtained a certification?  Have you taken on a great degree of added responsibilities in your current role?  All these things can factor into the decision of whether or not to give a raise, whether during the annual performance review or off-cycle.

Understand your market value- This is the part that can get tricky.  I’ve had many conversations with employees over the years who run to sites like as the one source to tell them how much they should be making.  I’m not knocking at all.  It is a source.  One source.  But, in order to uncover how much you are worth in the market, you need more.

You need to have multiple sources that can help you see how you really fit in the market.  If you know someone in the HR or recruiting industry, this is a good person to check with to get an idea of where you are in your industry from a compensation standpoint.  You can check with sources like Manpower’s “My Path” career center,, or other industry job boards to determine what companies are paying for similar positions in your area.

What to avoid–  One tactic I’ve seen used during my career is the employee will say, “Well, John in my department says he makes $XXX so I need to get a raise.”  This does not work.  When HR or the recruiter work with a hiring manager to make an offer to a candidate, there are so many factors that contribute to that final offer decision.  You can be certain that if someone else is making a vastly different rate, they had different circumstances, skills, and experiences that led to that rate.  I’ve also heard of employees who tell other people an overly-inflated rate just to stir up trouble.  So, if a colleague is telling you exactly how much they make, be leery.

Also, knowing how well your company is doing financially is important.  Don’t ask for a raise if the organization is in trouble, in the midst of layoffs in other departments, or freezing increases for everyone.  You will be setting yourself up for failure.

What do you think?  Do you favor asking for raises?  Have you done it successfully?  Have people asked you for a raise and been successful?  Tell me in the comments if you agree or disagree with me, what works, and what doesn’t.


  • Being a hair dresser, I have to ask for raises. Since my clients are my bosses, I have to make that determination all by myself. It is not easy.

    I had to increase my prices in my primary market. I had not done so in seven years. The main factor of why I had not was the fact that I had moved three times in four years. But the recession was on my mind, as well. When people are hurting financially, it is hard to ask for another dime.

    But in essence, I had to finally convince myself that my supplies were not getting any cheaper (when infact they have gone up 100% over the seven years it had been since my last increase), my expenses were getting higher, and I felt the quality of the “Doug Experience” was diminishing as a result of me eating the cost increases. My justification to my “bosses” is that this price increase will be reinvested to make a better “Doug Experience”, and I feel I am not being disingenuous by making such a statement.

    The funniest thing is that in my primary market, about half of my clients were essentially telling me to raise my prices. So in order to keep them happy, I did!!!!

    I suppose if I were an employee, I would find it difficult to ask for a raise. I would tend to look elsewhere if I had not advanced after a certain point. I know that in my wife’s work situation, significant raises are offered to good employees when one hands in their letter of resignation. I guess that’s how I would play it if the job market was good.

    Good advise and a good read.

  • Timely topic as I have in front of me a well-prepared pay raise request from an employee. It’s been here since April while I convince the powers that be.

    I used three factors to advocate an approved 6.54% increase.

    1. A three year spread distortion in our Master Wage Scale. (was created for a good reason at the time and we knew that furture adjustments would become needed)

    2. BLS SOCS data. Yes, it is a year aged, but there are market correction factors that can be applied. And you can drill right down into your local wage market. Caveats, sector and company size data are not included.

    3. Recent job applicant data.

    This works because as HR professionals, we need to ensure our pay practices are aligned with our pay philosophy and practice of leading, matching or lagging the market.

  • Hi Trish,
    I think you offer excellent advice for how to ask for a raise although I completely disagree about asking for a raise. I definitely think asking for a raise is the best way of getting one. From what I’ve read, one of the reasons that women make less than men is because women are less likely to ask for raises, which means they are less likely to get one. It’s not the only factor but it is a factor. As in life, the best way to get what you want in your career is to ask for it; it also helps you articulate what you want and set it as a goal. I see a lot of people leave their job simply to make more money. In slightly better times, I’ve seen candidates use an offer as a way to get better pay or a promotion at their current employer. I haven’t seen that lately though, so I am curious to see what others say about the impact of the economy.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.





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