How to Ask for a Raise or Promotion at Work

What do you do when you feel like you’re being under-appreciated and underpaid by your employers? Asking for a raise can be tricky. Asking for a promotion can be trickier. But is it time for you to have this uncomfortable conversation with your boss? We think it is.
by Rob Eades / 2021-11-09

It’s nice to feel appreciated at work. 

Whether that’s via a good old pat on the back, a confidence-boosting “you did great today” Slack message - or the much, much more enticing offer of a promotion or a raise. 

A recent study by a well known software provider found that 41% of workers in the UK believe that they aren’t paid what they are worth, whether that’s because they’re not paid enough for the job they do, or because they are in a job that they consider beneath them. 

Interestingly, a large majority of those that said that they were satisfied with what they were being paid had received a pay rise less than a year ago. 

So, what do you do when you feel like you’re being under-appreciated and underpaid by your employers? Asking for a raise can be tricky; asking for a promotion can be trickier. But is it time for you to have this uncomfortable conversation with your boss? 

We think it is. That’s why we’ve gathered the knowledge of the best negotiators out there, so that you can finally get what you deserve. 

How to ask for a raise or a promotion

According to executive coach and negotiation assistant Lisa Gates in her Asking for a Raise course, negotiation is both a hard skill and a soft skill. Of course, it has a certain language, a vocabulary, and a set of learnable strategies and tactics. But it also relies upon your ability to listen and use your natural emotional intelligence. 

It’s been said that someone that never asks to negotiate their salaries can lose up to half a million pounds throughout their life. That’s a staggering amount of money to give up on purely due to fear or just being uncomfortable asking.

So what can you do to ask for a raise or a promotion?

1. Create a pitch

There’s no right answer on what to say when asking for a raise. But there are a number of things you can do to prepare. 

The best thing to do is work out a full breakdown of your strengths and what you bring to your job. 

A salary increase is a transaction, as is a promotion. You’re asking for more money, or a higher position of responsibility - so, what are you offering in return? Taking the time to assess your work history will help you to prepare to answer these kinds of questions. 

As personal branding and reputation management expert Lida Citroen lays out in her course Having an Honest Career Conversation with Your Boss, you should always be prepared to react to any possible scenario. There is absolutely no downside to being prepared. 

2. Craft your career story

Once you’ve found your strengths, you need to find the right words to strongly convey this to your boss. The best answers are always short, succinct, yet persuasive. 

You don’t want to bore them by droning on and on about why you’re so fantastic. Instead, give them short, punchy and well structured answers that get your point across. 

3. Do your research

You never want to undersell yourself, though you also don’t want to oversell yourself. 

Whenever you’re looking to negotiate a salary, research what similar jobs to yours are currently paying. If you’re an experienced worker and you’re looking to get an annual salary of $35,000, make sure that the going rate isn’t actually far higher than that. You’ll be surprised how often this mistake is made. 

On the flip side, you also don’t want to give a figure that is nonsensical. If the median salary for your job at your level of experience is $40,000, then you’ll only do damage to your negotiation powers by asking for $50,000. 

4. Be yourself, & be honest

The aforementioned Lida Citroen believes that honesty is a vital component of negotiating a pay rise. It’s important to be honest not only with your boss, but also with yourself. 

That’s to say that you should make a genuine assessment on your credibility within the organisation and the limits of your relationship with your boss. 

Are you able to take the step up? Are you ready for the extra work and extra responsibilities? Do you have a strong enough professional relationship with your boss? These are all questions that require an honest answer. 

5. Don’t rely on others

In her book Get Promoted, Niamh O’Keeffe outlines the importance of creating opportunities for yourself. You should never wait for others to determine your future as you could be waiting forever. 

If an opportunity is there, be confident enough to take it with both hands. A promotion isn’t just a chance to move up the company ladder, it's an opportunity to get where you want in life and achieve your goals.

6. Don’t settle

Niamh O’Keeffe also makes a point of not settling for something that doesn’t align with your goals or your vision. Not all promotions are desirable, if you’ll only be making your work life harder with minimal benefits then is it the right decision for you? 

If you are being given unsatisfactory terms - it’s okay to say no. 

You should never abandon your long term personal fulfillment purely to pursue a short term promotion. You should always have your end goal in mind.

7. Pick your time

The question isn’t only how to ask your boss for a raise, but it’s when to ask for a raise. Timing is often key when it comes to answering how to negotiate a salary increase. And no, this isn't about what time of the day you decide to ask for a meeting, but how far you are into your current role.

 If you’ve just had a middling performance review, or you’ve recently made a larger mistake - then it’s probably not the best time. However, when you’re nearing the end of the financial year, and you’ve been consistently providing good work, then it may be time to knock on your boss’ door. 

8. Networking is key

In his course Preparing for Your Review, Todd Dewett - PhD says that building an ongoing dialogue with your supervisors is key. Whether that’s taking the time to connect with the right people, or making your intentions and goals clear. 

Listed Sources:

How did we get so wise, you ask? Uptime features over 2,000 books, courses, and documentaries' worth of wisdom on everything from asking for a raise, to bouncing back from job application rejections.

Oh, and we've got lots of non-business related titles too, like how to travel on a budget to creating better daily habits.

Here's our list of resources of recommended reading if you're considering asking for a raise or job promotion at work:

And if you don't have the time - or the money - to buy all of these, rest assured that we've got them all on Uptime. ;)

Wrap Up

Roughly a third of your lifetime will be spent at work. That’s around 90,000 hours over the course of an average life. So the least you can do is try to make sure that you’re as happy as you can be during this time. 

You should never be afraid to ask for what you’re worth. Whether that’s a larger paycheck at the end of the month or a position that fits your level of skill and experience. So remember - don’t settle, be brave, and go get 'em.

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