Timing Important When Asking for a Raise

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Asking for a raise is never easy, and the current state of the economy makes it even more nerve-wracking. But asking for a raise that you know you deserve doesn’t have to be as torturous as you might think — especially if the timing is right.

“If your performance and the quantifiable results from your initiatives have exceeded expectations and have resulted in X increase in profits, Y cost savings, Z brand expansion or customer base … then move forward,” says Marshal Backlar, president of Backlar Consultants. “But remember, timing is important: Knowing your company’s culture and climate, and your boss’s mood and confidence, will enable you to choose your time well. Just as important, you must understand and respond to the ‘them’ part of the equation.”

So, assuming that you meet all the requirements of deserving a raise, and you don’t just want one, when you choose to present your case is key. If you needed to borrow money from your parents, for example, you wouldn’t want to ask them right after they’d just shelled out $1,000 toward your tuition, would you? Probably not.

The same principle applies when asking your boss for more money. You can’t just waltz into your boss’s office and say, “Hey, I think I deserve a raise.” You need to plan and prepare for the discussion.

While the most logical time to discuss a raise is during your performance review, it could be beneficial to talk with your supervisor about the issue before your next evaluation rolls around. Especially if you’ve just had a major accomplishment that benefits the company and your annual review is still nine months away. Whatever you do, make sure you tell your boss you’d like to schedule a time to discuss your compensation. The last thing you want to do is catch him or her by surprise, which can often result in defensiveness.

Here are a few opportune times to consider asking for a raise:

  • The company just received good news. If the company just got good news, such as landing a new client or  signing a $500,000 deal, it might be a good time to broach the topic of a raise — especially if you played a role in the news. If you scored a new client or landed a big deal, you’ll be able to make a strong case regarding your contribution to the company.
  • You just completed a major project. If you’ve just successfully completed a major project, it’s a great time to meet with your boss to talk salary. Again, your case will be strengthened by your accomplishment. Just be sure to schedule the meeting at a time when you know he or she won’t be overwhelmed with deadlines.
  • You’re given more responsibility or a new position. If you’re doing more in terms of your job duties, it’s only fair that you would be compensated for it. While that seems logical to you, it might not make sense to your boss, so it’s up to you to bring it up if he or she doesn’t. The next time your boss gives you additional responsibility, ask if you can also discuss more money to go along with those duties. Just be sure to give reasons why you think those undertakings deserve a higher compensation.

When not to ask for a raise:

  • End of the fiscal year. This is probably one of the worst times to ask for a raise. Why? Most managers are preparing their budgets for the next year or completing finance reports — aka, figuring out how they spent their money — for the past year. Asking for money during this time will stress your manager out and may affect whether or not you get that raise.
  • After mass layoffs. If your company recently laid off employees, there’s a pretty good chance that it is struggling and looking for ways to cut cost. That means you’re going to have trouble getting a raise.
  • If your company has been hit hard by the economy. Be sensitive to things like how the economy has affected your company or how your company is doing financially.  If your company is in the red (or fighting like heck to stay out of it), it’s not likely you’ll get more money, no matter how good you are or how hard you work.

Think you deserve a raise and your timing is right? Check out these articles for tips on how to ask for one the right way:

5 Ways to Ask for a Raise
Can You Ask for a Raise in This Economy?
10 Pitfalls to Avoid When Asking for a Raise

Bing: Salary negotiation tips
Bing: Raises vs. perks

60 Comments
  1. Great post!

    While the cost of living keeps going up, the timing of your ask shows that you are in tune to what is happening with the company and that you are considering the greater good of the organization. You will be seen as much more of a “team player” if you take this approach and will get further with achieving your own personal goals.

  2. Great post, but I don’t think I agree about the end of the fiscal year thing. That can be the right time to make sure your raise gets budgeted, rather than “Sorry, no money this year, we’ll make sure we take care of you when we budget for next year.”

  3. Great post! I definitely agree. Budgeting for the next fiscal year actually starts a good six months before it begins, so somewhere toward the end of the 2nd quarter would be an ideal time to ask for a raise, especially if the timing is right on the other factors.

  4. I enjoyed this article. I have been contemplating asking my boss for a raise for some time now. I have been underpaid for quite a while, but have found it difficult to approach the subject in this rough economy. I am underpaid enough that I have started looking for a new job. I work very hard at what I do, and have received very little credit for it, and the compensation is in the 10th percentile for those of a similar position and experience.
    So, as I have discussed the issue with my supervisor, the plan is to ask for a raise right after I finish this huge project this month. I was glad to see that one of the best times to ask for a raise is upon completion of project.

  5. My company promised me a raise after 2 years of work and after completing my notary test. when I asked manager when the raise was gonna come he kept putting it off. I set up a meeting with the CEO and had a chat with him about this issue. he said “why should I give a shit?” To make a long story short I still have not gotten my raise and my attitude toward my job can be summed up in his quote. I am now indifferent to my customers and the bottom line is no longer my prime directive. If anyone can give me a good reason why I should bust ass for somebody who is not gonna reward me at all for my work, I would love to hear it.

    • Man-up
      Be thankful that you have a job. I’m in a state where unemployment is 8.5%
      Its sad that you have a dick for a boss….but hang in there anyways…good things happen to those who deserve it. Thats called good Carma!

      • Who said this person wasn’t thankful, they just want what was promised, it’s not about “manning up” it’s about respect and the only way a company shows an employee respect is by how much they pay them. Having a job is a good thing but if you live miserably because of it, how good can it really be.

  6. I was a team player and after 15 years with the company………goodbye.All my performance reviews were top notch. I wasn’t the only one let go. It was obvious us oldtimers cost the company. Wait until they see their production go down with newbies whom it will take the years that we had to become as productive as we were.

  7. So I assumed more responsibilities when another co-worker moved up, so I asked for a raise after I had worked for 6 months with the added responsibilities. We had performance reviews a few weeks ago and I exceeded expectations but they will not give me any kind of raise stating I should just be happy that I have a job (which I am, don’t get me wrong) but the thing is I am doing the job of 2.5 people now as they did not fill the positions that opened up. Instead of seeing it as you should be happy to have a job they should be seeing it as we are lucky to have someone who is capable of doing multiple positions. How should someone address this?

    • @ Heather:

      I am in the EXACT same position. A co-worker was fired in March of this year, and I assumed ALL of her resposibilities in addition to my own growing list of duties. I am already paid below average for this position, so I am searching for information online on how to tactfully request a much needed raise. As an added note, the CEO is only generous to the top-tier (AKA management) employees.

      Any suggestions?

    • heather,

      your mgr is very aware of the extra duties you have assumed. your job
      performance will speak for itself. most people don’t realize that mgmt do pay
      close attention to their employees. i’m not sure exactly what you do on your
      job, but i will suggest that you approach him when you know the company is
      doing well. let him/her know you are requesting a raise because you have saved the company money. especially since they haven’t hired someone to
      replace positions that were vacated. i’m sure you will get what you deserve
      soon. just hang in there! don’t let others influence you negatively. your boss will come thru for you sooner than you think.

      • ginrum,
        Heather’s manager is probably very aware of the savings she is giving the company and wants to preserve this for looking good to the company.

        Most of the time you have to leave to get a raise. Sometimes you can even come back after a period and get a raise.

  8. The best time to ask for a raise is when you feel you have the positional market timing leverage over your employer because then when the tables are turned and the day comes back around for them to give you a cut, they will do it, and then it will be a wash. It’s all about corporate leveraging, timing, and momentum.

  9. What if the company is just a d*ck? I’ve worked for a company for two years, taken on multiple responsbilities, working a two-person job by myself and only received a $3,000 from what I started at making at this company. I know the economy sucks, but everyone who still has a job is working their butts off while some people are on “funemployment.” I’m sick and tired of people who are fully capable to work taking advantage of the welfare policies in place. Get off your lazy butt and do something. Because those of us still working are paying for you.

  10. I don’t agree with the idea that it is a “good” idea to ask for a “raise” when you are given new responsibilities. To me, that implies a promotion. At that point you are not given a raise as much as you are given a salary adjustment. With more responsibilities comes more money. Simple as that.

  11. My wise father once told me “if you have to ask for a raise, you either aren’t doing the job. or you’re working for the wrong guy”. As an employee, I never asked for a raise. As an employer, I never gave a raise to anybody that asked for one. When they did ask, I simply told them that they should rather ask what can I do to improve my performance. I always gave them improvement ideas. If they followed the advice, a raise soon followed. It is important to understand that you must pay good people as much as you can afford—not as little.

    • Jim doesn’t understand that his statement is double edged:
      “When they did ask, I simply told them that they should rather ask what can I do to improve my performance.”

      So if the person was already a top employee, you still need to have them improve?

      Employees shouldn’t “ask for raises” but sell their employers on how valuable the employee is to the company.

      And some companies seem not to care about this due to the corporate perception of today’s economy. I have seen a high earner walk away from a position because his manager changed the game midway and cost the person a great deal of bonus money. The manager figured that the person would just take the change “because of the economy”.

  12. Jim- that is honeslty one of the worst pieces of advice I have ever heard. What you are implying is that if you just work hard everything will work out and you will get what you deserve. In theory, that sounds great…but in life that rarely actually happens. You can read statistic after statistic stating that even today in the work force women earn significantly less money than their male counterparts because they don’t ask for what they deserve! I myself negotiated a significant pay raise and recieved it. Should I have just kept quiet and waited for them to do the right thing by me? I don’t think so… If you want something bad enough, work hard and go out and get it.

  13. I lost a management job after 15 yrs with a company and called an acquaintance and inquired about his company. They had a position but told me it was an entry level position, they did however recognize the mang’t experience and told me if I did well it would open other doors. So far all my reviews have been of the highest grade, and they know I literally am working for half what I used to make and I’m driving twice as far for it. I have been told nothing but excuses and now seemed destined for a lifetime of 1 – 2% COLAS, which will take me about 12 yrs to get back to my old level.

  14. Kate, it sounds like you arer p***d off at your company and everyone who is on the unemployment rolls is to blame. Your quote “I’m sick and tired of people who are fully capable to work taking advantage of the welfare policies in place. Get off your lazy butt and do something. Because those of us still working are paying for you.” is ridiculous!~ You should look at who you are working for and if you have a problem address them. Don’t take it out on the unfortunate who cannot find a job unless they are willing to work for $10.00/hour. Try paying for a master’s degree on that!

    • I’m not sure where you are living but $10.00/hr is not bad pay where I’m at; however, I must agree that we that are fortunate to have jobs are having to take on more responsibilities without due pay because employers are lingering over our heads “there are 10 more that could fill your spot”. The cost of daily living is growing and growing and there are capable people sitting out there taking advantage of the goverment. I was unemployed for the first time since high school last year. I went a total of two weeks without a job. I took a job that paid a third of what I was making. Talk about a broken pride, but I have bills to pay, a family to feed, and children to be an example to.Some need to step up and do whatever they can. You can’t tell me they are making enough from the unemployment line to make ends meet.

  15. In this sad time of unemployment this artical insults evreyone who is needing help and assitance in the most fundemental way. Pls remove it ASAP!

  16. Last year my performance review was over the top! Best one I’ve ever had, but worst raise ever, a lousy .12 cents per hour. Plus, I didn’t even get my annual bonus. When I questioned the amount of the performance increase being so small, my boss told me there was a limited pool of money due to the economy. Well I accepted that and then questioned why no bonus, as it should have been at least $3,000.00. I was told that I would be given a “spot” bonus in lieu of the regular annual performance bonus, but would have to wait until June 09 to get it. Now, at the time my review exceeded expectations in all fields and I took on addtional responsibilities, covered other persons shifts, etc. I waited, and am still waiting for my spot bonus and it is now March 2010! We are now going through another round of performance reviews and I just found out that the new person they hired is paid more per hour than I am, and I am that person’s boss! What should I do now? I have been with this company for 8 1/2 years and am now feeling like I shouldn’t even bother to show up for work as keeping myself on the straight and narrow, giving our customers the best service they can get, and only taking sick time when I am really sick (only 2 eight hours days this past year), while watching others get bonuses and raises much larger than my own. BTW, did I mention that for my particular position I am also grossly underpaid acccording to the standard for our area, even lower than the lowest paid person in this area. How would you handle it?

    • Emily when I was a HealthCare Security Officer for a city hospital Colorado I myself noticed that we were getting a dollar less than others in the same area geographical location the rockies to be specific. So what I did was a lot of research and made sure I showed my sources of information and compared wages and salary.

      I mentioned this to my supervisor and he was really surprised. So to make a long story short my research was presented to the hospital board by the head of the Security Department. And as a result everbody got a one dollar pay increase including the supervisors also.

  17. Help??..

    I have been working at this company for almost 5yrs.now and have not received a raise what so ever. There has been layoffs due to the economy, and this past monday 3 people where laid off and one person received a % pay cut. But now I have been asked to help out with other duties, since they laid off the person who was doing them, and that are not related to my job position I was set to do when I started. Should I ask for a raise?? I really feel like I should receive one since I havent in the past 4yrs. and now they want me to do the work of 2 ppl.

    What should I do?

  18. I agree, that timing is soo essential when asking for a raise. Not considering the right moment is a huge mistake.
    Here are another two “moments”, when not to ask for a raise:

    1. Before you take a holiday: “Hi, boss. Next week I am going on a vacation. Besides, I could use a pay raise, what do you think?”

    2. Not “On the fly” Imagine the following scenario: your boss jumps out of his car, runs to his office, he is clearly in a big hurry. In moments like this the only think you might ask him is whether he needs your help or not, don’t even think of asking for a raise. He obviously has bigger problems on his mind then to listen to your arguments supporting the raise that you requested.

  19. i will tell you this…..most companies now doesn’t necessarily look at more
    responsibilities comes more money. before you apply for a position, it is noted
    on the job posting the specific duties and responsibilities of that job.then there is that magic phrase that appears…..and other duties as needed. the way you deserve a raise is based on your job performance. for example: how you made the company profit….etc. you can go the extra mile until you turn blue
    in the face, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t something the company doesn’t profit from.

  20. I think perhaps I should get a raise!? I try really hard to do what I am asked by someone of GREAT importance. I REALLY care a lot for those I help! I am hoping this qualifies me. I really don’t want a large increase in fiancial gain. My thinking is in terms of benefits.

  21. It can be frustrating in this economy asking for a raise. I see the mind games companies play when the economy is in the midst of a severe recession like this one. I work 12 hour shifts, work every holiday and even on days off get called in to work a minimum of 12 hours. Come review time they call performances “poor” and give out minimal raises. Companies know the economy is bad and have a “you don’t like it here go find something else.” attitude. They have us where they want us and love it.

  22. Anyone who has a job is working hard for the same pay or less. The article was good and may have worked prior to the end of 2008. I’ve tried every tactic possible, and the bottom line is companies are holding off because of various economic reasons but more because they are waiting to see what the government does after the Nov. elections. 90% of job posts you see are not real jobs, or are posted by companies to meet government rules to publish available jobs, which really aren’t available or are being filled in-house. Forget about any increases in salary. It’s just not happening. Keep your nose clean and look busy at work. Hold onto your job. Don’t threaten to leave your job because of no raise because you will not have a new job to go to. You may see lots of posts, most of which will not even get you a response, call, or interview.

  23. forget unemployment… employers are now hiring outside companies to contest your employment… they use terms like misconduct, legal representation and set a date approx 1 month away for a hit/miss phone conference. Another friend told me, they had changed the time of his phone conference and didn’t even tell him. Since he was not there at the phone …. employment Denied.

  24. As much as I would love to give a raise to an employee in my company for putting out their best effort doing their expected job duties, I am still not convinced that this is the right time to give a raise when the economy is not doing well. I would probably wait until times are better, maybe re-assess the situation next year before giving a much needed raise. But believe me, I would not hesitate to give a riase to someone who is hardworking and loyal to my company.

    • #27 gene’s comment is pretty sad as he both doesn’t want to give a raise to an employee giving best effort for expected job duties yet would give a raise to someone hardworking and loyal to his company.

      I wonder what he considers “hardworking and loyal” versus doing a “best effort for expected job duties”? Does this mean the guy who works 70 hours a week and still chums around Gene for lunch and dinners and golf on the weekend is “hardworking and loyal” versus the 40 hour a week person who gets what is asked done and then goes home to his/her family as “best effort for expected job duties”?

      His statements also make him sound like Dilbert’s pointy haired boss.

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