How to ask for a raise

Ken Pelczarski | TLT Career Coach January 2018

Earning less than you're worth? Studies show most people who ask for a raise get one.

© Can Stock Photo / edharcanstock

I THINK MOST OF US WOULD AGREE that money is not the primary source of happiness. Additional money resulting from a raise, however, can at least help you keep up with inflation and improve your standard of living. It also can provide a feeling of satisfaction from knowing that you are being compensated and treated fairly.

If you work for a company that does not give merit salary increases, it will be difficult to increase your salary by more than 2%-4% per year unless you obtain a promotion, ask for a raise or leave the company.

Below are several examples of how easy it is for an individual to fall outside of a competitive salary range.

A new chemistry graduate started a job in quality control at a $42,000 salary five years ago, moved quickly into R&D and is now earning $48,000 after 2%-3% annual increases.
An operations manager has been working for a small lubricants manufacturer for 20 years, starting at $50,000, and now earns $79,000 after 2%-3% annual increases.
A highly accomplished sales manager has increased business by 15%-20% in each of the past five years and has seen her base salary increase from $90,000 to only $98,000.
An unemployed quality control manager was earning $75,000 and has accepted a non-managerial quality control position at $60,000, has worked up to a managerial role within two years and now earns $63,000.

I have described 16 possible job scenarios below (listed in order of relevance to salary). It may be an excellent time to ask for a raise if one or more of these scenarios apply to you.

1. You have not been given a promised raise.
2. You are not earning a salary near your average worth in the industry.
3. You have earned a promotion.
4. You have taken over duties, in addition to your own, of an employee who left the company.
5. You have been assigned much greater responsibilities.
6. You had exceptional accomplishments in the past year.
7. You have acquired a large amount of new business for the company.
8. You have saved a tremendous amount of money for the company.
9. You just had an outstanding performance review.
10. You have acquired new education or certification related to your job.
11. You won a prestigious company award based on performance.
12. Incentives, benefits or perks have been removed from your compensation package.
13. You have evidence that your salary is well below other employees performing similar roles.
14. You have worked long hours consistently for many months.
15. You have been asked to relocate.
16. Your employer has been highly profitable.

It may be surprising to hear that most individuals who ask for a raise receive one. This is according to numerous Websites including and So why wouldn’t you ask for a raise if you know you are earning well below what you are worth?

I have represented several individuals who received more than a 50% salary increase from their current employer because they had achieved success in the job and were able to present a solid case relating to being paid well below industry average. Since most counteroffer situations do not work out long term, discuss salary issues with your employer before deciding to actively search for a new job for compensation reasons. 

1. Set up an appointment. Requesting a raise is a process that requires advanced thought and preparation. Schedule a 20-30-minute appointment with your boss to have a relaxed and focused conversation without hurry or distractions. Present your argument in an organized and thorough fashion to improve your chances of receiving a raise. Asking for a raise in a casual manner will cause your employer to take the request less seriously.

2. Emphasize your worth in the industry. Your average worth in the industry, above all, should be emphasized when aiming for a merit salary increase. Tell your employer that you have been staying aware of your value in the industry by reading articles on compensation, talking with colleagues and competitors and researching Websites such as,,, and (please see my Career Coach column, Do You Know What You’re Worth? in the September 2017 TLT). Your employer will be more inclined to offer a salary increase because of your proven value than for any other reason.

3. Do not focus on your wants and needs. Employers want to see value in their investments, which includes in the salaries they pay their employees. Your employer is unlikely to give you a raise if your request is based strictly upon personal needs such as to manage new car payments or tuition for a child entering college. Keep your argument focused on the benefit you bring to your employer. 

4. Back up your request in writing. There are several reasons to put your raise request in writing. First, it will help you organize your thoughts and overall presentation in advance of meeting with your boss. Second, you will make a more organized and solid argument to your employer with documentation in front of you. Third, your boss will walk away with a better appreciation for your situation. Fourth, your boss will be able to present your case more clearly to top management as needed for approval of your raise.

5. Avoid demands or ultimatums. Your employer should strongly consider heeding your request for a raise if it is made in a professional and non-demanding way. Demands and ultimatums are a sign that two parties are not seeing eye to eye or working well together. Presenting an ultimatum such as threatening to leave the company is sure to harm an employer-employee relationship going forward.

6. Be specific in your request. Requesting a raise from your current employer is similar to countering a job offer from a prospective employer in the respect that you are asking for a specific salary based upon knowing what your background is worth for a particular position. A raise would be difficult to justify for the employer if you simply state that you want more money. Your employer will respect the fact that you have done your research, know what you’re worth and are confident in your abilities.

7. Present recent accomplishments. Put recent accomplishments out on the table with your employer that you believe separate you from most other employees. These achievements should especially include situations in which you led a team or were directly responsible for projects that saved or made the company money or in which new programs or innovations were implemented. A record of exceptional accomplishments could easily stimulate your employer to offer you a raise that places you at the top of the average salary range for your experience.

8. Promote your job satisfaction. Asking for a raise could cause concern from your employer that you may be searching for a new opportunity. Make it clear to your employer that you are happy with your job, and are just attempting to bring your salary in line with what is competitive for your experience. Convey the main reasons you are satisfied with your job and that it would be ideal for both parties to determine fair compensation.

9. Be prepared to compromise. Always have a plan B with negotiations. Your employer may think you deserve a salary increase but cannot give you one because of (1.) a salary freeze, (2.) company financial troubles and/or (3.) internal salary-equity issues. Confirm that your employer would like to do something to make your compensation more equitable and then see if you could work together to be creative. Perhaps your employer can offer you a lesser salary increase than requested, a new performance-based bonus plan or additional incentives and perks. 

If your request for a raise is turned down, try to agree on goals you need to achieve before a merit increase could possibly be offered over the next three to six months. If attempts to obtain a short-term raise are unsuccessful, evaluate the reasons for being rejected. Determine if you should search for a new opportunity by looking at the future direction of your current employer and how employees are being treated.

I hope that those of you who are underpaid can discuss this matter with your employer and obtain an appropriate salary increase. It is my belief that employers should maintain open lines of communication with employees regarding salaries and overall compensation.

Ken Pelczarski is owner and founder of Pelichem Associates, a Chicago-based search firm established in 1985 and specializing in the lubricants industry. You can reach Ken at (630) 960-1940 or at