How To Successfully Ask For A Pay Raise: A Step-By-Step Guide
It’s great that we’re all here to manage our money and learn to make smarter financial decisions. But there’s a quicker and easier way to accumulate more money: just ask for it.
Yep. It’s that simple.
By advocating for yourself in the workplace, you’ll be able to increase your income and earn what you deserve. And since it’s the start of the new year, there’s no better time to start this process than right now.
Oh, and instead of asking you to reflect on banal questions like: “Consider how your industry is doing” or “Do you have the requisite skills?”… We’re giving you an actionable plan instead.
(Writer’s note: This advice is for a raise or a promotion, not for negotiation when accepting a job offer.)
TL;DR: Get The Pay Raise Or Promotion You Deserve
Why We Don’t Negotiate
In an ideal world where we’re rewarded for loyalty and hard work, we should all be getting pay raises and promotions without having to ask for them.
But the reality is this: employees who stay with their companies are paid 50 per cent less. And companies know that it is always cheaper to hire better people and pay them more. (Writer’s note: I highly recommend reading this Forbes article.)
While the average pay in Singapore is expected to rise by 4 per cent in 2019, according to ECA International – a global provider of data on information like the cost of living, salary, and quality of life. This doesn’t account for this year’s projected inflation rate (1.4 per cent increase), which would whittle your expected real pay increase to a mere 2.6 per cent. This is down from 2.9 per cent in 2018.
So if you’re counting on your boss to give you a respectable pay raise without you asking, you’re better off betting whether CPF will implement any new rule changes this year.
But I Was Given A Raise Without Me Asking…
If you received a pay raise without asking. That’s great! It’s probably because:
- You have a really supportive boss, or
- You’re leaving money on the table
Once you’re in a company, it’s more difficult to get the promotion or pay raise you want because you may be waiting in line behind others who should have been promoted a year ago. Sounds familiar?
In fact, you’ll find that if you applied to another company that is actively searching for talent. Your skills might match a higher position that they’re looking to fill – that’s your ticket to a sizeable bump in your salary.
But if you’re a talented individual who enjoys your job and what you do, it’s worth talking to your boss about increasing your remuneration before you consider jumping ship.
What If I Pai Seh (Feel Uncomfortable)?
Friend A: “I heard that you just got a promotion! Congrats!”
Friend B: “Thanks!”
Friend A: “Eh, so how much are you earning now? Share leh.”
Friend B: “Aiya… Not much.”
Friend A: “How much lah.”
Friend B: “Er… Within 4 to 5K range?” (When actually, it’s S$7000 gross.)
As Asians, and Singaporeans especially, the subject of money is somewhat taboo. To even think about going up to our bosses to ask for a pay raise is tantamount to extracting a tooth with pliers.
As uncomfortable and painful it may be, if we make the conscious effort to ask for a raise and work towards showing your boss why you deserve it, it’ll get easier with practice and your bank account will thank you for it.
Or wallow in your discomfort and die of heartbreak when someone else gets the raise or promotion you wanted.
Man… I Really Don’t Want To Come Across As Being Overly Aggressive
Was Joseph Schooling perceived as being “overly aggressive” when he was the gold medallist in the 100m butterfly at the 2016 Olympics? After all, he could have just been satisfied with being the fastest swimmer in Singapore. There wasn’t REALLY a need for him to go that extra mile and win Singapore’s first ever Olympic gold medal…
You get the drift.
If you are good at what you do, and you have the results to prove your worth. Then you are asking for a raise AND doing the work to justify it. Remember that you are in control of your own career, not your manager or your boss.
And when it comes to money, the reality is that you don’t get what you don’t ask for.
How To Ask For A Pay Raise: A Case Study
We’ve established that there’s nothing wrong with asking for a raise that commensurates with the extra amount of work that you do.
What you need now is a step-by-step guide, that shows you how to increase your likelihood of success.
But first, let’s look at a case study between two people: Shantelle and Sherlin. Both are powerhouses who constantly perform at a level that is higher than their assigned job descriptions.
- Meets with her boss every other week to provide updates on her progress
- Ends the meetings by asking if she is on track towards the promotion and raise she wants
- Asks about the timeline for the promotion and understands from her boss that June is when performance reviews take place
- Takes on assignments above-and-beyond her current role that will help her boss make the case for her promotion
- Sits down with her boss in early April to review the goals they set together as well as the extra projects she took on
- Proposes a promotion and subsequently proves her value, putting herself in a good position for a promotion 🙂
- Meets with her boss (at his convenience) to talk about work and to understand what else needs to be done
- Takes on additional tasks but prefers to let her work speak for itself
- Sits down with her boss during the April performance review and asks for a raise
- Rationalises that she has been doing a great job and thinks that it is about time
- Learns from her boss that this is the first time he hears about her desire for a raise and that it’s too late. Maybe next time. 🙁
Conclusion? Be like Shantelle.
How To Successfully Ask For A Pay Raise: A Step-By-Step Guide
The biggest takeaway from the above-discussed case study is that asking for a pay raise or promotion is a process. You can’t just barge into your manager’s office one day and say you want a 15% pay raise, just because #yolo.
So what’s the play?
Before you ask your boss for a pay raise or promotion, you have to be honest with yourself: are you ready to take on work above-and-beyond your current role?
And on behalf of bosses everywhere: You’re not getting a raise for doing the job you were hired to do.
- Schedule Regular Meetings And Make Sure You Have Them With Your Boss
Always make an appointment to ask for a raise. Even if your expectation is that you’re not going to get it. If your boss is aware of your intention, you at least set yourself up for the next meeting where you’re more likely to get it.
During that meeting, take the opportunity to go over your progress with your boss. Find out how your company deals with promotions and pay raises. Is there a yearly review? Does the company practice off-cycle pay raises?
Oftentimes, your boss has to get approval from someone higher up. If so, find out who is responsible for signing off on that decision. This way, you can better help your boss make your case.
We’re not asking you to brown-nose anyone. It just helps if you know how to meet and exceed a superior’s expectations.
- Identify Areas To Up Your Game
If you work in a company that has a rubric for performance measurement like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). Then you’ll want to identify where you are already performing at a level higher than the defined responsibilities for your role. Should your boss agree with your assessment, you can tick these off your checklist and identify areas where you can up your game.
Basically, you need to:
- Figure out where you are excelling and get your boss to acknowledge this
- Identify areas for improvement and to take your output to the next level
- Make plans to make it happen
If there’s no official metric, talk to your boss and come up with one which both of you can agree on.
- Create An Action Plan With Your Boss
A common mindset that a lot of employees have is that your boss is out to make your life miserable. We’re not knocking on the fact that such people do exist… If so, we highly recommend reporting it to HR or finding a new job.
However, your boss can be your greatest ally and advocate.
If you involve them EARLY in your quest for that pay raise or promotion, they can identify pain points for you to act on and even help you build a case for when the performance review comes around.
For example, if you would like to progress from an executive to a managerial role, you might need to lead a team to demonstrate your leadership abilities. If your boss is aware of your intention, he or she can put you in a position where you can take on that responsibility and prove your worth.
6 Months Out
- Volunteer For Higher Level Tasks
Getting a pay raise or promotion is never easy. And the bottom line is: you’re going to have to work for it. So think of this step as a mental shift.
You also have to communicate to your boss that you’re comfortable with more responsibility. And that you’re delighted to take it on. Give me more, but I’d like to be compensated too. Sounds fair right?
- Create A List Of Accomplishments
Keep a list of accomplishments where you went above and beyond your job description. And be specific:
- Make a list of critical projects you spearheaded or the times when you checked off a huge to-do on your action plan
- Highlight responsibilities that added value to your company
- Keep track of external validation from coworkers or other managers, as well as satisfied clients and customers (any endorsement that recognises your extra efforts)
At the end of every day, make it a habit to list what you’ve done. And about once a month, identify the high-value contributions you’ve made and prepare a list. This list is your ticket to your promotion or pay raise.
3 Months Out
- Check In Regularly With Your Boss
Are you on track for a raise or promotion? Are you meeting the goals you set earlier with your boss? Keep your boss updated.
- Check In With Yourself
Be realistic with the numbers you are hoping for, but know your worth. Use resources like Glassdoor or PayScale to get a feel for the industry average salary of people with job scopes similar to yours, or for the title you want. This way, you have an actual number or per cent in mind which you can ask for.
If you’re paid below market value, now you know how much more you should be getting. If you’re taking on more than what your job scope entails, then maybe your current responsibilities should come with a title that matches your contributions.
- Practice Your Pitch
You’ve done the work and you have compiled a list of accomplishments.
Take some time to practice your pitch with a friend or in front of a camera. Review and identify how you can convey confidence. And of course, consider the various scenarios and prepare your responses accordingly.
Always prepare for pushback.
- Time Your Ask
Exercise discretion and time the ask accordingly. It’ll probably be helpful to make your case when the company just reported a great quarter or when your boss is in a good mood. The best time will also depend on whether your company has an official review cycle or not.
- Focus On The Value You Bring
If you’ve followed our step-by-step guide, you would have (at your disposal):
- The industry average for the promotion or pay raise you want
- A clear understanding of how much you are worth
- A list of accomplishments that highlight your contributions beyond your current job scope
- And ideally, examples of external validation
Think of it as presenting factual evidence in court. If you walk into the conversation with facts and figures in mind, you’ll come across as being more compelling and will be able to make your case with more confidence.
What To Do If Your Boss Says Yes
It goes without saying that you should thank your boss for agreeing to put you up for that promotion or pay raise.
… And If Your Boss Says No
As much as it hurts to be rejected after putting in all that work, it’s crucial to stay motivated and find out why you were denied. This is an opportunity to find out what it’ll take to get a raise the next time.
Maybe the budget is really tight. And a pay raise this year is not possible. However, your boss might be able to offer alternatives like:
- More annual leave
- Flexibility to work remotely, or
- A title change that could eventually set you up for an increase in pay later
Propose benefits which you might like to have if a pay raise is not possible, for now.
Regroup, Plan, And Grow From The “No”
Make another action plan and propose how you can continue to provide value moving forward. Rise above the disappointment. Continue to put yourself in a position where your boss can easily show his or her support when promotion time comes around. And this time, your boss will definitely have you in mind if a name has to be put up.
Is It Time To Move On?
You’ve done the research and you know your worth. You’ve also consistently performed above and beyond your job scope.
If you don’t get the raise or promotion you want, then it might be worth looking at other opportunities. Consider your growth potential at your current job and make an informed decision whether you should move on.
Some Other Things To Think About
Let’s say you stumble upon your colleague’s payslip. You’re both doing the same job but your co-worker is somehow getting S$1000 more than you are. Before you confront your boss and demand that you’re “fairly paid”, remember that there are many factors that determine how much an employee is paid. If you want a pay raise to match or even exceed your colleague’s salary, then you should focus on the value that you bring.
As logical as it may seem, don’t bring your coworker’s pay into the discussion.
How To Leverage An Outside Offer
If you’ve received an outside offer, take a moment to consider:
- Do you like your current job?
- Are your colleagues just acquaintances at work? Or do you have treasured friends you would like to continue working with?
- Is there anything about this offer that attracts you?
A great way to broach this topic with your boss is to open with a line that’s neither threatening nor disrespectful: “I got an offer for a lot more money, but I’m not taking it because I love this business and this company. But I’m really wondering, could you level with me as to what my future prospects are like here?”
This is VERY different from saying, “Eh boss, either you match the price the competitor is offering, or I walk.” (drops mike and walks out of the room)
Be professional. Keep it cordial. And c’mon, be fair to your boss.
If this is the first time you’re reading an article like this, it’ll probably be the first time you ever thought about seriously asking for a pay raise or promotion.
As daunting as it may seem, if you can demonstrate your value, prove your worth with your actions and facts, and ask for reasonable compensation, there’s no reason why you cannot be appropriately compensated for the stellar work that you do.
Have you ever tried asking for a pay raise and managed to get it? Share with us in the comments below.