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How To Successfully Ask For A Pay Raise During the Pandemic: A Step-By-Step Guide

profileKenneth Fong

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.

Source: SpongeBob SquarePants | Giphy

I mean, not like that.

But it really is that simple.

By advocating for yourself in the workplace, you’ll be able to increase your income and get what you deserve.

FYI: the end and the beginning of the year is usually a good time to start this process.

As it gives you and your boss sufficient time to identify what it would take for you to get that pay raise.

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?”

I’m gonna give you an actionable plan instead.

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 Even During the Pandemic

Do you believe that you deserve a pay raise or a promotion at work?

Here’s how you can go about getting it:

  • Reflect on whether you deserve a pay raise
  • Set up regular meetings, identify areas to improve, and create an action plan
  • Volunteer for higher tasks and list your accomplishments
  • Research and know your worth, and review your accomplishments
  • Check-in with your boss regularly and help your boss help you
  • Time your ask and focus on your value

Even during this pandemic, where pay cuts, retrenchment, and layoffs happen almost every other day.

There’re still ways to get what you deserve without coming across as being insensitive to the company’s situation.

  • Let your intentions be known early
  • Contribute authentically as a team-player
  • Continuously build a reputation and case for why you deserve the raise

Once things get back to normal or get better.

It’ll be easier for your boss to say, “This person should’ve gotten a pay raise half a year ago… let’s promote him or her now.”

Why Don’t We Negotiate for a Pay Raise?

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.

Note: I highly recommend reading this Forbes article.

So if you’re counting on your boss to give you a respectable pay raise without you asking for it…

You’re better off betting whether CPF will implement any new rule changes.

But I Was Given a Raise Without Me Asking…

If you received a pay raise without asking.

That’s great!

It’s probably because:

  • That’s just an annual increment (read: everybody gets that)
  • You have a really supportive boss (very rare)
  • You’re leaving money on the table (very likely)

Think about it.

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.

And that’s your ticket to a sizeable bump in your salary.

But hey, if you’re a talented individual who enjoys your job and loves what you do.

It’s always worth talking to your boss about increasing your remuneration before considering 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$7,000 gross.)

As Asians, and Singaporeans especially, the subject of money is somewhat taboo.

To even think about going up to our bosses and ask for a pay raise is tantamount to extracting a tooth with pliers.

Source: Parks And Recreation

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 KNOW you deserve.

Source: @highnunchicken | Instagram

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’re 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.


Source: Amy Hwang | New Yorker Cartoons

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

I’ve established so far 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…


Shantelle got her pay raise.

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 boss’ office one day and say you want a 15% pay raise, just because #yolo.

So what’s the play?

1. Reflect

Before you ask your boss for a pay raise or promotion…

You’ve got to be honest with yourself.

Are you ready to take on work above-and-beyond your current role?

And can you perform at that level?

Also, on behalf of bosses everywhere: You’re NOT getting a raise for doing the job you were hired to do.

2. Start Here

Schedule Regular Meetings 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.

Work with your boss to help you make your case.

I’m 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.

This way, there’s hard data to back up your claims of being a top-performing employee who deserves a pay raise.

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.

I’m not knocking on the fact that such people do exist…

If so, I 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.

And 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 led 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 this 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 continue to do a stellar job.

… and If Your Boss Says No

Understand Why

Source: memegenerator

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.

Propose Alternatives

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:

  • Stock options
  • More annual leave
  • Flexibility to work remotely
  • 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”

It hurts.

I know.

But you have to rise above the disappointment.

Make another action plan and propose how you can continue to provide value moving forward.

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’ve gone through this cycle a few times and still aren’t getting the raise or promotion you want.

Then maybe your boss is just stringing you along.

And it might be worth looking at other opportunities.

Consider your growth potential at your current job and decide if it’s still worth sticking around.

Or maybe it’s time to move on.

Some Other Things To Think About

Co-Worker Comparison

Let’s say you accidentally stumble upon your colleague’s payslip.

You’re both doing the same job but your co-worker is somehow getting S$1,000 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.

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.”

“However, 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.” (dramatic mike drop here optional)

Be professional.

Keep it cordial.

And c’mon, be fair to your boss.

Negotiating a Pay Raise During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the pandemic continues.

Salary cuts, hiring freezes, and widespread retrenchment are pretty much the norm.

You’re probably going, “Siao! Got job already very good, still want to ask for pay raise?!”

Well… you might have been due for one just before the pandemic hit.

Or maybe you’re taking on even more responsibilities than before.

If so, here’s how you can do it.

Take the Right Approach

Emphasise the value-adding projects that you’ve done.

And reaffirm how committed you are to the company.

Basically, your approach should be softer and more empathetic.

Instead of “I deserve this” or “Give me this or I walk”

You want to talk to your boss and say, “I know this is not a conversation to have right now…”

“But here’s what I’ve accomplished at my job so far…”

Stick to the facts and let your boss know you’re a team player who only wants to be recognised appropriately.

The pay raise might not happen immediately, but it’s important to let your intentions be known now.

And of course, you should have a good performance track record that makes it very clear why you deserve the pay raise.

Once we’re out of this pandemic, it’s easier for your boss to remember you and give you the pay raise you deserve.

Be Open to Alternatives

If a raise is not possible during this situation.

Prepare a list of other things which you can ask for:

  • stock options
  • extra vacation days
  • budget to attend training or courses to upgrade and develop in-demand skills
  • an interesting assignment or a higher position which you’ve always wanted to get (read: can prove your ability there too)

Basically, be open to other ways of compensation.

Best if they are mutually beneficial to you and your company.

I mean, no company’s going to say no when an employee wants to go for further training to get better at his or her job right?

Understand that “No” Does Not Mean “Forever”

If your boss or manager knows that you are keen to stay and grow with the company.

And want to be considered for promotions or increased pay.

Understand that if your request is declined for now.

It’s not forever.

If you continue to excel at your job and make a strong case for why you deserve an increase.

It’s easier to revisit the conversation later when things get better.

And your company has even more reason to keep their top-performers around when business resumes.

Closing Thoughts

If this is the first time you’re reading an article like this.

It’s probably also the first time you ever thought about seriously asking for a pay raise or promotion.

I mean, why the heck aren’t we teaching this in schools?!

As daunting as it may seem.

If you can demonstrate your value and prove your worth with your actions and facts.

There’s no reason why you cannot be appropriately compensated for the stellar work that you do.


About Kenneth Fong
I threw all of my money into the longkang once... because I wanted to see my cash flow.
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