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Conquer Asking For a Raise or Bonus To Maximize Your Success

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Conquer Asking For a Raise or Bonus To Maximize Your Success

Franklin Buchanan |

Asking for more money can be a scary proposition. It can seem awkward to broach the subject, but the reality is that you work in exchange for fair compensation. Most good bosses will expect you to raise the topic of your compensation from time to time and be ready to have an honest dialogue with you.

We’ve put together our top tips from over a decade’s worth of hiring and managing experience to help you land the raise or bonus you’re seeking.

How to Ask for a Raise or Bonus

  1. First and foremost, you need to focus on what you’ve done to deserve it, not why you need the money. Detail your wins for the organization. Did you generate savings by renegotiating a contract? Did you get a customer to increase their standard purchase order? Did you spearhead a successful project? These are the types of specific career success stories that can help demonstrate your value to your organization. Yes, your manager should already know about these, but highlighting your recent accomplishments will help you justify your request.
  2. Timing is key. Consider your manager’s mood, your company’s performance, and when you last received a raise/ bonus before preparing your request. As a general rule, your request should be no more frequently than quarterly for a bonus and annually for a raise unless you’ve taken on significant new responsibilities or landed a huge win. You don’t want to seem out of touch by asking at an inopportune time, so avoid Monday mornings, right before a big deadline, or at a time when your organization is facing budget cuts or layoffs.
  3. Also on timing, consider how your organization traditionally gives out raises/ bonuses (like at the end of the fiscal year, when budgets are being set for a new year, at performance review time, etc) – if there is a typical time of year these happen, make sure you ask one to two months in advance to be considered.
  4. Never, ever try to justify a request by saying somebody else got a raise/ bonus or makes more than you do. This should be about your value, not the value of someone else in your organization.
  5. Practice your pitch. Start by thanking your manager for their support and, if possible provide a specific example of something you are grateful for about the organization. Express your enthusiasm for your future with the organization as well.
  6. Prepare a short, bulleted list of specific, quantifiable accomplishments that you can leave with your manager demonstrating your value. We call these career success stories. Bring a hard copy to leave with your boss, which can help make their job easier if they decide to recommend you for a raise or bonus to their higher-ups or HR.
  7. Be prepared for questions and practice your answers. Using our tips will prepare you for the most common questions about why you deserve the additional compensation and how you came up with the amount requested (more on that below).
  8. Practice your response if the answer you get isn’t an immediate yes, which it most often won’t be. It’s unlikely your manager has the authority to grant a raise or bonus without approval from higher-ups or HR. Instead, you could hear a maybe or even a no.
    • If the answer is maybe – ask when you can follow up.
    • If the answer is no – consider asking for something else, like skills training or enrolling in a professional designation that can help further your career and justify a raise. It’s also important to ask for specific duties/ projects you can take on or areas where you can improve so that you’ll be eligible for a raise/ bonus in the future. Be sure to ask for a timetable for when your manager would be willing to revisit the subject, too.

Raise-Specific Tips

  1. Research your market value. Understand what people with similar job duties, experience, and near where you live command for doing similar work. Our sites of choice are Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth calculator, Salary.com, and Career Builder’s My Career Path.
  2. Ask for a specific amount and be prepared to explain how you came up with that figure. Make sure your request is realistic or you’ll turn your manager off before they’ve had a chance to fully consider your request. According to a Willis Towers Watson survey, employers are planning to offer salary increases averaging 2.8% in 2021 with high performers expected to be awarded closer to 4.7%. This is consistent with historic averages, so a realistic amount to request is somewhere in the 2.5% – 5% range.
  3. Be prepared to take on more responsibility to get additional compensation.

Bonus-Specific Tips

  1. You need to understand your organization’s bonus structure before making your ask.
  2. Two common types of bonuses are holiday bonuses and annual bonuses. Holiday bonuses are often given to all employees, whereas annual or one-time bonuses may be based on performance.
  3. If you’re asking for a bonus, make sure your request is reasonable. These typically fall in the 1-5% of salary range but are projected to be as high as 11% in 2021 according to Willis Towers Watson’s employer survey. If you feel comfortable broaching the subject with others, try asking your colleagues to find out how your organization typically handles these. There may also be a written policy in your employee handbook that could lay out the parameters. The important thing is to do your homework to make sure your request is reasonable.

Ultimately, being successful in your request comes down to using some common sense, doing your homework, and being able to articulate your “why.” Remember, if you want your organization to show they value you with their wallet, you need to be able to show how you bring value to them.

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