5 Tips for the Big Ask: Can I Get a Raise?


5 Tips for the Big Ask: Can I Get a Raise?


It’s no secret: there’s a wage gap in America. Yet despite the fact that on average women make 83 cents for every dollar men make (even with a similar skill set), most women report that they don’t feel comfortable asking for a raise.

It seems shocking, but women’s rights in the workforce only really began gaining traction as recently as the 1970s. Need a reality check? It wasn’t until 1984 that the Supreme Court banned the discrimination against female lawyers for partnership promotions.

While we are making moves as a country to ensure equal rights in the workplace, it will take serious attention to unlearn the behaviors that keep women (especially BIPOC women) oppressed. Because we are socialized to be apologetic when asking for things (even things we know we deserve), it’s easy to shy away, be talked over, or give up when negotiating for recognition.

Asking for a raise is hard for anyone, but if you come to the conversation armed with these five things in mind, chances are you’ll leave feeling confident, encouraged, and respected.

Prepare an evidence-based request.

1. Prepare an evidence-based request.

Information is your biggest ally. If you’re paid under market value, you have a clear-cut case for why your salary needs to be “leveled.”

Scope out your salary on Glassdoor, talk to your colleagues (especially your male colleagues) and be transparent about your income. The taboo around discussing what you make with your peers is yet another roadblock to equal pay. Knowledge is power, and if we don’t talk openly with one another, gaping discrepancies go unchecked in the corporate dynamic.

Pro-tip: when you discuss salaries with peers, ask about their day-to-day responsibilities. Someone might have the same title as you, and the same salary, but they might only do a fraction of your workload. This, too, is a pay gap. 

Arming yourself with data is a critical step in any negotiation. Bonus points if you can include numbers that demonstrate how you’re making or saving money for the company. Simple “napkin math” will suffice; just present enough research to tie your worth to the org as a long-term investment.

Practice, practice, practice.

2. Practice, practice, practice.

Treat this negotiation like a presentation. The last thing you want is to get into the room and face a question that never occurred to you. Grab a trusted friend and practice the discussion.

Is it awkward? Ummm, absolutely. Is it worth it? Yes, every second.

Losing your composure can very easily shake your confidence and give your manager an opportunity to knock down your authority or dismiss the conversation. Worse yet, if you let nerves get to you, you might forget all of that inarguable data you stock-piled in advance. Even if you don’t work through every possible scenario in your practice sessions, you’ll get used to thinking on your feet.

Hearing your peer’s feedback may also reveal possibilities for perception gaps in the way you communicate your request. Or, hearing yourself speak may finally convince YOU of the legitimacy of your argument. (We’re our own biggest critics, even when we’re talking facts.)
No pressure — seriously, people do this all the time — but you really only get one shot at the big ask (at least for this position at this phase of your career). Best to iron out any kinks in rehearsal before you take the stage.

Don’t bargain yourself down.

3. Don’t bargain yourself down.

Get comfortable with silence. In fact… expect silence.

If you ask a strategic question like “what is the salary band in this role?” it’s okay to let the silence brew until you get an answer. This lull is when you are most susceptible to negotiating yourself down.

No matter what you’re saying, filling in moments of contemplation with nervous chatter diminishes the ethos of your argument. You want to avoid giving any impression that you don’t feel confident in your case.

And if you’ve done your research, you have nothing to be nervous about. 

Even if you’re denied, if you go into the conversation well prepared, you’re just telling your manager that you know your worth. There’s no reason to be bashful about that.

Make your plan and stick to the script. You don’t need to muddle your argument with distractions from the main point: you deserve a raise.

Disagree without being disagreeable.

4. Disagree without being disagreeable.

Chris Voss, an FBI hostage negotiator and author of Never Split the Difference, says “he who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable, has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.”

Your goal is to get your manager and/or HR to advocate a raise on your behalf. Her pockets are not tied to your payroll, so no need to get personal if things don’t seem to be moving in your favor. If you approach your negotiation from a position of collaboration, rather than “me first,” you’ll have a higher chance of closing the deal on your terms.

Keep to your goal, but don’t be afraid to level with your manager. At the end of the day, she’s just another employee of your org with a whole list of people she has to answer to before making big decisions. If she doesn’t seem willing to bring your case up the line, you don’t want to end up sacrificing your relationship in the heat of the moment.

That said, you also don’t need to drop it entirely if you feel you truly have a strong case for a raise. Offer the data you compiled as a resource to share and leverage for her conversation with higher-ups, or even ask if you could set up a meeting to make your case with her.

Key point: offer… don’t threaten to bring others into the conversation.

Be transparent. (And don’t give up too soon.)

5. Be transparent. (And don’t give up too soon.)

A raise can be shut down for plenty of reasons… sometimes simply because of budget restrictions, which does not reflect at all on your worth to the company. Still, the conversation doesn’t need to end there. You have a case for recognition. It just may need to take shape in other ways.

For all of us, there are things that are just as important as salary (and in some cases, maybe more important). If your company isn’t able to reach your pay request, be transparent about what else may be important to you.

Think: what else do you value in your career? Stock options? Working 4 days a week? A new title? Access to executives?

Come prepared with a few “back-pocket” negotiations to bring to the table. (Bonus points if you can share how the value of these things compare to the numbers you presented.) After all, it isn’t a true negotiation if you leave the discussion empty-handed.

And again and again...

And again and again…

Time and experience matter! You’ll learn every time you sit down with your boss, HR, or a hiring manager. Just because the first time you ask for a raise might not go as smoothly as your practice rounds, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work up to trying again and again.

In each instance, remember: you have a legitimate case, you’re good at what you do, and a company that truly values you will find a way to meet your request or make an equitable compromise.

A no doesn’t mean you were wrong to ask. It only means you were brave enough to declare your worth, and you’ll need to keep seizing opportunities to make that worth recognized.