In my Negotiation Mastery course, we talk about how to turn a “no” into a “yes.” There are few negotiations as important as our salary. How much we make is central to our quality of life. But asking for a raise can be daunting, so I thought I’d share my tips on how to ask for and get a raise.

How to Get a Raise

1. Take a Look in the Mirror


Who doesn’t want to make more money? But before you ask your boss for a raise, take a look in the mirror and do an honest self-assessment. Have you earned a raise? Are you underpaid?

If the answers are, “no,” stop right there. If the answers are “yes,” get ready to negotiate.

2. Do Your Homework


Approach the discussion with your boss armed with market data for your role and level of experience. Use resources like Salary.com and Glassdoor to determine your work worth.

Be sure to also come ready to prove you’ve earned a raise. Point out the contributions you’ve made and, whenever possible, demonstrate the return on investment. The more facts you bring to show your value, the better off you’ll fare.

3. Money Is Not Always Green


Salary is important but there are other forms of compensation beyond just cold hard cash. If you need extra money to meet your mortgage, focus on cash compensation. But if you’re open to alternatives, your negotiation will be more fruitful. Consider accepting, instead of a salary bump, a cash bonus, extra vacation days, a flex-time schedule, stock options, or even just a better title.

4. Aim High


Set a baseline—the minimum you’d be willing to accept. Imagine several different packages that would work for you, though just barely. Then reach high. Imagine a long shot outcome, something you just might achieve if the stars were perfectly aligned. Ask for the stretch goal and you’ll likely end in a good place.

5. Determine Your Walk-Away


What will you do if you don’t get a raise? Will you stay in your current job or actively look elsewhere? The more options you have, the stronger your negotiating position.

At some point in your negotiation, you may need to reveal that you have a better offer. If you do so, though, don’t make it sound like a threat. Be sure to emphasize that you’d love to stay put if your boss can match your terms.

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6. Strike a Balance


Negotiation is a careful art and you need to walk the line between self-confidence and arrogance. Be enthusiastic without coming off as greedy, and eager but not desperate. Your boss will be more comfortable if you’re confident and earnest but not overly aggressive.

7. Timing Is Everything


If there’s a need or opportunity for a raise outside a normal review period, be sure to consider what’s going on in the business before you ask for more money. If times are tight it’s probably not the right time. Also, consider when annual budgeting takes place and time the conversation before the budgeting begins.

If possible, be strategic about when you’re meeting and find a time that's convenient for your boss. If you sense you’ve caught him or her on a bad day, offer to reschedule to a time when you can both give the conversation your full attention. It may be common sense, but try to avoid first thing Monday morning and late Friday afternoon. If luck is on your side, the meeting will land on a sunny day.

8. Put Yourself in Your Boss's Shoes


While it's important to advocate for yourself, you should also consider your boss's perspective. To get to a “yes,” you should expect a “no.” List all the possible objections your boss might raise and prepare a solid response for each. By anticipating all the potential roadblocks you’ll be ready for anything that comes your way.

9. Practice Makes Perfect


To get to a “yes,” figure out the points you want to make and the data that supports your points. Most important of all is to practice. Ask a friend to role-play before the meeting. Tell your friend to play devil’s advocate and put you through the paces. If you can't convince your friend to bump your pay, you might not have much luck with your boss.

10. Keep Your Emotions in Check


Negotiation involves both your head and your heart. Prepare for the meeting by making sure you’re well-fed and rested. Block some time just before the meeting to go for a quick walk or to simply close your eyes and take deep breaths. A calm demeanor is a key driver of negotiation success.

Are you interested in learning more negotiation tips? Explore Negotiation Mastery, an eight-week online course that will help you understand negotiation dynamics and secure maximum value for you and your organization.

Professor Mike Wheeler

About the Author

Mike Wheeler is a Professor of Management Practice, Emeritus at Harvard Business School and teaches the Negotiation Mastery course. Profesor Wheeler's current research focuses on negotiation dynamics, dispute resolution, ethics, and distance learning. He also co-directs the Negotiation Pedagogy initiative at the inter-university Program on Negotiation. He is the author or co-author of 11 books, and his self-assessment app—Negotiation360—was released early in 2015.