How to ask your boss for a raise or promotion

How to ask your boss for a raise or promotion

This conversation might seem scary. We’re going to make it easy – but it requires you to be a top-notch performer (and we know you are).

The beauty of this conversation is that the hardest work is done before the conversation itself. So don’t overthink the conversation itself, we’ll guide you through it end-to-end.

Timing is everything

There’s something you should know. At bigger companies, it’s hard – sometimes impossible – to get an ad-hoc raise. While not the case for startups, large companies have red tape, and most HR teams require raises and promotions to be done during performance reviews.

That’s why your timing is important.

Consider this: Performance reviews are done at 6 or 12-month intervals. They evaluate that period and then take 2-3 months to run the performance review process. This process includes budgeting, documenting feedback, having 1:1 conversations, and getting raises/promos approved. End-to-end, it can take over a year for some companies to evaluate performance in a single period.

Our guidance should be implemented immediately, but as you’ll see, getting a raise or promo requires you to put in the work during your review period. You don’t just ask for one with some magic words and get it. Your odds increase if you can deliver on our guidance towards the beginning of a new perf review cycle – that way, you have 6 to 12 months of outstanding performance.

Here are four steps to get yourself a raise or promotion:

Step One: Know where you stand

Are you the top performer on the team? Are you one bad move away from a PIP? Do you have any clue where you stand?

Most people are surprised to find out where they stand with their manager because they don’t get feedback frequently enough. And if your performance is crap, you’re not getting a raise.

You must collect feedback from your manager and other relevant coworkers. The goal is to get a pulse on your strengths and areas for improvement.

Write down a list of the people you interact with most at work. This should include your manager and any cross-functional colleagues who depend on you for your work. If you have direct reports, you should include them as well.

Send them an email or Slack to let them know you’d like to focus on being a better employee and would love to get candid feedback. Schedule time and ask the following questions:

  • What are some of the things I can do better? Collect examples if you can
  • What are some of the things I’m doing well? Collect examples if you can
  • What do you think are the most important things for me to focus on?
  • Is there anything else you can share with me, to help me be a better employee/peer?

Take detailed notes so you can review them afterward.

Step Two: Show your work

Your colleagues (and in some cases, your manager) are generally not paying attention to you. They have plenty of other things on their plate.

You need to make it easy for them to see your progress.

At this point, you know your strengths and weaknesses based on the feedback you received. Now, show how you’re improving in those areas by sending a regular recap to your team.

This could be:

  • A weekly Slack message highlighting your goals for the week and how well you accomplished them
  • A monthly email outlining what you learned, accomplished, and improved on
  • An ongoing check-in with the people you met with, where you share what you’ve done to improve and request additional feedback

If you make the commitment to send a regular recap, it will also help keep you accountable to doing the hard work.

Step Three: Research and prepare your manager

At this point, we’re assuming you’ve been delivering on step two and making significant progress.

Now, you need to get a pulse on the pay range for your role. Resources like FairComp can help, and in some states, you can ask for and legally obtain the pay range. You should be clear about your ask – don’t just ask for a range, confidently ask for a specific amount. Just don’t overkill it by asking for a 50%+ raise.

Next, don’t blindside your manager. Send them an email in advance summarizing all the work that you’ve done, and then let them know you’d like to discuss a raise or promotion. Schedule the conversation with a couple of week's notice so they can do their homework.

No need to overthink this. Send a thoughtful email, and it’ll help prevent any surprises when you make the official ask.

Need additional help prepping? Check out our AI negotiation coach.

Step Four: Have the conversation

Like we said in the beginning, this shouldn’t be a difficult conversation. You’ve set expectations and put in the work to earn the raise. Your manager knows it’s coming. 

When you meet with them, express your excitement about the role and how much you’re growing. Summarize all the work that you’ve done, and explain that you believe you’ve earned a raise and are formally requesting an increase of $XX,XXX.

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