There was a time when American workers were given automatic annual raises, but in our post-recession economy, that’s far less common. According to a 2015 survey by, while half of employers expect workers to negotiate their own salary increases, most of us haven’t asked for a raise in the past year – and about a quarter of us never have. Initiating a conversation about money and performance with your supervisor can be awkward and uncomfortable. So what are some ways to make sure you’re prepared and have the conversation go smoothly?

When to do it

There’s no absolute on when to ask for raise, but there are times that work best. Consider approaching your boss after finishing a big project or just before you take on more responsibility. While you’ll have to build your case no matter when you ask, having the work you’re doing be something they’re immediately aware of can bolster your argument. The one caveat is that performance review time may not be the best time to ask. Your supervisor is not only distracted, but the next year’s budget is likely set. Ask at least a few months before the end of the year so that your potential raise can be worked into the company budget.

Ask when you’re happy with your job. While we may be inclined to think more about money when things aren’t going well, research shows that people who ask when they are happy with their jobs are twice as likely to get raises. When you approach your boss – an email or short conversation letting them know you’d like to set up a time to sit down and talk about your salary is fine – make sure your smile is real.

Preparing to Ask

There are two main things you need to prepare for the conversation in order to be straightforward and successful. Research the market in your area and in your organization for jobs equivalent to yours. Talk to people in your field, talk to recruiters and look at job postings. Knowing what you’re asking for is key – as is knowing what other benefits are available in case you need a plan B. There are times when your employer simply cannot give you a raise. Make sure you think about what you could ask for in lieu of money.

The second thing to prepare is your presentation. Your salary is based on your job and performance, not on what you need. Keep it professional and unemotional – rather than talking about what you need, talk about what new value you have added to your job. Be thoughtful and thorough. Put together a short talk about your accomplishments and how they’ve impacted the company. Don’t be shy about including tasks you’ve taken on that are outside of your job description and praise you have gotten. Once you’ve laid out your past contributions, be sure to talk about what you’re going to do next.

Some tips for the big day

Make sure to have practiced your pitch. Asking for a raise is nerve-wracking for most of us. The more you’ve practiced, with friends or family, the less nervous you will be and the less likely you’ll forget something. Bring in notes if that helps you.

Silence is your friend. Once you’ve asked, stop talking and put the ball in your supervisor’s court. Be prepared for any number of answers – it may be that you won’t find out for a bit. Or it may be that now is not the time. If that is the case, let your boss know that you’d like to revisit the question in the future and ask when a good time would be. Also, be sure to let him know that you’re prepared to work hard by asking what you can do to turn the answer into a yes in the future.

And some don’ts…while there aren’t very many hard and fast rules for asking for a raise, there are a few don’ts that you should absolutely heed.

Don’t start the conversation by complaining (“I have too much work” or “I don’t make enough money.”) It immediately puts people on the defensive, which makes them less likely to accommodate you.

Don’t compare yourself to other people. Your salary is based on your job and the value you bring to it. Comparing yourself to other people simply draws attention away from you.

Don’t threaten to leave. You’re entering negotiation and if you go into it with an all or nothing stance, you’re bound to lose.

Good luck!

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