Getting A Raise – How Business Justifications Dramatically Improve Your Odds (The comprehensive guide for getting more money)

Yes, it pays to ask because a surprising 70% of those that asked received some form of a raise. However, only 39% got their full requested amount. It also makes sense to ensure that your argument focuses on business justifications, which are much superior to emotional arguments. Because they provide your manager with the only type of argument that can be successfully used to convince their higher-ups who approve their recommendation for your raise, so completely avoid the hard-to-justify arguments that many use. Like “it’s been a long time” or that you “need the money.” 

For example, if companies paid based on need, your employees with severe gambling problems would be paid the most. So instead, realize that the largest raises go to those that perform above average and make the highest dollar value contribution to business success.

First – Show Your Economic Contributions To The Team

To a manager who must justify any recommended raise to their superiors. The most impactful arguments demonstrate that the employee has provided economic value (above your current pay rate) to the team. So below, you will find a list of the top 10 economic impacts that an employee can make that will most likely directly lead to a raise or promotion. The most powerful economic value-added elements appear early in the list.

  1. List and quantify your performance, results, and business impacts – managers are measured based on their business results. So they will be most interested in how you have contributed to their own performance metrics. So highlight your higher-than-average performance in the results areas they consider to be the most important. And those areas often include output volume, work quality, meeting deadlines, customer ratings, and revenue generation. Also include your internal performance appraisal ratings, awards, and recognitions that indicate you are a top performer.
  2. Highlight that you regularly do higher-level tasks – doing higher-level work justifies higher pay. So show your manager that you are now regularly doing higher-level tasks that are normally a part of higher-level jobs that pay better. And if you regularly do much higher-level work, as an alternative to a raise, instead ask that your job be reclassified by HR because that will also get you a higher base pay.
  3. Show them that you have contributed to solving high-value problems – problem solvers are worthy of higher pay. So show them the number of serious problems/opportunities you have identified and made a major contribution to solving. Also, make an attempt to conservatively quantify the dollar value of your problem-solving over the last two years. 
  4. Highlight that you use new technology and tools – in a world where technology is increasingly important. Highlight any new tools, hardware, and software you can now use. Show that you are essential to the team whenever new technologies must be adopted.
  5. Show them you are an innovator – in today’s fast-moving world of business, very few things are more important than providing effective innovation. So remind them of your innovative capabilities and any recent ideas and innovations. Highlight the fact that many of your ideas have been successfully implemented by the team.
  6. Demonstrate that you have taken the lead – because in the fast-changing world of business, having leadership bench strength is so critical to team success. Show them that you regularly act as a leader by going first, taking responsibility, and by guiding others. Show them that you have been a strong informal leader, despite the fact that you didn’t have a formal leader job title.
  7. Show them that you can also do other jobsthose that can fill in, helping to maintain team productivity without having to pay for temps or overtime. So if you have filled in for others during absences or overloads. Remind your manager of those capabilities and impacts. Because in addition, being able to fill in not only provides current value. But it may also demonstrate that you are becoming ready for a higher-level job. 
  8. Show them that you continually learn and develop – in a world where business approaches rapidly become obsolete. Make it clear that you are “a continuous self-directed learner.” And that you are not only continually on the leading edge of knowledge but also have a wide learning network. But also show where you have openly shared your knowledge with others. 
  9. Show that you have been highly adaptable – because our current VUCA world is full of volatility and uncertainty. Highlight the cases where you have been highly adaptable, resilient, and agile. And instead of complaining, you successfully overcame every major obstacle.
  10. Map out your career trajectory – managers often have a preference toward rewarding those employees with high potential and a clear upward career trajectory. So highlight how you have purposely continually progressed since you joined the company. And how because you have proactively prepared yourself for increasingly higher-level jobs and responsibilities. You have a steep career trajectory in this company.


Next – Reveal Your Advanced Skills, Capabilities, And Traits May Also Help

After considering your economic impacts, some managers will recommend you for a raise if you have demonstrated skills and capabilities that will be essential to the team in the near future. So in your argument to your manager, also highlight as many of the following “future skills” and capabilities that your manager places a high value on. Once again, the most impactful ones appear first in the list.

  • Highlight your “future skills” – informally identify the knowledge and “future skills” that your manager has determined will be essential to the future success of their team. And then, in your presentation, highlight those new and “future skills” that you have obtained. Also include learning milestones, including new certifications, courses, seminars, degrees, and any external recognition.
  • Show them that you are forward-looking – in a fast-changing world, employees that think about and plan for the future are the most valuable ones. Because that forecasting gives everyone more time to prepare for upcoming changes. Therefore highlight how you have been forward-looking by showing how you have successfully forecasted and planned ahead.
  • Demonstrate a big-picture global perspective – in addition to the tactical level perspective that is essential for your current job. Managers often put a high value on employees who know and understand the entire business. Because these employees can see what is known as “the big picture global perspective” (as executives see their business). And therefore, these employees can “connect the dots” and see the interrelationship between seemingly disconnected business problems and opportunities across multiple regions.
  • Show that you are data-drivenin a world that is increasingly digitized, being able to measure and quantify business results effectively is becoming increasingly important. So if you periodically measure performance with metrics and you make data-driven decisions. Provide a few examples to your manager.
  •  Demonstrate that you are self-motivated – managers put a higher value on self-motivated employees because those that are driven require much less management time. So demonstrate that you are self-motivated by showing when you had proactively found other important work to do when your regular work slacked off. 
  • Remind them of your commitment to the organization – it’s important that you make it clear to management that you are committed to staying with the company. They are more likely to reward that commitment with a raise because management will be more confident that any investment in you will pay off over a longer term.
  • Reveal your diversity contribution – effective solutions are found faster, and they are more likely to be error-free when they are developed by a diverse team. So even if you are not a diverse employee yourself. Show how your ability to work with diverse teammates and that your own diverse thinking has contributed to team success. 


And Finally… Take These Action Steps For Developing Your Arguments

Obviously, the information that you provide on your economic contributions and your skills will have the most impact on your raise request. However, the process that you follow in preparing for and asking for a raise will also be critical for a compelling presentation. So here are 12 action steps that you should consider taking.

  • You must actually ask for a raise – because asking for a raise has an up to 70% success rate. And only 30% of those that ask end up getting nothing. The act of actually asking for a raise shouldn’t be postponed because of your unfounded fear of rejection. 
  • Ask others what worked and what didn’t in the process – do your research and ask for help in preparing your request. Consider approaching the manager’s secretary, the HR generalist, other supervisors, past team managers, compensation experts, and co-workers. And ask them directly what worked and what did not work during past raise requests.
  • Practice making your presentation – because a strong presentation is as important as its content. You must first write a script for your raise request presentation. And after polishing it, record yourself giving your presentation on video. Show the video to others and encourage them to find even minor weaknesses and errors in it. If you keep your name and firm off of it, you can even post it on YouTube and ask externally for some suggestions.
  • Bring them up to date with a current work description – start with the assumption that your boss really doesn’t know exactly what your work currently involves. So as part of your argument. Educate them by handing them a written updated list of your duties/responsibilities and the skills and tools that you are using. As well as the level of your interactions with high-level managers and customers.
  • Consider providing salary comparison data – in a few cases, providing a manager with external salary range comparisons from sources like will have an impact on them.
  • Subtly show them that you are hard to replace – in these times of high turnover, without bragging or threatening. Let them know that because you make so many different contributions to the team, you would be extremely hard to replace. And if jobs like yours have been hard to fill through recruiting and internal transfer, be sure and also subtly remind them of that.
  • Don’t surprise them with a sudden request – suddenly providing your manager with a request for a raise is generally a bad idea. It’s much better to bring up the topic weeks before any formal request. By stating, “I’d like to talk about the opportunity of earning more money sometime when you have a minute.” And then, drop the topic and bring it up formally after two weeks.
  • Ask at the right time – there are good and bad days to ask for a raise. For example, any day when a rise in company profit, revenue, or sales is made public would be a great day to ask, as would be the announcement of the acquisition of a major new customer or the introduction of a new product. Any day that a key team employee left because of insufficient pay. And the most likely day to formally ask is during a positive performance appraisal meeting with your manager. Obviously, also try to catch your boss when he/she is in a good mood.
  • Be willing to settle for alternatives that will also get you more money – if you simply want more money but, for some reason getting a raise in your organization is currently particularly difficult. Depending on your situation, ask your manager for an HR pay equity review or a job reclassification. Other alternatives to ask for include a spot bonus, having part of your pay tied to increased performance, and stock options. One final option is to ask your manager for a promotion.
  • Don’t threaten to quit or give ultimatums – don’t even come close to giving the impression to your manager that without more money, you will quit. Instead, keep reminding them how much you love the work you do, and don’t back them into a corner with a threat.
  • Be subtle about “other job offers” – you also certainly don’t want to threaten them with other internal or external job offers that you may have. However, it may be worth the risk to let them know that you have been contacted by others. Don’t give details of the contacts/offers and don’t make these offers sound like blackmail.
  • Conduct a post-analysis of your process – even if you succeed in fully getting your requested raise. It still makes sense to analyze what worked and what didn’t work in your process. So that you improve your chances and the amount you receive next time around. And if you fail, revise your approach but wait at least two months before trying again.
If you only do one thing – seek out a teammate that works closely with your manager. And ask for their help in identifying both the manager’s key performance metrics and the emerging “future skills” that your manager cares the most about. And then focus your arguments for a pay raise around those two groups of factors. Then pretest your final complaint argument with that employee in order to identify any areas that must still be strengthened. 

Final Thoughts

Many may think that during times of high employee turnover and difficult recruiting that their chances of getting a raise would be significantly better. However, that isn’t always the case because many businesses are simultaneously experiencing a downturn that may lead to a surplus of employees. So rather than assuming that your chances are automatically better. I recommend that you proactively improve your chances of getting a raise by completely avoiding emotional arguments. Instead, focus on the high business and economic value that you add (and will add) to your team. Those arguments are the only ones that will be effective among the many higher-level managers that will have to also approve any raise that is recommended by your manager. So keep in mind that business has always been and will always be “about the numbers and the money!”

Author’s Note 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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