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Published: Jan 05, 2022 11 min read
A script page with dollar sign highlighter.
Pete Ryan for Money

This article is part of Money's January 2022 digital cover, which features 22 ways to make 2022 the best money year of your life. Browse all 22 articles here.

Few workplace conversations drum up such universal anxiety as asking for a raise.

But here’s some reassuring news: the winds are blowing — gusting, even — in your favor. It’s an employee’s market, with companies desperate to find and keep workers amid record levels of quit rates. And surveys show that most employers anticipate giving out average raises of at least 3% this year.

Still, you shouldn’t just sit back and wait to see if more money appears on your paystub.

Instead, figure out the best time to ask for your raise (ideally, you’ll approach this conversation before the budget is set in stone), and schedule a meeting with your manager where it's clear that pay is the primary agenda item.

Then, prepare, prepare, prepare, says Mori Taheripour, author of "Bring Yourself: How to Harness the Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly."

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Research what pay is typical for positions similar to yours, given your education and experience level. You also want to create a highlight reel of sorts, quickly summarizing what you’ve achieved in your role and how you’ve contributed to team-wide goals.

This preparation is key, says Taheripour, who teaches negotiation and dispute resolution at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It gives you objective data to support your case for getting a raise. And it should give you confidence, too.

Money sat down with Taheripour to craft three raise negotiation scripts for the year ahead. Use them to prepare for your own salary discussions; swapping in your accomplishments and compensation goals where it makes sense.

Script 1: How to ask for a raise if you find out your coworkers are making more money than you

You: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me about my position and pay.

Boss: Sure, you’re an important part of the team, so I’m happy to talk with you to make sure you feel that way.

You: Well, I’m glad to hear that, because I’ve done quite a bit of research around what our competitors pay people in my role, and I've realized I'm underpaid.

Boss: Well, we’ve been paying people at the level you’re making for some time now.

You: That may be the case, but I’d like to share some of the salary information I’ve put together with you, so you can see where I’m coming from on this. In looking at jobs that require similar work experience and training, I’ve found that I should be earning in the $80,000 range.

Boss: It’s helpful to have this data, but I’m not sure we have that kind of money in the budget right now.

You: Ok, I understand that. But honestly, after looking externally and researching what pay and benefits other companies are offering, I'm feeling a bit undervalued. Can we revisit this conversation in six months? And in the meantime, can we consider some other benefits, like additional time off and greater educational stipends?

Script notes:

Couching your ask based on what you’ve heard others are making is a risky move, since you may have incomplete, or incorrect, information. If you come in armed with data and market research, it becomes an objective request, not a subjective or emotional one.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Taheripour says. “Show them the data, make it make sense, and you can ask for anything.”

Script 2: How to ask for a raise if you haven’t gotten one in a long time

You: I'm so grateful that we have the opportunity to talk. I recognize that this is a difficult time for our industry, but it's been five years since we've had a conversation about my compensation, and I think we're past due.

Boss: Yes, it's been a tough few years for our company, so we really haven't been having conversations about raises with anyone. What did you have in mind?

You: I love my work and I enjoy being in this industry. But quite frankly, remaining at my current salary is starting to look very challenging for me. Even just coming to work with the rise in gas prices is getting too expensive. After doing some market research and looking at the salary trends for my position in adjacent industries, what I came up with was a 6% increase. I think that’d be fair in terms of what I’ve accomplished here, and what my pay might have looked like with more regular salary increases over the past several years.

Boss: I certainly understand the challenge of rising living expenses, but I don't think we can afford 6%. I think we might be able to give you a raise of about 3%. How does that sound to you?

You: I appreciate that you’re willing to consider any raise, and I know this is a challenging conversation for you to have as well. Can we talk about other benefits we could consider in place of the full 6% raise? Maybe these options would be easier for you to justify on my behalf?

Boss: Sure, did you have any specific things in mind?

You: Yeah, you know, I've been thinking about going back to school a lot. I can share some specific numbers with you about what that would cost, depending on the type of program. But like everything else, college is getting harder to afford. So getting the company to pay for even a few credit hours a year would be helpful. And since the program I'm interested in is statistical analysis, it would also help me level up my skills in this position.

I can come back to you with more information, and we can look at the cost of having the company cover my program in full. Or maybe we can agree on a higher salary bump than 3%, paired with a portion of my tuition paid. Either way, I'm hoping there's a solution we can come to together.

Script notes:

If economic realities make it difficult for your company to give you the raise you deserve, come prepared with backup options. By pairing a smaller raise alongside something like educational benefits, you make a clear case for how spending on you will ultimately improve the company’s bottom line. That makes it easier for your boss to pitch it to her boss. (Though you don’t have to ask for more training; maybe a more flexible schedule would increase your work efficiency, for example.)

“Sometimes your boss doesn’t have the last word,” Taheripour says. “They have to go and make the case with leadership, so you're giving them another way to do it.”

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Script 3: How to ask for a raise if you've taken on more responsibility

You: Thank you for carving out some time for us to have this conversation. It's been a crazy couple of years, and I'm really proud of what my team has accomplished. We've managed to make it through with fewer people on our team, with the same level of, if not greater, output.

I want to talk through some things I’ve accomplished recently that have contributed to our company's revenue. I've learned a lot, and I'm really excited about the projects I've taken on. And then after that, I'd love for us to talk about what would be possible with respect to my salary.

Boss: O.K., great. I know you've been doing a lot of important work for the company, but I'd love to hear a bit more of the specifics.

You: So, one of the things I'm really excited about is that while other companies have lost big clients, we've actually grown our client base. Over the last year, we've signed two new contracts, each with a $20,000 monthly retainer. These clients ended up needing some additional help beyond the traditional marketing strategies we're used to — like public relations and crisis communications — and I've helped equip our team with the tools required to handle those needs. Now we can sell these services to other clients, too.

Boss: What did you have in mind in terms of numbers for your salary?

You: Right now, inflation is something that we're all experiencing on a very personal level. For me, childcare has become a really difficult financial issue — both my husband and I are going back to the office, and it's been so challenging to find a daycare center in our budget.

So with the challenge of childcare costs, and my increased responsibilities and the growth in the bottom line I've helped our division make, I think a 5.5% salary increase would make sense.

Script notes:

Taheripour pairs objective measures (how this employee contributed to revenue growth) alongside human elements (how she is personally struggling with childcare costs). There are contradicting mindsets about exactly how personal you should get when asking for a raise, Taheripour says. But everyone is experiencing the same pain points right now with inflation and ongoing uncertainties with the pandemic. Plus, childcare challenges are being discussed more openly than they ever have been.

“It’s more than O.K. to tap into somebody's humanity and empathy and make those connections when asking for a raise,” she says. “If this isn’t the time to do it, I don’t know when is.”

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