5 Simple Steps to Getting a Raise at Work

how to get a raise

Joanne Poh



You’ve been plugging away faithfully at the same old office year in, year out, but somehow your boss seems to be the only get getting richer and richer. With the average private sector annual increment struggling to keep pace with inflation, it’s no wonder recruitment consultants don’t advise staying in a job for more than 3 years.

If you like your workplace enough to stay but your stagnant salary is making it hard for you not to jump ship, it’s high time to ask for a raise.

Unsurprisingly, the thought of actually having to crawl out of their holes and speak up makes most Singaporeans cringe, and many prefer to quietly look for work elsewhere. Still, the following strategy is worth a shot.

1. Schedule an official talk

The best time to ask your boss for a raise is not when you run into him in the toilet or when he’s packing up to leave at the end of a long day of work. Nor should you just barge into his office and ask if he has a few minutes. Trying to squeeze in a hurried chat will make it only too easy for him to brush aside your request, or to say he’ll consider it when he’s got more time.

You need to schedule a proper sit-down discussion. A few days in advance would be ideal, if only to give your boss the time to mentally prepare himself. It’s also not advisable to ask for a raise less than 2 months before the end of your company’s financial year when bonuses are given out.


2. Get another offer

This step is optional but helps. Before you decide to have The Talk with your boss, it’s probably a good idea to make a few job applications, even if you would prefer to stay on at your current company with an increased salary.

If you’ve been in your current job for a while, it can be easy to lose sight of what other employers are willing to pay for someone with your experience and credentials.

Furthermore, getting another job offer gives you much more bargaining power, and in the event that your boss insists that what you’re being paid is a fair salary, he does so knowing full well you can show yourself the door. Also, your boss isn’t going to be able to stall for time by telling you he’ll have to have a discussion with management or to come back in a few months’ time.


3. Present your contributions

So you’ve made it into your boss’s office without freaking out. Congratulations, but it isn’t over yet. Whether you successfully manage to secure a raise depends to a large extent on how well The Talk goes.

Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s going to be a heart-to-heart chat where you can spill your guts and swap life stories, no matter how “cool” your boss appears. When you make a business proposal at work, you do lots of research and practise your sales pitch until it’s perfect. The same goes for The Talk.

You need to sell yourself as a product, and show your boss why it’s going to be worth his while paying you more. Prepare a list of your achievements—you can even type up a handout for reference as you make your presentation. Here are some points to include:

  • all your contributions to the company from day one; use numbers to quantify your contributions whenever possible (eg. led a team of 100, clinched a deal worth $1,000,000)
  • detail how your role has changed over time and how your responsibilities have grown
  • demonstrate your loyalty and reliability with anecdotes (eg. volunteering for assignments, receiving commendations from clients)
  • if you’re being paid below market rate, provide information on what other people in your position are getting paid

Remember, you’re making a sales pitch, so please do not try to play the pity card by mentioning your personal circumstances and why you need the money (new house, baby on the way, etc).

Chances are, your boss is going to ask you how much you want rather than suggest an amount on his own. This means you’re going to need to have a figure in mind before you step into his room. Your boss is going to bargain, so name a higher price than the minimum you’re willing to access.


4. Consider a trial raise

Your boss might not be ready to show you all the money right away, but might suggest or agree to a trial partial raise for a period of time, at the end of which you’ll be granted a full raise.

If this happens, feel free to accept it, but make sure you clarify the terms of the trial raise with your boss before going on your merry way. You’ll want to confirm exactly when the trial raise will end, and how much you’ll be getting at the end of it.

Shoot your boss an email to record in writing exactly when the trial period ends, and be sure to follow up at the end of it.


5. Beware the delay

We all know that guy who conveniently “forgets” to pay back money he owes. No matter how many times he’s asked to pay it back, he manages to hold off until the person he owes finally forgets about the debt or gives up in frustration.

Similarly, many a hapless employee has been foiled by a busy boss’s promises that he’ll consider a raise at a later date. One of my friends endured 6 months of delays before finally resigning in frustration.

Your boss might tell you he needs to have a discussion with upper management or speak with HR before he can confirm a raise, and there’s not much you can do about that, but make sure you set a date on which to follow up with him.

Before you leave his room, arrange for another meeting in a week’s time or whenever he claims he’ll have made up his mind. You need to show a bit of initiative or else it’s going to be too easy for your boss to conveniently “forget” about your little discussion.

Have you ever successfully asked for a raise? Share your strategies in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.