By Randi Weitzman, Executive Director, Technology and Marketing and Creative Talent Solutions for Permanent Placement, Robert Half I recently met with a midcareer professional named Sabrina* who was worried about asking for a pay raise. She said she felt she deserved a salary increase but was worried about the conversation and how to ask. She admitted she had been meaning to ask her manager for several weeks, but her concerns that it could go poorly held her back. Rather than focus on her own thoughts and feelings, I advised Sabrina to look at the issue from the larger viewpoint of a manager and the realities of today’s labor market. This approach might make her feel more at ease and confident to broach the salary conversation and potentially grow her finances and future. 
If you harbor hesitancies about asking for a salary increase, here is essential information and data to consider:  1. Most managers expect to have compensation conversations with you. It’s part of their job. Asking for a pay raise may loom large in your mind, but engaging in compensation and benefits conversations is a key responsibility for managers. If your role has expanded or you’ve been delivering above and beyond, a well thought-out request — perhaps by asking for a raise in writing — will not catch your manager off guard. 2. Most managers are open to giving raises and other incentives to retain high performers. Although some companies may not be in a position to offer significant raises right now, it is still a competitive labor market. Ninety-three percent of managers surveyed by Robert Half say it’s challenging to find the skilled professionals they need.  As a result, managers are eager to retain valued employees. If your compensation needs aren’t met, they know you may eye the door or grow disengaged, eroding productivity and morale.  These scenarios would be more costly and professionally detrimental to a manager than greenlighting a salary increase. As a result, it’s often in your manager’s best interest to know if compensation issues are on your mind and how they can keep you happy. 3. You don’t need to toot your own horn. One of Sabrina’s biggest internal roadblocks to asking for more pay was her assumption that she’d have to persuade her manager of her worth. However, she’d only need to make her manager aware of her accomplishments and contributions throughout the year, which managers don’t always know about or may forget over time. This career conversation is an exercise in presenting concrete information, not a pitch. Outlining how your contributions impact the company’s bottom line can also make it much easier for managers to get on board with a raise request. 4. Your manager has most likely been in your shoes. I encouraged Sabrina to keep in mind that her boss — at some point in their career — very likely asked for a raise. Most managers know firsthand that it takes courage and confidence to ask. 
If you are considering embarking on a compensation conversation, I advise approaching it with the three-step RAP (reflect, act and prepare) process: 1. Reflect on your responsibilities and achievements, and research the salary landscape. Although you may believe you deserve a pay raise, how can you be sure? Here are some indicators:  Your role has expanded. Your job description didn’t mention managing a growing team, but now that’s what you’re doing. If your role has increased to cover more employees, projects or clients, asking for your pay to reflect this new reality is certainly reasonable. It’s also quite common. You scored a big win for the company or built up a string of accomplishments. The most natural time to request a salary bump is when you’ve nailed a high-profile goal or you’re riding a wave of completing one stretch project after another. At these times, your manager will likely notice your value more.   Your salary doesn’t reflect up-to-date market data. If you feel you’re worth more than your current pay, confirm that with facts and figures before going to your boss. Review third-party resources like the 2024 Salary Guide by Robert Half to accurately benchmark what others with your titles, skills and experience are earning in your geographical area. Citing this information will lend credibility to your request.  Now that you’ve gathered this essential labor market data, and information on your growing responsibilities and achievements, compile it in a one-page document for your manager. This summary will make it easier for them to secure approval from their higher-ups, if necessary. Also reflect on what other incentives matter to you and what might further propel your career. For example, maybe you’re interested in attending in-person conferences or receiving professional training. Or perhaps you’d appreciate a more flexible schedule or hybrid work arrangement. Prioritize these potential options so you’re clear on what you want in case a raise is not on the table. 2. Act and set up a meeting with your manager. Once you feel the time is right, email your manager asking to discuss your career, revisit your compensation and explore professional growth opportunities. It’s often better to frame a salary request as a broader career conversation.  3. Prepare for the conversation. Review the one-page document you created that covers your achievements and market data until you can easily speak to its main points. Practice with a colleague or friend or record yourself with your phone’s voice memo function. Although both methods may feel awkward at first, they’ll go a long way to ultimately helping you sound more natural and feel more confident. And don’t forget to kick off on a positive note and keep that tone going throughout! 
Sabrina’s manager approved her pay raise request during an unexpectedly engaging conversation about the year ahead. But don’t be alarmed if your manager declines a similar ask due to fiscal constraints. Remember to bring up the nonmonetary incentives and development opportunities that may be more feasible.  If your manager doesn’t cite financial reasons for not granting a pay increase, try to better understand how you can improve so you might be considered for a raise in the future. Ask for quarterly review meetings to create open lines of communication around setting goals, monitoring progress and obtaining feedback. These meetings can help keep the compensation topic top of mind for your manager.  Of course, no one wants to have their request declined. But I always tell the professionals I work with that they should never have any fear, concern or regret about having these career conversations because of what they learn and the clarity they bring.  Follow Randi Weitzman on LinkedIn. *Name has been changed for confidentiality.