The Two-Ingredient Recipe for Securing a Raise

Halimah Najieb-Locke
There are several ways to create the right timing for the ask, and in the creation of that moment lies the leverage.

There are several ways to create the right timing for the ask, and in the creation of that moment lies the leverage.


Employment negotiations can be tricky when you are already part of the team. You simply don’t have the same advantage you had when you were hired. Yet, there are ways to create negotiating leverage when you are already employed and seeking a salary increase. While the value you add to your organization is surely apparent, being methodical in your approach to highlight yourself can be the key to attaining that raise. The formula for getting that bump in pay is comprised of the timing of your ask relative to an accomplishment. If you ask for a raise in close proximity to achieving a major win or averting a crisis for the company, you are more likely to hear “yes.” There are several ways to create the right timing for the ask, and in the creation of that moment lies the leverage.

Building rapport with management through casual conversation is good for many reasons, including finding out key areas where the organization needs improvement or can benefit from a development that falls within your area of expertise. You should also be entrepreneurial within the parameters of your portfolio and create a story of your individual success that links your performance to the overall health of the organization. This type of communication builds trust and establishes you as a team player who can be trusted to get the job done, even when not specifically tasked to do so. Managers tend to reward those who add value by filling in the gaps and accomplishing goals that are mission centric; but to reap those rewards you must ask at the right time.

Pay attention to decision cycles and learn when budget season occurs. This information is useful and will allow you to reverse engineer when would be the right time to get on the calendar for a raise discussion. A bonus to this approach is that you can highlight your value to the company in a not so obvious way—through your absence. Having visibility is a time-tested way to get promotions; but having the tact to know when to withdraw will be appreciated and will also demonstrate an understanding of when it is busy season and everyone is expected to put their nose down to grind. In appearing thoughtful and conscientious in this way, you are creating another type of leverage that you can cash in for things such as an expansion of your portfolio or speaking engagements on behalf of the organization.

Now to boost yourself into that raise, it is time to combine the two ingredients of responsive achievement and tactful timing through close proximity of cycle-asks. This is an idea that is probably obvious to you, but when truly implemented you create a type of leverage that can propel you up the ladder of your organization, boosting both your salary and title. Cycle your asks for either a pay raise, title bump, or expansion of portfolio a few weeks after finishing a big task. The freshness of your success will make the tone of the conversation positive and natural. By creating a cycle where the call from your manager for production, be it direct or indirect, was met by your successful response of execution and you in turn ask for a raise, the response will likely be yes barring any budgetary constraints.

What sometimes gets in the way of attaining a raise is the time between when you are asking and when your value was last apparent. You cannot assume your boss has a long memory, and if months have passed since your last major success, it is easier for your boss to say no because there is no leverage driving the discussion. Proximity is key. If you create a call and response environment where your action is followed by an ask, you have recreated the moment of need that is present when you are being offered a job, the boss’s desire to have great people on the team. I would caution from always asking for a raise after a win because that can create a pattern of seeming money conscious, but if you diversify your ask when using this cyclical approach to other things, such as title or professional development throughout the year, it ensures that when you do ask for a raise, you get it.

For those more seasoned employees who have a noted track record for already being independently successful, keep track in paper form all the ways you enrich the company. You will remind yourself of all you have done and give yourself a confidence boost, making the conversation go smoothly while simultaneously reminding your supervisor of your status as a loyal employee. For those in this category, I suggest requesting a meeting with your supervisor to go over your work plan and to chart your advancement. If you clearly mention advancement as tied to your work plan, then lay out what you have done so far in paper form organized by month to get your supervisor’s feedback, the ask for raise can naturally come up outside of yearly reviews and framed through ways you can bolster an aspect of your career. Reaping the fruits through a raise can be realized if you leverage your track record and don’t just rely on time-in arguments. Happy planning!


Halimah Najieb-Locke

Halimah Najieb-Locke handles acquisition policy for Chairman Adam Smith on the House Armed Services Committee, in Washington, DC.