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How to ask for a raise without coming off as ‘entitled’


Look around the office and count the first ten colleagues you see. Statistically, four of them believe they’re underpaid. And a fifth one is beginning to sense, in just one leg, that they’re not getting what they deserve either.

Which is all a very hard-working way of explaining that 43% of Americans believe they’re not getting paid enough for the job they do.

So what’s the deal?

Well, on the one hand we’re constantly hearing about how jobs are hard to come by and short-lived; you’re lucky to have one at all, if you believe the press. And on the other hand, we live in a society where the work ethic is paramount. Everything in our culture is directed towards the idea that people get what they deserve; and if you want more than you get, it must be because you have an over-developed sense of (warning: buzzword ahead) ‘entitlement.’

Of course, you just have to look at the rich-poor divide in America to see that so far as anybody can measure what 50+ weeks of hard work a year are ‘worth,’ it has barely any connection with what we get paid. But in real terms, short of bringing down capitalism (and who wants to waste their precious time off doing that?) you can actually figure out whether getting paid more for what you do is feasible by taking a look around you.

Identifying your value

Indeed, if you sense that you’re being underpaid, a bit of research is the best way to start. Thankfully, these days we have the internet. A quick trip to or can give you a good idea what other people in similar positions are getting. (Which is not to say it’s fair – but it certainly gives you firmer footing ahead of asking your boss for a raise!)

Don’t forget to account for other ‘value’ you or your contemporaries are getting for doing that same job. Holidays, perks etc. And also look at the extra value that you’re providing: if you have lots of experience, a tendency to work beyond your contracted hours, good connections or qualifications, or some other ‘x-factor’ that you know to be a precious resource for your employer.

Now you know how much the market says you should be paid. But before you go marching in to demand parity from your boss, take a look at ways you might increase your value.

Spend a few weeks finding subtle ways to boost your value in the office. Take on new responsibilities. Take courses. And don’t just let your boss know you’re taking those courses – ask them which ones you should take.

Making an approach

There’s a lot to be said for good timing when it comes to requesting a raise. Making that request right after your employer has fixed the budget for the next quarter is probably not going to work. Laying the groundwork just before they sign that big new client might just do it – the power of surfing industry optimism!

It is not only effective to frame your request within a company context, it will help you to feel less falsely-entitled while doing so. Talk about the value you’ve brought in and refer to yourself as part of the company: “we” and “us” rather than “you/they” vs. “me.”

Whilst you should outline your unique selling points, be wary of making it about you; remember to put your earnings in the context of what other people in your position are getting rather than what you “deserve.”

Back your argument up with cold, hard (but warmly-presented) facts and it’s difficult to go wrong. Demonstrate, with actual figures or testimony, the good that you are doing for the company. Use visuals to illustrate your success in recent tasks and projects.

It’s actually pretty difficult to turn someone down when they have a strong case like this. In fact, 70% of those who ask for a raise are successful.

Just make sure you know what you’re willing to settle for before you enter that room, and what you’re prepared to do (i.e. quit rather take your boss’s cat hostage) if you don’t get it.

Following up

The easiest thing for your boss to do if they don’t really want to give you a bigger slice of the pie is to let your request slip. That’s why it’s important to suggest clear, measurable ‘next steps.’ Ask when a decision will be made, and try to book a one-on-one ahead of time so that you don’t feel awkward (or entitled) hassling your boss for an answer once it’s due.

And if they do say No, make sure to find out when it would next be appropriate to ask – for example, if you can discuss the matter again at your next quarterly review, or indeed next time your boss sits down to plan the new budget. Ask what you can do to make that raise more likely next time around – but also look into other ways you might be better compensated for your work, such as extra holidays, perks, flexi-time, or the option to work from home.

This new gameplan for requesting a raise is the perfect next step if you think you’re not being paid as fairly as the system allows. Do your homework, believe in yourself, and be prepared to negotiate: the only way is up!


About John Cole

John writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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