Personal Finance 

How to Ask for a Raise in a Tough Economy

Email  Print Print  

RaiseThe job market is improving lately, but it can still be tough to get a raise.

There aren’t that many jobs yet, and a lot of employers are overcome with cost cutting fever.  That means smaller raises, or no raise at all.

How can you work around that situation and still get a raise?

Editor’s Note: The suggestions that Glen makes in this post are very good but he misses one big one – get another job offer. The unfortunate reality, and this is especially the case with large companies, is that oftentimes a business can’t give you a mid-season raise (budget reasons? no process to do so?) unless there is a compelling reason – such as you’re going to leave for more money. The plus side is you can get paid more, the downside is that they’ll thank you for your time… either way, you get paid more.

Check the market for your job classification

One of the strongest arguments favoring a raise is the typical pay range for your position. To get that, you’ll need to do some information gathering as it relates to your job, that way you’ll have an idea as to what people are being paid for similar positions with other employers.

There are independent sources that can give you the information you need. One of the best is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from the US Government. It lists statistics, including salaries, for nearly every job classification available. Another good source is; not only does it provide salary information, but it also gives specific information based on your location. This is important because salaries for the same position can be different from one area to another.

Once you have the information available, you’ll have to have it printed and available for submission to your supervisor and to the human resources department. Of course, you’re only going to do this if the information you turn up supports your request for a raise. If it doesn’t, it’s best to leave it out and use other avenues.

Document your accomplishments

One of the very best ways to make a case for your raise is by documenting your accomplishments on the job. Collect any and all objective information that supports the case that you’ve exceeded the goals and expectations for you in your position. If you’ve increased sales, productivity or profits, get the reports that confirm the fact. In this way you’ll be demonstrating your financial value to your employer.

Still another form of documentation is previous reviews. Did you have a good review last time around when the company couldn’t afford to give you a raise? That could be a valuable report to have when looking for a raise this time around.

Compare your job responsibilities with what they were one year ago

Has your position undergone any major changes? In a job market where layoffs have become quite common, it’s not unusual that remaining employees end up assuming the responsibilities formerly held by detached employees. A year ago you were doing your job, now you’re doing your job plus half of someone else’s. If you’ve managed the transition smoothly, it could support your case for a raise.

This can be a particularly strong point if you’ve met or exceeded the goals for your own job while absorbing the responsibilities of the additional work.

Be prepared to live with a negative response

It’s an unfortunate reality that despite your best efforts, your employer still may not give you a raise. It may be that your department or even the entire company is under prolonged financial stress that simply doesn’t permit raises. It may also be an industry problem.

If your industry overall is in a state of contraction or decline, your employer may forego raises across the board. There’s little risk to the company because there aren’t many jobs in the industry in the event an employee wants to leave the company.

If that’s the case, you’ll have to be prepared to live with the outcome. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop there either.

A “no” now could be an advantage in the future. The fact that you’re passed over for a raise now could improve your chances of getting one in the future. Your employer may not want to withhold a raise, and would be more open to doing it at a later day.

In the meantime, don’t let the lack of a raise keep you from doing your job enthusiastically. Work even harder than you have up until this point, concentrating especially on those aspects of your job that are likely to paint you in the best light. For example, if you’re in sales, work hard to improve production. Numbers don’t lie, and employers can see your value as a result.

If there’s no chance that you’ll be given a raise in your current position, work on shifting to a higher paying job in the company, it it’s available. Not only will this help you to avoid the struggles of a cold job search outside the company, but it will also enable you to keep your paycheck and benefits while you do.

If the money request fails, ask for benefit increases

If your employer cannot or will not give you a pay raise, ask for an increase in benefits. This can take the form of additional vacation time, a flexible schedule, or even a reduced schedule for the same pay.

If you’re delivering results that are above expectations, and it’s clear that you can complete your work within the reduced schedule, this may be a good fit for you and for your employer.


If you deserve a raise but know that getting one will be difficult, it’s important to be prepared and to be flexible. By having your information documented and by being ready to get higher compensation in other forms, you should be able to get a raise, or at least something very close to it.

Glen Craig publishes Free From Broke, making personal finance easy to understand for his readers.

(Photo Credit: drp)

{ 2 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

Related Posts

RSS Subscribe Like this article? Get all the latest articles sent to your email for free every day. Enter your email address and click "Subscribe." Your email will only be used for this daily subscription and you can unsubscribe anytime.

2 Responses to “How to Ask for a Raise in a Tough Economy”

  1. admiral58 says:

    My job only gives raises at the end of each year. So basically, I’m stuck unless I get a different job at the firm.

  2. Bryan says:

    Interesting editor’s note, but I have to completely disagree with it. Understandably, the personal finance editor left out the considerations of HR and well general workplace happiness etc.

    Unless you were already prepared to leave regardless of money, don’t use a competing job offer just to get a raise. This is a legitimate tactic when you are being hired, but if you use it just for a raise, you’ve planted the idea in your boss/company’s head that you don’t want to be there and reasons for such a threat are typically deeper than just money.

    What happens next is they tell you no and you stay, they know you were bluffing and your credibility is shot. They tell you no and you leave, that new job may not be all you hoped for (and did you actually want to leave or did you just want more money?). They tell you yes and you are happy…for a while, until they a) need to make cuts and let go that guy that wanted to leave anyways (a.k.a. you) or b) they give you the raise to keep you around long enough to find a replacement who in their mind actually wants to be there. And of course, yes there is also the option c) that they say yes and it works out fine, but is it really worth the risk if all you were interested in was a raise.

    I think there is a good reason the author left this method out. It is a terrible idea unless you are already planning to leave your job and are using competing job offers against each other.

Please Leave a Reply
Bargaineering Comment Policy

Previous Article: «
Next Article: »
Advertising Disclosure: Bargaineering may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website.
About | Contact Me | Privacy Policy/Your California Privacy Rights | Terms of Use | Press
Copyright © 2016 by All rights reserved.