4 Ways To Know When It's Time To Ask For A Raise

© Julie / Adobe Stock

woman asking for raise

© Julie / Adobe Stock

Amanda Riojas
Amanda Riojas

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An anonymous poster at the Fairygodboss discussion board asks: This week, there were layoffs at my company - and I've been given a second department to manage. With no pay increase. Is that typical? Would a man be more likely to have gotten a raise with incremental responsibility? Do I have any leverage here?

This is a great question, and fortunately (unfortunately?), you’re not the only woman I’ve heard say this has happened to her lately.

A friend of mine is going through the same “reorg” process; in her case, there were no layoffs, but she was told that she would be merging another group into her own, with no mention of compensation or—more importantly to her—a title change to match the other “Directors” in her position. She’s still a “Manager.”

So, you’ve just found out your responsibilities are increasing. 

When is it appropriate to ask for a raise? 

The short answer: it’s always appropriate! You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Ideally, the perfect time to ask is when you’re told you’ll be receiving those new responsibilities. Right away, it lets your supervisor know that a raise is on your mind.

When is it too late to ask for a raise?

I get the sense that this has already happened — you've already taken on the new responsibilities. Like, past tense. In this case, let’s move on to your question: do you have any leverage? This answer is more difficult, but there are a few next steps you can take to find out where you stand.

1. When you think your coworkers are making more.

Compare your job description to those of other similar positions. If you think you may be being paid unfairly, start by finding out what you should be making, using a tool like the Fairygodboss Salary Database. If the predicted salary is higher than your current salary, you may have a leg to stand on.

2. It's too early to ask for a raise before you feel out comparable salaries.

Discuss your situation with other (sympathetic) managers. It can be awkward to bring up the topic of salary with coworkers, but you’ll know for certain where your employer stands. If you find that you make a comparable salary in comparison to your peers, you’ll know that you may not be able to do much negotiating.

3. After you get another job offer.

This one is dicey, but… apply for a new job. If you get an offer, you’ll have a direct comparison on your hands—what you’re making now vs. what you could be making. The downside is that if your current employer finds out that you’re shopping around, it could potentially put your job on the chopping block.

4. It's never too late to ask!

Finally, ask! If you don’t ask, you can’t get! A short, simple, and straightforward script may help you to feel ready: “Adding an additional X members to the team is so exciting! Is there any chance of compensation for the additional responsibilities that I’ll be taking on?” If the answer is no, don’t give up! “I’d like to revisit in 3 to 6 months, can we put something on the calendar?”

The topic of equal pay is not an easy one. For many women, it can be difficult to assert oneself, especially since the discussion of salary can be a very personal one. Remember: there’s no harm in asking, and since your employers value your work enough to give you the extra responsibilities, you are an asset, whose happiness is a priority. So, ask—the worst thing they could say is “no,” and you just might get a raise out of it!

When asking for compensation, don’t just think of it as dollars and cents—perhaps you would prefer more paid time off or increased employer matching for your investment retirement account. For ways to encourage your employer to be more family-friendly, check out, “What Does It Mean to be a Family-Friendly Employer?

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Dr. Amanda G. Riojas is a Scientific Computing Researcher living in Austin, TX. She is also the Advice Section Editor for the Scientista Foundation Advice Blog, Liaison to the Corporation Associates Committee of the American Chemical Society, and Chair of the ACS Central TX Local Section Women Chemists Committee. Amanda basically spends all of her time trying to tell everyone that women are awesome—because she has a daughter now and wants her to know that girls can do anything.

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