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How to Get Over Your Fear of Asking for a Raise

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The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you ask for a raise?” is written by Jud Linville, CEO of Citi Cards.

When it comes to the most difficult conversation topics in life, asking for a raise undoubtedly ranks up there with religion, death, and politics. The vast majority of us perceive negotiations as stressful, awkward, and downright uncomfortable, so much so that 37% of respondents— including 45% of working women—in a new Citi survey admit they have never asked for a raise. And a startling one-third of Americans would rather sing in public than ask for a raise.

Now that is an attitude worth challenging.

While a talented worker leaves an employer for a range of reasons, it does not take quantitative research to link money to job satisfaction. Having “the money conversation” is absolutely critical to how you feel about what you do for a living, and our proprietary research shows that two-thirds of those who have asked for a raise received the amount they asked for—or more. Yet many continue to avoid asking.

There is no question that talking about money is not easy, and having spent my career in the money business, I have had a front-row seat to seeing how reluctant people are to discuss it. How can you overcome those fears? The answer is equal parts art and science. Here are four tips from my experience asking for, and being asked for, a raise:

Demonstrate what you have done

Above all, results matter—including what you have accomplished and how you did so. Prepare yourself with concrete examples of key wins, unique contributions, increased productivity, significant increases in customer satisfaction, new target markets, or sales and revenue improvements. In doing so, make sure that these are anchored in the company’s values—its primary mission and purpose—rather than your personal views.

For example, some of the metrics by which I evaluate my leadership team include how well they are driving mobile usage and heightening customer-to-customer referrals. These results clearly connect to our collective goal of enabling progress and radically changing the banking experience in a world that is increasingly digital.

Define your salary goals

What kind of salary are you aiming for? Do not follow the “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day” attitude, coined by model Linda Evangelista in reference to her and fellow model Christy Turlington’s then-dominance in the industry. You will need data in order to make an effective ask. Conduct thorough research into what the market rate is for positions similar to your own and gather those facts so that you can present them as supporting points in your negotiations. Also, recent research from Columbia University suggests that offering a salary range can lead to better results than just going in with one figure.

Be assertive, yet polite

Set up a meeting and present yourself with conviction, self-assurance, and professionalism. Deliver your opening statement, support it with your facts, and assertively request exactly what you want. Then, be quiet and await the response.


Do not argue. You want to employ logic and reasoning while avoiding making your boss feel criticized or defensive. Keep the emotion out of it and try to employ “I” statements to discuss your perspective and needs. Use phrasing such as, “When I consider my accomplishments so far and compare my salary to others in my field …”

Renegotiate (if necessary)

Say you have made the ask, but a salary raise is not in the cards. Are there any other negotiable aspects of your employment package, such as stock options, retention bonus programs, or even (perhaps most importantly) development programs to build your skills and give you broader visibility as a high-potential leader in the company? What else is on the table and can be considered in lieu of a raise at this time? This is your opportunity to be creative: Identify things that demonstrate your commitment to the company’s purpose.

So what are you waiting for? Be proud of what you have done and break the silence over talking about money.