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How to Suck Up to Your Boss and Get a Raise

January 9, 2017, 6:00 PM UTC
They always stay late to get the work done
Shot of two businesspeople talking together in the office late in the afternoon
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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 Vicky Oliver, a career development expert and author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions.

It’s normal to feel overworked and underpaid. You want to ask for a raise, but you also don’t want to be turned down. While you are stewing about what to say, it helps to take a diagnostic. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes and try to evaluate your chances of procuring a raise—and then improve upon them.

First, ask yourself some questions: Are you already considered a star player on your team, or do you need to put yourself more in the limelight? Is your boss really aware of the tangible ways you’ve contributed to the company? And, importantly, how critical are you to your department?

Unless you have a well-established track record of success, you may appear to be overreaching. Make sure you’ve already made a positive impression through your hard work and impressive results.

Before scheduling your big sit-down, embark on a campaign to make your case and sell yourself to your superior. Employ these six self-promotion techniques to position yourself for the salary bump you deserve:

Ride the elevator with an agenda

When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use your moment under the fluorescent spotlight to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m walking on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

Show initiative

Volunteer for a new project the nanosecond after another project ends. Stay up to the minute about upcoming meetings, company initiatives, and new procedures, and become your department’s go-to person for relevant information. Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond in completing it.

Align with your boss’s interests

Sharing your happy tidings is even more advantageous when your boss feels included. Don’t just convey that the client bought your new ad campaign. Express that you also credited your boss.

Say something like, “I told Mr. Paley that you had the germ of the idea, and that I just took it one step further. He was very impressed and wants to take you to lunch next week.” When boasting of your own accomplishments, think of ways that your boss can take your success and promote it to their higher-ups.


Use eye contact to your advantage

Don’t look away or off to the side when promoting your achievements, or your boss may conclude that you’re not particularly proud of your performance. After all your hard work, that would be disastrous. A good rule to follow: Look at your boss’s eyes long enough to register their color, but don’t bore into them.

Adopt your boss’s style

Every boss has their own style of communication. To the extent you can, try to mime your boss’s style. Is he or she a heavy emailer? Use email as your primary form of communication. Does your boss prefer a Monday morning chat? Be sure to oblige by bringing coffee for you both, and a long list of projects you are working on. Is your boss an avid texter? If so, text as well (but put important news in email).

Say thank you

If your boss has been particularly helpful, either through mentoring or by giving you plum assignments, it’s important to express your gratitude. Occasionally saying, “Thank you for helping me learn the ropes,” will go a long way toward putting you in your boss’s good graces.