It’s All In the Timing: When to Have the Raise Discussion

by Lydia Frank


As with so many things in life – relationships, comedy, investing in the stock market – getting a raise can depend on good timing. If you’ve done your salary research, know what you’re worth in the job market and have determined a pay increase is warranted, you’re far more likely to get it if you think strategically about when to have the raise conversation with your boss. Here are just a few things to think about before you mark a date on your calendar.

Synching Up with Your Company’s Performance Review Schedule

If your company has a regular performance review schedule, try to have a conversation about your compensation a couple months in advance so that your boss has time to make a case and advocate for budget ahead of that process. If you wait until the performance review process is underway, often the decisions about salary increases have already been made by the management team. It doesn’t mean that an exception won’t be made, but the easier you make it for your manager, the smoother the whole negotiation process will go.

Taking the Internal Temperature at Your Company

Even if the data shows that you’re making less than you should be, that might not be enough to convince your employer to increase your pay if the company at large isn’t faring well. The best time to ask for a raise is when revenue is on the rise, after a major financial win (especially one you helped with) or when the company is generally in a strong position. If you’ve just had a round of layoffs, a raise conversation is unlikely to go in your favor. If you believe in the company, you may want to stick it out. But, if the death bell is tolling for your employer, looking elsewhere might be the best bet for improving your own financial wellbeing.

Staying on Top of Industry Trends

Taking a broader look at your industry and understanding the external forces that may be impacting it may help with timing your raise discussion, but it will also help you make good, strategic decisions about your career overall. When the Internet started becoming more of a content destination, those journalists who saw the writing on the wall and made the move from print to online early on are certainly patting themselves on the back. It pays to understand if you’re in a thriving or dying industry and whether the lean times are temporary (e.g. real estate) or lasting.

If you deserve a raise, you should ask for one, but good timing can mean the difference between a small bump and a significant jump.

Lydia Frank

About the Author
Lydia Frank is the Editorial & Marketing Director for While at PayScale, she has collaborated with a number of media partners—The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Today Show, Money Magazine, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, The Chronicle of Higher Education—to showcase PayScale’s data around topics like college alumni career outcomes, the gender pay gap and underemployment. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and previously led editorial teams for both and, covering topics including careers, education, technology and personal finance.