How to Ask for a Raise, Without Alienating Your Boss Along the Way

That kind of language might motivate a manager to be fair, Mr. Cialdini said, because people want to be consistent with their image in the community.

Mr. Pink agreed. He encouraged a focus on what is good for the boss, and what is fair — ideally, two things that overlap. “I think you need to establish some level of fairness, and the way that people evaluate fairness in compensation is internal equity and external equity,” he said.

Internal equity describes pay as fair when compared to compensation for the same work within an organization. External equity takes into account the general job market and region.

To establish what’s fair, look at sites such as or to find out what people with your experience in your area earn at jobs like yours. Then gather as much information as you can about what people at your level are being paid within your company. If you find out someone with your same tenure and same position earns more than you do, an argument can be made that it’s simply unfair.

“It’s hard for people to defend unfairness,” Mr. Pink said.

It’s just business, but of course business is conducted by humans. Remind yourself that your boss expects these conversations. If you’re someone whose compensation could be affected by persistent pay gaps based on gender or race, asking for more is one way to express your expectation that you’re paid fairly.

Jazmine Reed, a senior recruiter and career coach, has managed dozens of people and says that it’s usually women and introverts who she sees as least likely to ask for a raise.

“I think most managers — most, not all — but I think if they could wave a wand and give you more money, they would,” she said. She learned an important lesson once, when she was making $40,000 a year. She told a recruiter she wanted to come in at $45,000 for her next position. The recruiter misheard her to the tune of $10,000 and apologized that she could pay her only $55,000. The moment taught her it’s OK to ask for more money.

“At the end of the day, and this is fact, no one is ever going to overpay you,” she said. “So likely, almost every single person, in some respects, is being underpaid.”