How to Earn a Raise…from a Manager’s Perspective

Photo by Viktor Hanacek

Written by Palmer Hawkins

One of my greatest mentors, Jon, once told me about a discussion he had with an employee about compensation. Let’s call the employee Mike. Jon expressed that he wanted Mike to realize his potential and contribute more to the business. Mike responded, “I would do more for you if you paid me better.”

Unfortunately for Mike, his logic was upside down. A raise has to be earned.

Since hearing this story from Jon, I have come across countless individuals who follow the same fundamentally flawed thought process.

So how do you go about getting paid more? I have received pay raises in most of my jobs from the time I first started working until now. I have refined my approach to earning a pay raise over the years and have gained perspective on why good managers reward employees with raises. Here is an outline of the process I use. Some of the steps can be completed quickly, while others will take more time and effort. I will go into the details of each section in future posts.

Expand Your Perspective

The first thing you need to do is answer these questions:

  • How does your company make money?
  • What part do you play in the process?
  • What part would you like to play in the process?

Even if you think you know the answers, take some time to think and reflect about each of them. Make sure you understand every detail in the process of how your company makes money. A strong understanding of this process is essential before moving onto the next steps.

Free up Time

You are probably very busy with your current job responsibilities. If so, the next step is to free up a portion of your time. Here’s how:


Look for opportunities to offload any activities that do not have to be done by you personally. Assign the work to coworkers or direct reports that are looking for more responsibility or professional development opportunities.


Look for manual activities that you can automate. Ideal activities are things that are done repeatedly, even if you are only saving five minutes here or there. All that time will add up.


You will not be able to delegate or automate some of your work activities, however, you can still free up time by optimizing the process you use to complete these activities.

Find a Problem

Congratulations on freeing up time in your workday — you are already more valuable to your organization! Now you need to find a problem to work on in your newly available time. Not just any problem will work. You need to choose wisely. Here are some suggestions to help you choose a problem:

  • The problem should fit with your skill set or be within your capability to solve
  • The problem should challenge and excite you
  • The solution to the problem needs to have measurable impact
  • The impact should be substantial (time is precious!)
  • The solution to the problem will have a specific completion point

Create a Plan

Now it is time to put the pen to paper. Outline exactly how you are going to solve your selected problem. This will be some of your best spent time. The more comprehensive your plan, the easier it will be to execute. Here are a few things to help you begin:

  • Include milestones, resources needed, and estimated time required to solve
  • Develop metrics by which you will judge the magnitude of the impact your project has on the organization, i.e. time saved, money saved, revenue generated, etc.
  • Imagine potential roadblocks you will encounter along the way and plan for ways to get around them
  • Identify individuals you will need to help you
  • Identify individuals who potentially will resist your efforts
  • Is there anything you need to learn, do you require further study/education?

Now is also a good time to tell yourself that as smart as you are, you will not be able to foresee every complication that will arise. There will be times when you will need to alter your plan. And that is okay, in fact it is desirable. Some of the biggest breakthroughs I have ever had were the result of course corrections.

Get Approval

This can be a formal or informal process depending on the scope of your project. Pitch your idea to your manager and key stakeholders to get their buy in.

Build a Team

Use the list of individuals you identified in the planning stage to build a team. This can be a formal or informal team. Sometimes the team consists of you and only you.


At last! Now is the time for action.

  • Begin with a team project kickoff meeting, outlining roles and responsibilities
  • Keep track of the progress of each individual on your team in a way that is measurable
  • Motivation and drive are critical, keep it up!
  • Confidence is essential, you have to know you will succeed
  • Modify your plan when unforeseen situations arise or when new problems arise


I was once told that an ounce of image is worth a pound of effort. Remember that your goal is to earn a raise. You need to relay information about the value you are creating to influential people in your organization, or individuals who have the ear of influential people. They need to know what you are doing for the company.

  • Record the roadblocks you encountered and how you overcame them
  • Record pre-selected metrics at regular intervals
  • Record other measurable results that were unexpected but show the value you have added
  • Share your successes with specific people as you go, be strategic
  • Share large successes broadly as they come


You have successfully completed your project and now it is time to reap the benefits of all your hard work. I have learned the hard way that I will not get what I want if I do not ask for it. This conversation should be an easy one, though, if you have done a good job of communicating the successes of your project all along the way. The focus on the conversation with your manager should be the value that you have brought to the organization.

  • Present to your manager the value you have created for the company
  • Include the measured results demonstrating the magnitude of impact on the organization
  • Ask for an increase based on the value you now bring

If you are realistic with the increase you are asking for, it will be difficult for your manager to refuse your request. Sometimes my managers had to wait for the next budget cycle to get approval for a pay increase. Worst case scenario, they refuse your request. But now you have added skills to your professional tool belt and gained valuable experience. Your manager may not be willing to pay for your ability to create value, but that does not mean managers in different divisions or in different companies will not be willing to hire you for your skills.

If you are interested in learning more about the process, my next post will go into more specifics about the first step in the process focused on expanding your perspective. Good luck on your quest for a pay increase! I would love to hear about successes you have had with this process.

Palmer’s LinkedIn profile.