The Real Way to Get a Raise (Hint: It's Not Karma)


It's been almost a month since Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella suggested that women who don't ask for raises earn "good karma," and the fallout continues. Nadella has apologized for the remarks, and now says he was "completely wrong." I agree! (Listen to one of my radio interviews on the controversy here.)

The upside of his remarks is that it initiated more conversations about the pay gap between men and women. Did you know that a recent Glamour magazine survey found that 39 percent of women ask for a higher salary when they land a new job, compared with 54 percent of men? The same survey found that only 43 percent of women have ever asked for a raise in their current jobs. For men, that figure is 54 percent.

Additionally, Nadella's advice to leave their pay up to karma may be sending some women in the opposite direction. Alexis Fritzsche, who works in sales in San Francisco, told the New York Times that Nadella's remarks are spurring her and her friends to ask for raises.

If you're feeling fired up to go after your own raise, I've got some strategies to help you succeed.

Why We Don't Ask — and Why We Should

Unfortunately, Nadella isn't alone in his views about women who ask for a raise. Researchers found that women get penalized more severely than men when they try to negotiate for higher pay.

That study shows that women's fears about asking for a raise — that we'll be seen as greedy, aggressive and not "nice" — aren't baseless.

But, at the same time, it's more necessary than ever to ask if you want the pay you deserve. Believing that "good work speaks for itself" won't get you too far in today's busy workplace. Even if your boss has the best of intentions to notice and reward everyone's accomplishments, she also has a lot of other demands competing for her time and attention.

How to Ask for (and Get) a Raise

Know your value.

You can't sell others on why you're a valuable asset unless you're crystal clear about your unique skills and contributions. Identify your key strengths and how they make a difference to the bottom line.

Share your value regularly.

Make it a habit to tastefully self-promote. You are not bothering people or being a showoff by letting them know what you've accomplished – as long as you do it in a way that is relevant and useful to them. As I said earlier, your boss is busy and may not know all the great things you are doing. Part of her job is to best utilize your talents, so you're helping her out by keeping her informed. Check out my video series for more ideas on the right way to self-promote.

Make it a win/win.

The way you frame your request is key. An ultimatum will put your boss on the defensive. Instead, communicate your commitment and your desire to provide value and feel valued.


Your tone and confidence make a difference, too. Rehearse ahead of time in front of a mirror, especially if you know it's hard for you to ask for what you want, so that you can get used to hearing and seeing yourself ask.

Plan for obstacles.

Know how you might get in your own way during the negotiation and plan for that. Decide on what you will do if your boss says no to your initial request. What alternatives can you offer?

You'll find more ideas on the right way to ask for a raise in this Miami Herald article I was part of and this radio interview.

The good news is that the Glamour survey I mentioned earlier found that 75 percent of the women who ask for a raise get one. You can, too! Let me know if you use these strategies and how they worked for you.