Nobody likes asking for a raise. But once you've asked---use the dreaded awkward pause to your advantage, and get what you're worth.

While a huge part of personal finance focuses on cutting your expenses, boosting your earning potential is one of the best ways to improve your financial outlook. A raise is one of the few ways to make thousands of dollars with just a few minutes of effort, yet many people are still too nervous to ask for one.

Particularly for young professionals, broaching the topic can be daunting. Over 50 percent of millennial workers have never requested a raise, potentially costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their careers. They cite all kinds of reasons for not making the ask, from nervousness to not wanting to appear greedy.

While you may enjoy your work and want to be regarded as a team player, you are not doing yourself, or your career, any favors by not speaking up. Learning how to negotiate effectively can boost your income significantly and can help your professional life.

Don’t talk yourself out of more money

One of the most effective negotiating tactics to use when requesting a raise is also one of the most uncomfortable: the awkward silence. We are conditioned to think of drawn-out pauses as a negative, and our instinct is to interrupt it. That impulse can work to your advantage during salary negotiations. Here are the steps to take ahead of time to leverage the power of silence:

Know your value: Many young professionals discount the work they do, feeling like their contributions are insignificant because of where they are in the hierarchy. However, your role is pivotal to the organization’s success. When you’ve done a great job, it is noticed, and you deserve rewards for outstanding work.

Time it right: It is important to time your request appropriately for the best chance of success. You need to have been in your role for long enough to truly do it well. The best time to discuss a pay increase is after you have completed an important project or exceeded expectations.

Request a time to speak with your manager: Set up an appointment to talk with your manager privately specifically about your performance. That will help keep the meeting from being rushed or your request not given full consideration.

Be upfront: While many people are tempted to soften their request with phrases like, “I think I deserve a raise,” or “My car broke down, so I need a raise to pay for repairs,” these kinds of arguments weaken your case. Instead, emphasize what you have brought to the company and use that as your rationale.

Let your silence do the talking

Once you have sat down with your boss and have made your case for a raise, it is important to approach the discussion strategically. Many people are so nervous to discuss salary that they rush through their request and happily accept any amount offered to them. However, this tactic can cost you money.

Instead, use the discomfort of an awkward silence. If your boss offers you an increase, repeat the amount in as bland of a tone as possible, then be perfectly quiet. Resist the urge to keep talking or arguing your point; you will only work against yourself. Instead, let the silence linger and don’t break it.

Likely, your boss will take your silence as unhappiness with the offer, and either will raise the amount provided or will ask what number you think is appropriate.

If your boss says a raise is not possible, or she cannot increase her offer, be prepared to back your case with research on comparable salaries at other companies and the contributions you have made above and beyond your job description.

If she still does not budge, don’t give up. Instead, ask her what you need to do to deserve a raise in her eyes. After you have reviewed your goals, ask to revisit the issue in six months and make the appointment as a reminder.

Read more: How to negotiate anything (even if you’re shy or afraid)

When a pay raise isn’t in the cards, seek other forms of remuneration

If your company is in a weak financial position, sometimes increases just aren’t possible. However, if you are a top performer, that does not mean you are stuck with the status quo. If you truly like your job, you can instead ask for other perks, like telecommuting, a compressed work week, or extra vacation. Think about what benefits would make you feel satisfied and valued and approach the discussion in the same way as you would ask for a pay increase.

Asking for more money or other benefits is one of the most difficult things you can do during your career, but it is also the most valuable. By making a strong case and then letting silence do the rest, you can set yourself up for a significant pay increase. By being assertive, you can help yourself get thousands of more dollars over the course of your career.


Asking for a raise is the quickest way to improve your finances. When asking for more money, make sure you do your research, know your worth, and don’t let your nervousness keep you from getting what you deserve.

About the author

Total Articles: 17
Kat Tretina is a freelance writer in the Orlando area. With a passion for personal finance, she aims to help people achieve financial freedom.

Article comments

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ZJ Thorne says:

I love the awkward pause! I do it for my LLC when my clients want to pay less for my services. Just keep listening as if they are not done with their argument for why they should pay less for your labor. Keep listening. Until they are uncomfortable. Until they realize that they are asking for something unreasonable. Until they realize that you are not budging on your stated price. Until they apologize for wasting your time with their sputtering.

I couldn’t have read this at a better time. I’ve been receiving the same rate of compensation for 4 years now, and I just feel so awkward asking for a raise. I recently cut down my hours, but will then be increasing them in the near future. Once I increase them, I think it will be a better time to negotiate a raise. Thanks for the tips!

Kat Tretina says:

Good luck, you’ve got this!

As someone who has been on both sides of the table it really comes down to company policy and who your supervisor is. I can’t imagine a strong, veteran boss letting a slight moment of pause to change their mind. You will have to do better than that. As a boss I personally like to give raises, I’ve been asked several times and been able to get folks raises 2/3rds of the time. I don’t care, it’s not my money. It is by far the fastest way to change your income other than finding a new job. I like the first advice of the article, that will give you a better shot with your boss unless they are just a jerk. Know your value, know your boss, try to find out the budget window to make sure a raise might be better. If you are promoted don’t settle for the first offer, it is always a low ball offer. I always say, “I was hoping for more…and here is why.” It works.

Kat Tretina says:

Of course, you only get a raise if you bring your A-game every day to work. An awkward pause or any amount of tips won’t get you a raise if you’re a below average employee.

But people innately hate silence. HATE IT. And the discomfort can be powerful.

Kurt says:

I think the best way to set yourself up for a raise is to focus every day on making your boss’ work life easier. This is not the same as “sucking up.” Believe it or not, your boss has many stresses and challenges at work, just like you, and probably thinks she’s underpaid too. By helping your boss deal with her job and do it well, your value to her goes up. She’s then going to be more amenable to handing over more of the company’s money to you when you ask.

Yes! I did this recently and waited for the response. It was torture but so worth it. Great article!

This works for job offers to. Last Friday I had an interview and the job offer was $25/hr. This is quite a bit less than my normal going rate, but they held firm and told me that this is the top pay for the position and there is no room for increases. I took a few days to think it over, and on Tuesday morning they upped the offer to $30 without me having to do anything. That’s $10K a year!, not including anything from overtime work. I ended up not taking the job for other reasons, but it is amazing what that awkward pause will do for you!

Kat Tretina says:

Congrats! That’s awesome John. it’s amazing what a few moments/days can earn you!

Money Beagle says:

For my last raise request, I went in with a number that I’d carefully researched and also had run by a former manager, who agreed that it was fair. I also made sure that I had leverage as I’d just started a very time critical project and I knew that if I left they would have to scramble to either find someone internally or realize a delay by trying to find a new person, neither of which I knew they wanted to risk.

It worked out good, I presented my case, put my number out there, and got the formal acceptance within 48 hours.