Here’s How to Ask for a Raise During the Pandemic

Decreasing business revenues, furloughs and layoffs in the face of COVID-19 have been more the rule than the exception for many U.S. companies. As such, you might be understandably reluctant to even think about asking for a raise, let alone doing so. It’s true that many companies are in survival mode this year and the job market is delicate.

However, employers also want to make sure their employees are happy and motivated. While a typical raise may or may not be available, there are other benefits you can negotiate for, especially if you can prove your worth. Asking for a raise during the pandemic is fine, as long as you take the proper steps and build a case in the future if it’s not possible right now.

In this article

    Measure your progress

    COVID-19 or not, one thing not to do when asking for a raise is to casually walk into your boss’ office and demand more money. This might look good in the movies, but not so much in real life. For one thing, preparation is essential. Scheduling a formal appointment with your boss to discuss additional compensation and presenting the facts to back up that request.

    “The best thing to do would be to make a list of some of your accomplishments that are quantifiable, as well as areas in which you’ve had an impact on the company that might not be so quantifiable,” said Stacy Cain, Lead Recruiter with Warrior Logistics. Quantifiable accomplishments could include the number of customers served, productivity improvements or other positive key performance metrics (KIPs) you can pull together.  

    [ Read: Where to Find Financial Relief During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    Non-quantifiable attributes might focus on a willingness to help others, your ability to communicate with coworkers and a dedication to teamwork. It would also help collect and organize validations and positive statements from coworkers, clients and others, from inside and outside your company, to share with your current employer.

    More reasons to back up a raise

    In addition to data and recommendations to back a raise request, it’s a good idea to demonstrate that you take your job seriously. Part of your presentation can include how you’ve taken on more responsibilities, as well as certifications earned or additional education pursued. You can also compare your current salary against others in the industry and your geographic area. Making less money than the industry or regional average is a solid point to bring up to your boss.

    [ Read: 10 Real Work-From-Home Jobs for 2020

    Even as you prove your merit, it’s essential to understand that authorizing compensation can be time-consuming for your boss since they have to fill out various forms and talk to their manager before confirming any kind of change about your compensation. 

    Is now the right time?

    You could be the best employee around, with the numbers to prove it. But your company’s revenue might not be able to support compensation raises at this time. Cain acknowledges that it’s challenging to ask for a raise, especially with many companies struggling financially. Still, “if you don’t ask, you’ll never know,” she says, adding that being in a good place with your employer is essential when asking for additional compensation.

    Furthermore, even with raises potentially canceled, you could negotiate other perks, such as:

    • A more flexible work schedule
    • A higher degree of remote work
    • Rolling over unused paid time off into 2021
    • Tuition or educational assistance
    • Mileage or cell phone subsidies

    Practice, practice, practice

    Having all the facts available for your boss is only one part of backing your request for a raise. Equally as important is your ability to present those facts cohesively. Given that asking for a raise can be a nerve-wracking experience, you should rehearse what you want to say, and how you’re going to say it. 

    [ From Trent: 12 Career Tips for the COVID-19 Economy

    Do a dry run with friends, spouses and other relatives, and ask for their honest feedback. Also, consider recording your actions on video, carefully evaluating what you might be doing correctly and where you can improve. Above all, “don’t overthink it,” Cain said. “Recognize your worth, and be confident in your approach.”

    Be ready for rejection

    You might do an excellent job presenting your case for extra compensation and still be told “no.” The wrong thing to do in this case is to slump your shoulders, walk out the door. “If they say no, find out when you can revisit the topic and do so at that time,” Cain adds.

    The important issue is to accept any rejection with grace and understanding. The refusal isn’t personal, Cain explains. Your boss might want to reward you for your work, but not be able to right now. “Go back to work and do your job to the best of your ability,” she advises. “There are many reasons why your boss or company might say ‘no’ to a raise right now; none of them having to do with your performance.”

    We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at with comments or questions.

    Image Credit: Anastasia Usenko/ Getty Images

    Amy Sorter

    Contributing Writer

    Amy Sorter is a finance and real estate journalist with more than 20 years of experience. Her writing has been featured in The Business Journals and The Simple Dollar.

    Reviewed by

    • Andrea Perez
      Andrea Perez
      Personal Finance Editor

      Andrea Perez is an editor at The Simple Dollar who leads our news and opinion coverage. She specializes in financial policy, banking, and investing.