Is it unprofessional, or at least not recommended, to ask year on year for a pay rise?

My performance is consistently being rated as achieving the expected standard or higher in my performance reviews.

My salary is already high for the role I'm doing and I worry that asking for more money makes me come across as greedy.

I am also worried that by not asking, this may be used against me in future years as if I ask for one in the future and my performance remains the same, I'm not sure if I will get knocked down for not asking for a pay rise this year.

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    Do you get a pay raise based on inflation? Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 16:10
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    Failure to get a pay raise is effectively taking a year over year pay cut, due to cost of living increases (usually).
    – MrDuk
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 20:52
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    Asking for all the potatoes at a family dinner is greedy. Asking for a pay rise each year at work is business. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 7:25
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    Which is worse? Coming across to your employer as greedy, or coming across to your bank manager as poor? Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 8:28
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    @DawoodibnKareem: I know that was probably meant to be a rhetorical question but the worse is coming across to your employer as greedy. Giving a bad impression to your employer can lead to you losing a job - hence this question. On the other hand a bank manager isn't even going to know or care how much money you have... So I'm a little unsure of what point you are actually making. Better to have money and appear greedy than not have money and not appear greedy? That seems to miss the negative effects of appearing greedy which seems to me to be a fundamental point of this question...
    – Chris
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 10:31

9 Answers 9


I'd definitely make a point to keep asking for a raise. Your performance and experience are increasing year of over year (at least they should be). Additionally, the more time you spend at a company the better prepared you are to handle the problems unique to that organization, further increasing your value to that company.

However, keep in mind that every company that a range for experience and compensation so you run the risk of hitting the highest limit of that range for any given position if you keep asking for a raise without changing positions into a role of more seniority, where the upper limit for a salary increase might be higher. Additionally, keep in mind that other companies might be able to offer greater opportunity in the future.

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    I dont know about UK (maybe you know more about it), but here on the continent, you shd only ask every two year (but then for more of course). Annually would be considered impolite.
    – lalala
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 19:50
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    I'm not familiar with the UK's business courtesy, I'm speaking from experience in the US. In my experience I've gotten multiple raises within a year, so I don't think it would be to rude to ask for a raise annually. Also I'm not sure 'rudeness' should prevent you from looking out for yourself.
    – sfidf12489
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 19:54
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    @talala : interesting. Which countries are you familiar with? (Specifically, does it include German-speaking Switzerland.) Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 23:17
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    @lalala In France, asking every year is fine. I think you make a too big asumption with "the continent" Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 10:14
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    In Finland, asking more than once every 1-2 years would be considered pushy and would work against you. And once you get a raise it would look bad to ask again in 1 year. Naturally this has led to most people switching jobs quite often to keep the salary competitive. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 14:44

All of us are motivated by self-interest so I wouldn't be too concerned about a perception of "greed". Never not ask for a pay raise. Nobody else is going to pay your mortgage or feed you or your kids.

If the boss says that you're already well-remunerated for your position, ask for more responsibilities or ask how you can add more value to the company to help get that extra raise.

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    Asking one's boss how one can add more value to the company is fine. Even better (and I believe worthy of adding to the answer) is to think for oneself about how one can add more value, ideally on a daily basis. This is often easier for senior employees who have a deeper understanding of how their activities fit into the employer's overall business strategy, are more aware of inter-team interactions, or have a better understanding of pressing technical challenges facing an industry.
    – njuffa
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 18:35

First, you should be getting a pay raise each year at least equal to inflation (in the US, that's about 3% give or take). Anything less and you're actually getting a pay cut (this is one of the major reasons positive inflation is helpful economically, in fact).

Beyond that, you should be having regular discussions with your boss about your career path. That includes how you will get raises, whether that is through smaller incremental raises or through promotion. My recommendation is to have that at least quarterly; that way you can check in on how you're doing.

If you don't, then initiate them.

Hi [boss], I'd like to talk about my career path and what I can do to continue to improve myself as a valued employee of [company]. Can I have an hour of your time to make a plan and see where that path fits into the company's structure? In particular, I'd like to talk about concrete goals I can achieve, and what the expectations are of management in terms of what I need in order to continue increasing my performance and my compensation.

That's simple. It tells your boss that you want to talk about salary, but in a positive, constructive way that isn't just "give me more money", but is "how can I get to the point that you want to give me more money?"

Finally, if you're at the high end of your current role, you should be considering whether you want to move up. If your company doesn't really have a path "up" for you (you're a senior developer and the next level is management and you don't want to be in management, for example), then you may need to think about a move to a larger company. If you're not happy with either of those, then it's possible your discussion with your manager will be largely moot - the answer may be that you don't really have a path to more money beyond small incremental raises - so definitely consider your answers to that sort of question before you go in.

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    The tags include united-kingdom, so it’s probably worth referencing the actual inflation figures (currently at 2.3% annual): ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 11:49
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    You have claimed that inflation is helpful (ie: "that is one of the major reasons positive inflation is helpful economically"), but I don't see anything helpful in that paragraph. I tend to view what you described in that paragraph as a very negative thing, so could you please elaborate on why "this is why inflation is helpful"?
    – Aaron
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 23:40
  • "should be getting a raise at least equal to inflation"? Where's that stated in which law? It's nowhere to be found in any labour law I'm familiar with.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 7:16
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    I don’t put a primer on inflation as it’s not relevant to this; but that’s not particularly controversial. And read my next sentence fragment after I say you should be getting a raise; I’m not saying it’s illegal, I’m saying you are getting a pay cut otherwise.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 12:08

No, it is your absolute right to ask for a pay raise as costs, life circumstances, your worth to the company - all of these have changed in the course of a year. There is nothing unprofessional about exercising your rights.

You just have to make sure you are doing it within the framework and policies of your workplace. Each company has a different incentive and compensation policies.

At a previous employer there was a fixed increase to cover general increases in expenses, called COLA (Cost Of Living Allowance) which everyone got irrespective of their performance or other increment.

There was also a grade bonus, and other allowances that were adjusted each year. This did not affect your base pay, but your overall income had a positive impact.

There was also a formal review / evaluation process; and you had a chance to discuss your performance ranking and incentive provided. There was an open an expected negotiation period.

At another job there was a more relaxed informal pay increment scheme (as this was a small company). At the end of the year, we had a company-wide recognition dinner; where high performers were recognized formally. This was also were major changes / promotions were announced. At the same organization, you were given multiple pay raises during the year; my first increase came immediately after my probation period (90 days); then I got a raise based on a specific project which was completed under budget and well before the scheduled deadline.

At each of these jobs I have approached personally and asked for a raise when I felt that I was not being compensated fairly based on my work or market conditions.

The key things that I learned the hard way:

  • Avoid talking in comparisons "Mr. X gets $$$$$ and I have more direct reports and should be compensated equally".

  • If you are going to dangle the threat of resignation, make sure to follow up on it. Otherwise you will have a hard time rebuilding the trust in the organization.

  • Related to the above, if the organization comes back with a counter offer when you use termination as a negotiating tactic, this is normally a sign that the organization is planning to let you go soon.

  • Be creative. Instead of asking for a raise in your base pay, ask for a higher contribution to a savings plan, or a higher travel allowance, an upgrade in benefits, etc. Know where the company is more receptive.

This may sound a harsh, but keep in mind that HR's primary role is to protect the company and not protect you, the employee. They are more than happy to reduce or maintain the payroll budget if you don't ask for a raise.

Don't be afraid to ask for what you believe is your right; be fair, be calm, and avoid having emotions sway the conversation and most importantly, understand the culture, practice and framework of your organization in order to understand how best to get the result you want.


(Note I work in the US but I think this should still apply to the UK)

If you aren't getting any raise at all you're effectively being paid less than you were previously. Inflation happens whether you get a raise or not and it means that the same amount of money is worth less than it was before. So at minimum you should be getting an inflation raise to be kept at the same pay.

Besides just an inflation raise I assume that you have gained some experience in a year, use that to ask for an above inflation raise. Use an example of something new you have done or notable.

In my opinion its the exception that someone goes a year without gaining any meaningful experience and your boss should have to explain why you aren't getting any raise instead of you needing to explain yourself to at least get an average one. Why would I stay at a company that I have to fight to get what I'm worth when I could switch to a different job that understands their employees mature over time and are worth more over time. The couple jobs I've worked at have had yearly reviews with defined raises for defined performance levels, and average performance still got an above inflation raise.

  • As far as I know, the European approach is to work eg. 2-3 years without a raise, but then you get a significant one (without promotion necessarily). Around 20 - 25 % more. Which nets you more than annual 5 % raises would. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 15:17
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    @JuhaUntinen hmm, interesting approach. I've never seen that except by changing employers and the new job being in a higher paid function than the old one.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 7:17

Is it unprofessional, or at least not recommended, to ask year on year for a pay rise?

In most cases it is completely professional (and highly recommended by me at least) to expect a raise each year you deserve one and if you don't get one to ask for it.

Now, this is dependent on the locale, the company, the market as a whole, and the culture.

Most places where I have worked perform salary reviews each year as a matter of course. And unless the worker has reached the "top" of their salary grade, they can expect at least some raise.

The exceptions were when raises were tied in with company performance and the company had a particularly bad year. And one time in a startup we didn't give out raises since we couldn't afford any. But those cases were rare.

On the other hand, my wife works in a very small health-related office. Her boss never offers raises unsolicited. I've encouraged her to ask for a raise each year, but she usually feels uncomfortable doing so. I think she is making a big mistake, but it's her mistake to make.


Ask yourself, if every year, you are doing more, contributing more. Because you should, it is natural for a human to progress and improve, if you do not find yourself contributing more or making more of the correct decisions for the company, then perhaps you do not deserve a pay raise. We have to be self conscious and question ourselves first before we question others.

Should you think you deserve a pay raise, then that's great! But, it is not up to you, your company has to be the one deciding. If you work in a startup, or a small company with little profit or revenue gains, then perhaps it will not be easy for them to give you a pay raise. If the company is struggling and is not in the position for a pay raise for their employee, do not ask for it.

If you are doing fine financially, perhaps don't ask for a pay raise too often. Perhaps suggest a pay raise for others of a lower position, are they doing a lot or should be valued more that they deserve a pay raise too? You mentioned you are being paid well already, so it is not advised to keep asking, every year or once every 1.5 years is a good time frame as long as your company is growing. That said, since you have been performing well like you mentioned, you can ask for a pay raise, but do not overdo it nor make it seem like you are greedy for money.

In short, if you think you deserve it, and the company can afford it, sure! Should you get a pay raise, then you must remember to perform as well if not even better, to show the company that the pay raise was worth it and was well spent on you :)


I'd not ask for a raise based on calendar time, but by your contributions and responsibility.

Make sure to check salary websites like http://indeed.com and http://glassdoor.com to get an idea of what is realistic for your position. If you're already at a reasonable level for your position, asking for more seems to indicate that you don't know about your market value.

If I as a manager have to turn you down as a few times, I may start to wonder if you're still happy with your job without the raises, and whether I am about to lose you. That in turn could make me reluctant to give you new tasks or responsibilities, which would then prevent you from getting a higher salary due to increased work load. So when you do ask for a raise at the top of what's realistic, also try to take more responsibility that justifies the raise.


I would never raise the question of salary unless you are ready to be fired. That is, you should know what you're worth somewhere else, and be ready to both make the case that they need to give you a raise to keep you AND that you are worth the higher cost to the company. Sometimes you will discover you are really worth more elsewhere, and that may require you to make a different decision. Sometimes the answer will be "no" and they you'll have to decide if you really want to continue working there under those circumstances. (e.g. "no" vs. "not yet" or "not today").

Remember you are in charge of your own professional development, but you should seek out advice both inside and outside your company based on your goals. Then the question will be more along the lines of "boss, how can I be worth 20% more salary to the company" instead of "I want a 20% raise, damnit".

In general, whenever you are giving more than you are getting (not just salary, but experience, fun, benefits, etc.) it's time to move on.

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