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How to Start the Pay Raise Conversation: Use These Scripted Opening Lines

By Pat Katepoo ’79, Flexible Work Advisor & Salary Negotiation Coach for Women

If you’re nervous about negotiating a pay raise, chances are, you’re also stumped about how to start the conversation. What exactly should you say to get things going? It’s where many get stuck.

Using a script can not only help start the conversation, but can help to keep it going in the face of obstacles. Ready-made lines make it really easy to role-play and rehearse the meeting without having to come up with something from scratch.

There are several types of opening lines that you’ll need to get the conversation going, depending on the scenario of the meeting. Let me give you a few of them:
  1. You need to initiate the Performance Review because it’s overdue and your manager is not taking the initiative.

  2. You need to initiate the pay raise conversation at an opportune time which is outside of the job Performance Review cycle.

  3. At the Performance Review meeting, your manager doesn’t mention a salary increase—even after your stellar evaluation—leaving you to initiate the topic.

  4. You want to be first to propose the pay increase amount.

Your opening lines need to be clear and direct yet couched in “social softeners” to prevent resistance.

For example, smile, preface your request with your manager’s name, and use “we” language when possible to foster a collaborative tone. Aim to find the balance between using “we” language and being direct with your request.

Plan and Practice Your Opening Lines

Here are a few examples. As with all my scripts, I urge you modify the lines below to match your style of communication. [Brackets indicate alternate phrases.]

“Terry, it looks like my job Performance Review date is coming up soon [has slipped by]. I’m wondering if we could [I’d like to] set a date and time to meet to conduct the review, and discuss job performance goals for the year ahead.”

“Kelly, given the value of my job achievements you’ve just acknowledged, I’d like to [could we now] discuss ways that [employer name] can recognize those contributions financially. What I had in mind was [name your specific researched range] because it would accomplish two things: one, bring [employer name] in line with the competitive pay rate for my job position—I have the data which shows the current salary lags behind market value; and two, acknowledge my contributions with a merit increase.”


“Morgan, I enjoy my job and want to continue here [working with you/your team]. That said, my salary currently lags behind the market by [$ or %]. My research of the market shows that this position is being paid in the [$] range. Could we discuss how [employer name] could correct my job position’s salary to be competitive with the market?”

Preparation ahead of the meeting is a key driver of a successful negotiated raise outcome. No matter the scenario, it’s important to be ready and rehearsed to open the conversation and keep it going in the face of any objection (having a script for objections is also helpful).

Download a free set of nine (9) different scripted opening lines at Pay Raise Prep School for Women and begin rehearsing today.

Pat Katepoo has equipped thousands of career women to ask for – and get – higher salaries and flexible work arrangements at their current job. Pat’s advice has been featured in Business Week, Working Mother, and Smart Money magazines; The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post newspapers; and on NBC Nightly News

Learn more about Pat Katepoo’s services at Pay Raise Prep School or visit WorkOptions.com

For additional career resources, online tools and free webinars visit UMassAlumni.com.