Let’s set the stage. You absolutely crushed it in 2018. You were an overperformer in every capacity, you have a great relationship with your boss, and you’re looked at as a clear value-add. Unfortunately, you think you’re underpaid and want to broach the topic early 2019. So, you have ‘the conversation’, right? After all, your merits clearly show you deserve it, right? Nope. Don’t do it.

So, when is the right time to ask for a raise? Never.

Like never never? 

Well, maybe that’s a bit too far. There are situations in which it can be appropriate, but those circumstances tend to be so unique that they aren’t worth making generalizations about. 

But if you have to ask, maybe the truth is that you’re at the wrong company to begin with.

I’ll also preface this acknowledging that many people don’t agree (which is fine, there’s plenty of room for opinions on the subject), and say that there are reliable signposts pointing to the right time to put the question to your boss. 

Think about it like this:

If you’re considering a ‘wage elevation proposal’, you already know that you’re doing your job … and then some. Why else would it even be plausible, right? If you’re patient, your employer will recognize and reward the value you’re bringing to the table. 

Now, if you’ve been patient, and you’re certain that you deserve more for what you do but it’s not happening, it’s probably just not in the cards for your organization. Maybe they’re strapped for cash. Maybe it’s a sinking ship and you haven’t been informed. Maybe they’re just oblivious to the importance of your role, or your superb fulfilment of it. 

In any of those cases, it sounds like you could do better. 

It might sound like the hard road, but a better option than asking for a raise is to go out and find an organization that will value you appropriately. However, before you do, make sure you’re arming yourself with what the market is willing to pay for your role — and the myriad of supporting factors (i.e., years of experience, performance, geography, job description expanding).

(Note: if you do that, and your current employer counters the offer, think hard about accepting. They’ve already let you down and if they do again, it could put an even worse taste in your mouth about your current situation.)

If you don’t like the sound of changing jobs or are convinced for some other reason that asking for a raise is in your best interest, you’ll at least want the statistical likelihood of success on your side, right? 

In that case, refer to this interpretation of a study by Visier, an analytics company who makes the claim that the best time to approach your boss is during the summer (after performance reviews), and the worst time is during the fall (when many businesses are busy with preparations for the upcoming new calendar year). 

At the end of the day, try to self-evaluate your career and weigh just how important a raise is to the fulfilment equation. If you decide your patience threshold has been met, it might be time to look elsewhere.