5 Things to NOT Do When Asking for a Pay Raise

Getting a pay raise involves persuading your employer tactfully. While a salary bump can be hugely motivating, going about requesting more money the wrong way can backfire. You need to walk a fine line between confidently asserting your value and coming across as entitled. 
Getting a pay raise involves persuading your employer tactfully. While a salary bump can be hugely motivating, going about requesting more money the wrong way can backfire. You need to walk a fine line between confidently asserting your value and coming across as entitled. 

Asking for a pay raise can be nerve-wracking. You've worked hard and contributed value to the company, and now you want your compensation to reflect that. There are several things, however, you should avoid doing when requesting a salary increase, or you could jeopardize your chances of getting that bump in pay.

Getting a pay raise involves persuading your employer tactfully. While a salary bump can be hugely motivating, going about requesting more money the wrong way can backfire. You need to walk a fine line between confidently asserting your value and coming across as entitled. 

With the right approach, you can get leadership on board with fairly compensating you for the value you bring.

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Setting the Stage for a Raise Request

Before detailing mistakes to avoid, let’s look at some best practices for making your case:

  • Quantify your achievements: Calculate exactly how your work has saved costs, earned revenue, or otherwise benefited the company. Numbers talk.
  • Align with business goals: Connect your contributions directly to company priorities and profit motives. This shows your value as a strategic asset.
  • Know industry averages: Research typical pay for your role and experience level so you can objectively benchmark your worth. Using PayScale’s personalized salary survey or benchmarking from Salary.com can help.
  • Time it thoughtfully: Make your request after completing a high-profile project or when leadership seems satisfied with your work. Avoid times of company budget struggles.
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Mistakes to Avoid When Asking For a Raise

Here are 5 things you should not do when asking for a pay raise.

1. Don’t Ask Without Preparing 

Walking into the pay raise discussion unprepared, hoping your charm will win the day, is a bad idea. You need to have a game plan and know how to effectively present your case. Before the meeting:

  • Gather details on your contributions, accomplishments, and history at the company. Shu Saito, CEO of SpiroPure advises,
“If you’re able to detail and quantify the impact you have at your job in positive terms, you’re more likely to receive a positive response, even in challenging times”.
  • Metrics on how you drive revenue, cut costs, boost efficiency, increase client satisfaction, and otherwise contribute hard value make your argument almost impossible to ignore. Quantify your achievements as much as possible.
  • In particular, synergizing the raise discussion with your employer's systems for evaluating and rewarding performance demonstrates you're already operating within their frameworks for advancement.
  • Rehearse what you want to say so you feel confident and avoid stumbling over your words. 

Proper preparation demonstrates your professionalism and seriousness. You also avoid leaving important information out due to nervousness. Go in with all the talking points prepared to strengthen your request.

two people looking at a whiteboard

2. Don’t Make Demands Instead of Requests

Storming into your boss’s office and insisting on an immediate salary increase will definitely not work. You can firmly assert why you believe a salary increase is appropriate without using language that comes across as demanding or entitled. 

Instead of demanding a raise, politely make your case for why you deserve one. Use language like:

  • "I was hoping we could discuss increasing my salary to $ XYZ given my contributions this year." 
  • "I feel my work quality and impact warrant a pay rate of $XYZ."
  • "I would appreciate consideration for a raise to $ XYZ based on the value I've delivered in this role."

The tone and wording of this conversation make a big difference. Framing it as a collaborative, professional discussion focused on your shared goals gives you a better shot at a successful outcome. Additionally, if you need help figuring out the exact words to use when requesting a raise while still being firm, check out this script

3. Avoid Getting Emotional 

Don’t get overly emotional, angry, or lash out if your boss pushes back on the request. Often, this can happen when employees feel like the situation is unfair. According to Payscale, 77% of workers do not believe the rationale for denying them a raise. 

Irrespective of your feelings, maintain professional decorum throughout the conversation. Stay calm and constructive, focusing on how you can collaborate to arrive at a fair outcome. Here’s what you must do in case of disappointment:

  • Outline what it would take to get to a ‘yes’ in the future.
  • Develop a performance improvement plan you both agree to. 
  • Discuss opportunities for advancement to higher-paying roles.
  • Set a timeline for revisiting the topic. 

Remaining poised and solution-oriented in the face of disappointment or disagreement makes you look like a true professional. Plus, it keeps the door open to revisiting the issue later on. Losing your cool works directly against getting that pay increase.

Getting a negative answer to such an important request can spur difficult emotions like resentment, self-doubt, and dismay. It is just as important to be proactive about managing these feelings and safeguarding your mental health. Here are some other steps you can take:

  • Vent constructively to a friend or mentor without badmouthing your employer.
  • Revisit why you love your job overall and find meaning beyond just the paycheck.
  • Remind yourself of your skills and self-worth outside of this one setback.
  • Maintain confidence in yourself by listing past successes and achievements.
  • Use it as fuel to identify growth opportunities rather than staying upset.

Process negative emotions while retaining your usual stellar performance and attitude. With self-awareness, rejection can become a growth catalyst rather than a source of bitterness.

a person meditating

4. Making Comparisons Can Backfire

When you make your raise request, don’t complain about Jeff in accounting making more than you or how you should be earning as much as Sarah for the same work. These arguments often fall flat and are likely to backfire. Focus just on yourself and your own value, not what others around you are paid. On top of that, studies have shown the harm of making comparisons––including in the workplace.

Discuss pay in the context of your individual contributions and job performance. Build your case around your own merits rather than trying to drag others down or reduce yourself to feeling undervalued. 

You can further bolster your arguments by explaining the market rate for your skills and experience based on industry research. Employers want to hear grounded facts, not unproductive complaints that someone else seems to make more.

Asking for more money is tough. Avoid sabotaging yourself by steering clear of these all-too-common missteps.

5. Making the Most of a ‘No’

If your request for a raise is denied, avoid taking it personally or seeing it as a failure. Psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, a pioneer of nonviolent communication, states in his book, ‘Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life’: 

“Empathizing with someone’s ‘no’ protects us from taking it personally”.

Use your rejection as a learning opportunity to understand what skills or results leadership wants to see before approving an increase. For instance:

  • Ask for specific examples of milestones that would justify higher compensation. What targets, ratings, or metrics need to be hit?
  • Inquire about training programs, certifications, or expanded responsibilities that could bolster your case down the line.
  • See if there are any financial benchmarks the company wants to meet first before salary increases are implemented more broadly.
  • Request regular check-ins to get feedback on your progress and performance.

Never go silent after a ‘no’ to your raise request. Consistent, positive communication preserves the relationship and your reputation as you build your case over time.

a person in a suit and tie

Negotiating Creatively

If the number you request is rejected, get creative about alternatives to arrive at a fair deal:

  • Ask for performance bonuses or profit sharing that reward you for specific contributions.
  • Negotiate extra vacation time or flexible work arrangements that improve quality of life.
  • Suggest a trial period at a higher salary so you can prove your worth.
  • Agree to take on additional high-impact projects or responsibilities in exchange for higher compensation.

Getting a straight salary bump is not the only way to advance your earnings and career. Make sure to explore negotiated trade-offs that equally improve your situation.

Ask For a Pay Raise or Consider A Career Change?

Sometimes, even after getting a pay raise, you might not be satisfied with your salary. Different jobs have different limits on how much the minimum and maximum they pay are and different paths for progressing to those points. At other times, you may still be unhappy because your true dissatisfaction is not coming from your salary, but from the kind of work you are doing.

In such situations, you can consider changing your career! You may be apprehensive about this option, but with the resources available today, as well as the diversity in careers, it is more possible than ever to successfully switch tracks.

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Take control of your potential with Unmudl. Choose from self-paced online, scheduled virtual, or in-person classes that fit your life. Unlock a world of new opportunities on your terms with guidance from Unmudl's workforce training pros. 

Make this the year you don't just ask for a raise –– you build the skills to significantly level up your career and income! 

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