9 Things You Should Never Say When Asking for a Raise

by Salary.com Staff - February 10, 2020
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Every boss, worker, and company is different. But when it comes to asking for a raise, there are some universal "no-nos" you have to avoid at all costs.

Here are the nine most common things NOT to avoid during a raise discussion.

1) "I Know the Timing isn't Great but..."

Timing really is everything. It's important to know where your company stands financially before you ask for a pay raise.

If your company is enjoying fat profit margins, record-breaking sales numbers, and unprecedented expansion then by all means -- walk in there and ask for a pay raise. Things are obviously coming up roses and you need to strike while the iron is hot.

On the other hand, walking into your boss' office the day after a dismal quarterly report is issued makes you look unprofessional, self-serving, and out of touch.

2) "I Haven't Had a Pay Raise Since..."

When you're trying to convince someone to invest in you, it's best to avoid complaining right off the bat.

If you're going to focus on yourself, make the ask about your strengths and what makes you valuable as an employee. Harping on the negative can come off lazy and self-absorbed. This is not the messages you want to be sending to the person who controls the purse strings.

3) "I'm Doing the Work of Three People..."

Again, you're probably not telling your employer anything they don't already know.

It's not that what you're saying is necessarily wrong. But if you are doing the work of multiple people, giving you a raise may not solve the organization issue. Depending on turnover at your company, it's as your co-workers are likely in the same boat.  Highlighting your accomplishments enthusiastically and using your job description to make your case are good moves.

4) "I've Been Here for a Year Now..."

Unless you negotiated a performance review or pay raise after a certain amount of time, being in your position one year or two years may not guarantee a raise. If you go into that office and lead with "Well boss, it's been a year now so I want a raise" you're probably not going to get it.

Prove yourself, not how long you've been there.

5) "I've Done Everything I was Supposed to Do..."

A raise, by definition, means getting extra. Performing the minimum functions stated in your job description at an adequate level probably won't earn you a raise.

When you ask for more money, your boss will ask you why you think you deserve it. If you have no better explanation to offer than "Well, I do what I'm supposed to," then your request will be denied.

Raises are about what you've done, but they have more to do with what you'll do in the future. If you've only proven to be a mediocre contributor to the company, your boss will be hard pressed to give you anything other than what you've earned.

6) "I Need a Pay Raise Because I'm Having Personal Problems..."

Having a baby? Taking care of a sick relative? Just bought a house and need to make the mortgage payment? Hopefully, your company has benefits and policies (e.g. maternity and paternity leave) that will address these.

These are significant life events, but they don't necessarily factor into whether or not you deserve a raise.

Instead of focusing on your professional accomplishments, your boss may think you're trying to sway him/her with personal reasons. But this will never directly translate into a higher salary.

7) "I Want 100 BILLION Dollars..."

Don't ask for a ridiculous amount of money. And definitely don't do it in the Dr. Evil voice.

If the negotiation is going well, eventually you'll be asked the million-dollar question -- how much money do you want? So be prepared. Depending on where you fall in the bell curve, you'll want to tailor your raise request accordingly. Generally, merit increases are generally in the range of 1% to 5%. So, if you're already well paid and you ask for a 30% increase, be prepared for some puzzling looks.

In short, do your research and then exercise common sense and good judgment.

8) "I Just Found Sally Makes More than I Do..."

Never, ever, ever compare yourself to another co-worker.

First of all, it makes you look like a busybody and gossip hound for finding out a co-worker's salary. It's very possible Sally has more education than you, was a better negotiator during the interview process, or has proven herself more than you have.

Ultimately, this is your raise request and performance review, so it should focus on you and not anyone else. Focus on your strengths and the value you bring to the company. Plus, it might throw Sally under the bus and cause some office angst if you have to work with her in the future.

9) "If I Don't Get a Raise I'm Outta Here..."

Do you like getting ultimatums? Didn't think so!

If you do choose this route, all we can advise is don't bluff. If you threaten to walk out the door if you don't get a raise, be prepared to follow through. Otherwise your boss will know you were just making a power play.


Not quite ready to ask for a raise but interested in planning your career pathHere are some tools to help you along the way:

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