Asking for a raise is a stressful and often awkward experience. Unfortunately, for the uninitiated, it could also be a potentially harmful one for your career if you say/do the wrong thing. If you're not careful in how you approach your employer, you risk humiliating yourself, pointing out your flaws instead of your strengths, and even throwing co-workers under the bus unintentionally. Sure, it's important to say the right things, but before you figure out what those things are, it's much easier to start with the list of things you SHOULDN'T say during this all-important negotiation.
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.
9. "I know the timing isn't great but..."
Timing really is everything.
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.
But, on the other hand, if the people on each side of your cubicle have been let go in the last few months and employees are getting e-mails on a daily basis asking if anyone has ideas on how to cut costs, that's usually a red flag. Especially considering the down economy as of late, it's important to know where your company stands financially before you ask for a pay raise. Walking into your boss' office the day after a dismal quarterly report is issued makes you look unprofessional, self-serving, and out of touch.
8. "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.
Look, we get it. You haven't had a raise in three years despite being an above average employee, and you're ticked off. It's understandable. But you have to understand that unless you were working at a recession-proof company, times were tough all around. Many businesses lost money and lots of employees endured far worse than simply not getting a pay raise. 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 comes off as lazy and self-absorbed -- not the messages you want to be sending to the person who controls the purse strings.
7. "I'm doing the work of three people..."
Again, you're not telling your employer anything he/she doesn't already know.
It's not that what you're saying is necessarily wrong. There's a very good possibility you are doing the work of multiple people, seeing that layoffs were rampant when the economy tanked and hiring has only recently picked back up again. But what you're forgetting is you aren't the only one who has been impacted, as your co-workers are likely in the same boat -- both the overburdened ones still at the company and the ones who lost their jobs. Highlighting your accomplishments and hard work without coming across as whiny means you'll have a much better chance of a few extra bucks in your paycheck.
6. "I've been here for a year now..."
Chances are your boss has a calendar. If not on the desk or wall, it's in a cell phone, tablet, or laptop. So why are you bringing up arbitrary dates that really mean nothing in the end?
Unless you negotiated a performance review or pay raise after a certain amount of time, being in your position one year or two years means nothing. Zip. Nada. Just because you've managed to occupy the same space for a certain amount of time doesn't mean you deserve a raise, and it has no bearing on your performance. So, 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. Nor should you.
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. So, knowing that, how can you possibly think it's a good idea to ask for more money simply because you've done the minimum?
Keep in mind you're asking your employer to break from the negotiated agreement in order to give you something more. Undoubtedly 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 you're in huge trouble. And you probably shouldn't have asked for a raise in the first place, because salary increases are for high-performers and those committed to excellence.
Raises are about what you've done, but they have more to do with what you'll do in the future. So, if you've only proven to be a mediocre asset to the company, your boss will be hard pressed to give you anything other than what you've earned.
4. "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?
These things are a huge deal and they're justifiably at the forefront of your mind, but they don't factor into whether or not you deserve a bump in pay.
Again, when asking your boss for a raise, you need solid reasons. So if you hang your hat on personal problems that don't even relate to your job at all, you're automatically at a disadvantage. Now instead of focusing on your professional accomplishments, your boss think you're trying to sway him/her with some kind of sob story. Bosses can be sympathetic and I'm sure many of them are aware of your troubles and feel for you, especially if you have a good enough relationship that you've discussed what's happening in the past. But that sympathy does not -- and should not -- translate into a higher salary.
3. "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.
But seriously, even if you've timed your raise request correctly, focused on your professional accomplishments, left the personal stuff out, and proved to your boss that you're worthy of the investment, eventually you'll be asked the million-dollar question -- how much money do you want? So be prepared. The first thing you should do is use our Salary Wizard to look up your job title, plug in your location and see what your job is worth. Depending on where you fall in the bell curve, you'll want to tailor your raise request accordingly. There are many factors that go into determining how much you should ask for (the financial state of the company, how much revenue you generated, how much money you saved the company, etc), but 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 and the possibility of being laughed out of the room.
In short, do your research and then exercise common sense and good judgment.
2. "I just found Sally makes more than I do..."
Never, ever, ever compare yourself to another co-worker.
It can't be stressed enough how horrible an idea this is. First of all, it makes you look like a busybody and gossip hound for finding out a co-worker's salary. Second, it makes you look petty and whiny, especially because it's possible Sally has more education than you, was a better negotiator during the interview process, or has proven herself more than you have. But lastly, this is YOUR raise request and performance review, so it should focus on you and not anyone else. Instead of complaining about someone else, focus on your strengths and the value you bring to the company. Did you spearhead a successful project, save the company a ton of money with a great idea, or bring in lots of new business? Then THAT'S what is going to get you what you want. Not a gripe-fest.
Plus, it might throw Sally under the bus and cause some office angst if you have to work with her in the future.
1. "If I don't get a raise I'm outta here..."
Do you like getting ultimatums? Didn't think so.
Look, we know this tactic works sometimes and different experts might advocate for a bold approach. But we believe the other, better methods listed in this article are much more preferable and effective than going in guns blazing and laying down the gauntlet. 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 on that threat. Otherwise your boss will know you're a liar, and any future negotiating leverage is all but lost.
Salary.com Can Help You Get a Raise
Remember timing is key, know when to ask for a raise. But no matter which approach you choose, one thing is certain -- you're going to need all the data you can get when you ask for that raise. Luckily Salary.com can help.
The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate or ask your boss for a raise. Good luck.
How much are you worth?