7 Things Never to Say When Asking for a Raise

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: September 1, 2013

Stop & Think

Oh, you want a raise? Congratulations, you’re now in an elite group of American workers known informally as EVERYBODY!

Seriously though, let’s get into a little tough love for a minute. We know you want a raise, but have you really stopped to think about whether or not you deserve one? What’s more, have you gone over what you’re going to tell your boss when he/she asks why you deserve more money? Too many employees haven’t, and as a result are disappointed when they’re denied.

Believe me, we want you to negotiate and get more money. We’re Salary.com so that’s pretty much why we’re here. But convincing an employer to give you a raise is all predicated on showing them you’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty, and making sure they believe you’ll continue to do so in the future. It’s about exceeding expectations, not just meeting them. So with that mind, here are seven reasons you should NEVER give your boss when asking for more money.

7. "I'm Buying a House"

Hopefully your boss thinks it’s fantastic that you’re taking this huge step and is legitimately thrilled for you. But that’s where it ends.

It doesn’t matter if you’re buying a house, a new car, or jet skis – your upcoming financial burden is not relevant to your work performance, nor is it in any way the responsibility of your employer to pay you more simply because you have a big life event on the horizon.

Frankly, if the only reason you think you deserve a raise is because you’ve got a gargantuan purchase coming up, then you most assuredly don’t deserve it. And bringing it up to your boss like this will ensure you don’t get it. But if you must bring it up, talk about it in terms of putting down roots and project an image of stability that will work in your favor professionally.

6. "I'm Having a Baby"

You’re expecting? Mazel tov! Bringing new life into the world is truly exciting news and you should be over the moon. Coincidentally, you must be from outer space if you think this new baby in any way entitles you to a raise at work.

When you ask for a raise you’re supposed to be focused on your achievements, how those wins have benefited the company, and your plan to continue this positive trend into the future. But when your boss asks you why you deserve the raise and all you’ve got is a tale about how you need money for a crib, some car seats, and diapers, well – the only thing you’re going to end up with is what eventually fills those diapers after the baby is born.

5. "I Can't Pay My Bills"

Financial hardship is no joke and it’s heartbreaking for the people going through it, as well as friends – and even bosses – who have to watch them suffer. But just because you're struggling doesn’t mean you deserve a raise.

Times are still tough, and whether you work at a large or small business, you’re likely not alone in your struggle. And your company can’t realistically afford to give a raise to everyone just because they're behind on their bills.

Also, when you begin salary negotiations you want to approach it from a position of strength, focusing on all the things you bring to the table. But if you lead with your financial woes and use that as a springboard to ask for more money, it seems like you’re trying to guilt your way into a pay increase and comes across as begging.

4. "I Always Show Up to Work on Time"

So you finally get a chance to plead your case, and the best you can do is brag about the fact that you manage to show up to work at the predesignated time? Yikes.

This is the working world. You shouldn’t be proud just because you’re meeting the basic requirements of your job. You’re SUPPOSED to show up to work consistently and you’re SUPPOSED to be on time. Bragging about doing the things you’re already supposed to be doing just makes you look foolish, immature, and unprepared.

Now if you consistently show up early, stay late, and can provide your boss with data showing that extra effort has paid off in a measurable way, now you’re talking.

3. "I've Never Asked for a Raise Before"

Maybe you’ve been at your company for a couple of years. Five years. Ten years. And in all that time you’ve never asked for a raise. You might think that gives you more of a right to ask for one now, but you’d be wrong.

How long you’ve been at a company doesn’t necessarily translate into success. And that alone certainly doesn’t entitle you to additional compensation. But the main reason you should avoid saying this is because it’s a trap. When you point out how long you’ve been there and couple it with the fact you’ve never gotten a raise, all you’re doing is putting it in your boss’ head that you haven’t done anything raise-worthy in years, or else you already would’ve been recognized. That might not be the case in real life, but keep in mind your boss' perception can unfortunately become your reality.

If you really have done the work to earn a raise, focus on that and highlight your greatest achievements instead of implying that your boss is a miser who hasn’t paid you fairly in years.

2. "I've Worked Here for ____ Years"

Yes, seniority is nice and it can be indicative of your value to the company. But in and of itself, it’s not enough to warrant a raise.

So you’ve been here 10 or 15 years – so what? Perhaps you were a top performer the first few years and you were compensated for it with bonuses and raises. But what if you failed to maintain that level of success and the last few years have been mediocre at best? Referencing achievements from years ago for which you’ve already been compensated and have no bearing on your current raise request is counterproductive to your goal of more money.

It’s all about “what have you done for me lately?” Remember that when crafting your negotiating strategy.

1. "My Coworkers Make More Than I Do"

If the F-word is the ultimate vulgarity, then comparing yourself to your coworkers and using that as a justification for a raise is the F-word of negotiating salary.

Do not – under any circumstances – march into your boss’ office and ask for a raise using “Well I’ve been here two years and Sally was just hired and she already makes more money than I do” as a reason. Are you really ready for your boss to tell you that Sally makes more money because she’s better at her job than you are? That Sally has more education and training than you do? That Sally negotiated her starting salary whereas you failed to?

But the biggest reasons you want to avoid this is 1) It makes you look whiny and immature, and 2) This is about YOU!

Look, if you and Sally are doing the same work and you're getting the shaft, that's not fair. So while that can be the reason that sparks you to negotiate, it should not be the argument you present to your boss. If you get a raise it should be because of the work you did and the value you bring to the table. In the end this isn’t about Sally or anyone else, so place the focus and the emphasis where it belongs – squarely on yourself.

Tools to Help You Succeed

Asking for a raise isn’t easy, but there’s no reason to make it that much more difficult by saying any of these seven ill-advised things while negotiating.

Remember, getting more money means you need to show you’ve put in extra effort. So make sure to focus on your positives and accentuate your achievements, keep the focus on yourself, leave your personal life at home, and do your salary research beforehand using these tools:

  • New & improved Personal Salary Report
  • Negotiation tips for every situation