How Not to Ask for a Raise [Never Do These 9 Things]

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When you’re working hard to deliver beyond the job description, isn’t it fair to receive the credit and compensation you deserve? If you feel underpaid, knowing how not to ask for a raise is just as important as knowing what to do or say. 

According to LendingClub, nearly a third (65%) of American consumers live paycheck to paycheck. That means many people, including some making a healthy salary, are feeling the pinch. 

Surprisingly, only 37% of workers have ever asked for a raise from their current employer, according to data from PayScale.

A salary raise can be a touchy subject. But it’s an inevitable conversation for young professionals looking to advance their careers and level up their financial freedom.

It’s not just about the number of zeros in your paycheck but also about career fulfillment.

Recently, I shared tips on how to ask for more money. Today, I want us to focus on pitfalls and mistakes to avoid when asking for a raise. And without further ado, let’s get to business. 

Why What Not to Do is Just as Important as What You Do!

Requesting a raise can be a nerve-wracking experience. You’re putting yourself out there, opening yourself up to criticism and the risk of being rejected.

And while there are many tips and tricks to ask for a raise in the right way, plenty are pitfalls that could derail an otherwise perfect approach. Yup, many are times when employees do everything right when asking for a raise, only to ruin everything with a single mistake. 

You don’t want to take chances, right? Let’s explore what not to do when asking for a raise.

9 Things to Never Do When Asking for a Raise

Find below the top mistakes to avoid when asking for a raise: 

  • Asking for a raise without context or justification
  • Basing your case on your financial struggles
  • Making it all about you
  • Asking for a raise through email or over the phone
  • Asking on a Monday morning or Friday afternoon
  • Requesting an outrageous pay raise
  • Timing the seasons wrong
  • Comparing yourself to co-workers
  • Throwing tantrums—or issuing ultimatums

1. Asking for a raise without justification and market research

Topping our list of how not to ask for a raise is meeting your boss without a formidable case on why you deserve more money. That gives the impression of being entitled, greedy, unappreciative, unprepared, and having a very transactional mindset.

Start with market research, experts advise.

What is your market value? What are other companies paying for people in your position? How does your current salary compare to what others are making with similar backgrounds and experience levels in the job market? 

You could look at how much your other coworkers take home. Payscale.com and Glassdoor.com are great options for researching market averages. 

Next, think about why you deserve more money. Focus on the value you bring to the table. Are you delivering results? Have you taken on more responsibilities or been an integral part of team projects?

If so, gather data and examples proving how your work has benefited the company. For example, if you developed a new product at work, demonstrate how it increased revenue or improved efficiency. If you saved money for the company, outline exactly how much.

Generally, the more data you have to back up your arguments, the better off you’ll be.

Suppose you’re a new hire. If so, start compiling a list of your accomplishments and profitable projects you’ve initiated, so you can reference them when negotiating your salary in the future.

2. Basing your case on your financial struggles

Playing the “I’m broke” card is inappropriate when asking for a raise, no matter how desperate you feel.

Perhaps you have a mortgage, a car loan, a baby, a sick relative under your care, or other obligations quite hard to meet with your current salary. 

Your boss may even be aware of your predicaments, at least implicitly. Yeah, they probably can tell whether or not you can afford your cost of living with your current income. And you know what, 62% of employers feel highly responsible for their staff’s financial wellness (according to a Bank of America report). 

Regardless, appealing for a higher salary based on your dire financial circumstances could be manipulative and desperate. That only puts your boss in an awkward position, ethically and legally. Consider too that they hired you to help them achieve their business goals — your financial troubles and personal reasons have nothing to do with that.  

After all, as a young professional looking to advance their career, you’d preferably score a salary bump based on your outstanding performance rather than your manager’s pity. 

So, zero in on what you bring to the company and why increasing your compensation is in its best interest. 

3. Making it all about you

The above must be among the most overlooked mistakes to avoid when asking for a raise. 

You might approach your boss with a list of instances you’ve gone above and beyond your job description or helped solve problems for clients or customers.

While such are valid reasons for getting a raise, please avoid putting yourself and your personal needs at the center of your argument. Instead, frame your achievements in terms of how they benefited the company. 

For example, instead of saying, “I solved this problem for our client,” say something like, “I saved the company $11,000 with [the inititive].”

Or, instead of, “I created this new process that made us more efficient,” try “My new process helped us save [realistic and proven number of hours and amount of money].” 

Better yet, talk about your vision at the company. That’s an excellent way to show your boss that this isn’t just a one-time thing —you’re committed to staying at the company long term and growing with them. 

After all, wouldn’t you be happy to keep a company-centric employee committed to your organization’s success? Work to demonstrate you’re that kind of an individual. 

4. Asking for more money through email or over the phone

The debate about whether to ask for a raise in person or via email (or phone) is endless. While each method has its share of pros and cons, when you give your boss options, they will probably take the easy way out. 

Experts recommend asking for a raise in person for several reasons. Putting in the time and effort to schedule an appointment with your boss shows that the issue is important enough to merit their full attention.

In addition, an in-person conversation allows you to gauge your boss’ reactions and address their concerns on the spot. Plus, you can use body language and tone of voice — two powerful communication tools. After all, communication is 93% nonverbal.

However, don’t just show up at your supervisor’s or boss’s desk or office unannounced. Emailing them a heads up conveys respect and allows them the time to prepare their thoughts. 

5. Asking on a Monday morning or Friday afternoon

Most managers are more likely to be annoyed than open to a salary negotiation on the first and last day of the workweek, 

Why? You might wonder.

On Monday (especially during the first few hours), your boss is probably feeling pressured to get everything done to set the pace for the new workweek. That will include scheduling appointments and delegating tasks. They might still be in a fog from the two-day break.

With everyone looking forward to the weekend, Friday afternoon is not a good time to meet with your boss for a serious conversation. 

Instead, schedule the meeting for a Tuesday or Wednesday. During these days, your boss is most focused on work, relatively free from distractions, and isn’t under as much pressure to get things done before the workweek ends.

If you have to broach the subject on Friday, please do it in the mid-morning. Your supervisor is likely in good spirits but not mentally checked out for the upcoming weekend. They are much more likely to make compensation decisions to determine salaries during this time.

6. Requesting an outrageous pay raise

A little extra padding would be fine. And that’s because it would be pretty hard to negotiate again when rewarded something way below your expectations. 

But what’s the essence of shooting for the moon, only to land in the mud?

The answer is not to ask for an outrageous amount. Otherwise, your boss won’t take you seriously and will probably shut down the conversation without a flinch. See this post of ours: How Much Is Too Much to Ask for a Raise?

But you don’t want to be taken advantage of, either. Request a modest amount in a professional way, and your boss will work to find money for you.

So, how much of a raise should you ask for?  

The inflation rate saw a fresh 40-year high of 7.9% in February 2022. It’s therefore not surprising that 40% of companies expect to increase their pay budget above 5.0%, while 25% look to offer pay raises over 6%. The projected average increase is 4.2%. 

While 3% has long been the average pay raise, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for at least 4.0%, considering what’s going on this year. But depending on your justification for a raise(it has to be compelling) and when last you received a raise, try shooting for 10%-20% higher than your current salary. 

You could do with a generous bonus. For example, if you make $70,000 per year, a $700 raise won’t mean much.  But if you receive a $3,700 bonus, that elevates your compensation increase to 6.2%. 

The bottom line? “Give me $50,000 more” is precisely what not to say when asking for a raise unless you make hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars per year. 

7. Timing the company’s seasons wrong

Requesting a raise soon after getting hired is absurd. It will make your boss question your judgment and wonder whether they made the right decision in hiring you.

Experts recommend waiting at least six months. If it’s a big company, the timing may need to be further out.

The reason? It takes time to prove your value.

Employers use probationary periods (first 3-6 months) to evaluate whether they made a good hire. They wouldn’t have any way of knowing if they’re getting their money’s worth. And they want to know they can depend on you.

Take time to understand your company’s policies and procedures regarding salary adjustments. That will mean reading any employee handbooks or manuals the company provides you. 

You also want to find out when your employer will conduct your performance review. Many bosses schedule them a couple of times per year. If the assessment is due in six months, you’re better off waiting until then. If it’s just six weeks away, it makes sense to ask for the raise now.

In between formal reviews exist informal opportunities for a raise request. If your boss praises a job well done, business is booming, or if you win an award for some project, that could be an excellent time to bring up the subject of a salary increase.

8. Comparing yourself to co-workers

Nearly half (45.6%) of American employees know how much their co-workers make, a beqom report noted. 

Well, it’s one thing to find out through casual conversation that a colleague makes more than you. But that’s a discussion you want to avoid when negotiating your salary for two good reasons.

First, you don’t know the whole story about why your coworker earns more. Perhaps they’ve been at the company much longer than you have or have more responsibilities. Or, they could be better skilled than you at the same job.

Secondly, the move presents you as someone resentful and petty. 

You’ll have a much better chance if you make your case based on your specific contributions and accomplishments.

Having the same position or job title as someone else doesn’t automatically mean you should be paid exactly the same.

9. Throwing tantrums—or issuing ultimatums

One of the biggest mistakes to avoid when asking for a raise is making ultimatums. That can easily backfire, leaving you unemployed and with nothing at all.

Yeah, I understand you do need more money. Perhaps your spouse thinks you should bring home more cash, and you’ve been working so hard lately.

But then, you get hit with the unexpected—your boss declined your request. How tempting it is to throw tantrums. But what a mistake!

Similarly, never approach your boss with the infamous “Give me a raise, or I’ll quit” line. 

Demands and emotional responses will make your boss feel compelled to choose between being fair and keeping the peace at the company. And unsurprisingly, you might be bluffing while your employer is willing to let you go. 

Skip the drama impulse and take advantage of the opportunity to negotiate paid time off or other benefits. It’s all about making salary negotiation an ongoing dialogue about your value and contribution. 

But should your employer consistently decline reasonable and deserving raise requests, please do yourself a favor and search for greener pastures elsewhere. You want to work for an organization that appreciates your contribution, compensates you fairly, and helps advance your career. 

Summary

There you have it, folks! I hope these pointers on what not to do when asking for a raise will help you get what you deserve. 

While it’s nerve-wracking, asking for a raise can be equally satisfying. You don’t want to appear unprepared, entitled, desperate or pushy. You want your boss to see you as a future leader, a young professional who’s loyal, reliable, and ready for the next step in their career path.

Enter the conversation with a strong argument about how you’ve proven yourself and how much you deserve in exchange for that hard work. On top of that, make sure to ask in a friendly and polite tone.

If you follow the tips in this post but still don’t get a raise, it may be time to look for a new job.

As always, I wish you the best of luck.

Brandon Hill

I'm Brandon Hill with Bizness Professionals. We serve content to help young professionals develop personally, professionally, and financially. Well-rounded improvement is a theme we live by. As such, this website will cover a variety of topics aimed to help you have a successful life and career.