What Exactly You Should Never Say When Asking for a Raise

american bills

Some things will not get you the result you want when negotiating for a raise. | iStock.com/halduns

No matter how much you love your job, it can be hard to continue working for your employer if your salary isn’t that great. One reason you may be lagging behind when it comes to salary is if you didn’t negotiate when you were first hired. As a result, you could be leaving thousands of dollars on the table.

A study conducted by George Mason University and Temple University found that failure to negotiate during the hiring process will continue to affect you negatively for years to come. This is primarily because any raises or bonuses you receive will automatically be less. Researchers found that those who chose to engage in negotiations were able to increase their starting salaries by an average of $5,000.

“… The compounding effect of successful salary negotiation can be significant. Assuming an average annual pay increase of 5%, an employee whose starting annual salary was $55,000 rather than $50,000 would earn an additional $600,000+ over the course of a 40-year career,” said a George Mason University representative in a statement.

As you can see from the research results, your best bet is asking for more cash before you’re hired. Even if you did negotiate but you want to earn more because you’re doing more work, or you recently earned an advanced degree, for example, you may be thinking about asking for a raise. Requesting a pay hike is fine, but there is a proper way to make your request and there are certain things you should never say. Here are nine things you should never say when asking for a raise.

1. I deserve a raise

man with arms crossed

This makes you sound entitled. | iStock.com

You don’t deserve anything; you have to earn the rewards you receive from your employer (most of the time, anyway). Saying you deserve a raise without making a convincing case makes you look selfish and entitled. Instead of declaring what you deserve, present your recent accomplishments. If you helped the company significantly earn more revenue or you improved your team’s workflow, these are great reasons why your supervisor may give your request some consideration. Simply saying you deserve a raise just because you come to work on time every day just won’t cut it.

2. If you don’t give me a raise, I’m leaving

angry co-workers

This type of threat will almost always backfire. | iStock.com

Make a statement like this and you’ll likely be shown the door. Chances are, there are plenty of people waiting to take your job for less pay. Whatever you do, resist the urge to threaten your manger. It won’t go very well. “One thing you should never say when asking for a raise is to threaten to leave if you don’t get one. In a worst-case scenario, your employer could accept that as notice of resignation,” warned David Bakke, a personal finance contributor at Money Crashers.

3. I need more money because I’m drowning in debt

past due bills

Your bills aren’t the company’s fault. | iStock.com

This is just way too much information to share with your employer. And you should definitely not say this if you work for a financial company. At the end of the day, your supervisor doesn’t really care if you can barely pay your bills. What he or she does care about is whether you can do the job you’ve been hired to do. When you admit to being in a significant amount of debt, all your supervisor will think is that you have poor money management skills. You might have fallen on hard times due to an illness or a major life event, but that shouldn’t be your selling point when requesting a raise.

4. I’m overdue for a raise

unhappy worker

You don’t set the timing. | iStock.com

It’s not really up to you to decide the exact timing of your raise. While you may want a pay increase by a certain time, it doesn’t usually work that way. So don’t come to your boss with an ultimatum. Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, told The Cheat Sheet that employees shouldn’t automatically expect their supervisor to hand them a raise just because a certain amount of time has passed. Said Krawcheck:

Properly set the groundwork for your raise in advance. That means having a conversation with your boss early in the year to discuss: what your success looks like, what your team’s success looks like, what your department’s success looks like, what your company’s success looks like, what is key to your boss in the coming year, and what she or he will want to see from you over the next quarter and the next year. This conversation should not be a “one-and-done” for the year, but instead should be an ongoing dialogue, updated at least each quarter.

5. Joe is making more money

happy worker

You don’t know why your co-workers make what they make. | iStock.com

There may be several reasons why your co-worker is making more money. He could have more education or put in more years at the job. Also, don’t forget that your co-worker could be lying about making a better salary than you. Don’t take his word for it. Your supervisor won’t be too thrilled that you’re comparing salaries with your teammates. Run your own race and use reliable methods — such as salary calculators and industry salary surveys — to check whether you’re being paid fairly, not your co-workers.

6. I want an X% increase

piggy bank with dollars

You have to consider the company’s budget, too. | iStock.com

Raise amounts are usually determined not only on merit but also the company’s financial means. In addition, before you start making demands, you should research the going rate for the type of work you do, said career coach Kelly McClellan. She suggests sites such as Salary.com and Payscale.com. “Don’t say, ‘I would like a 10% increase.’ Do say, “Based on the research I have done for marketing specialists in our city with similar years of experience, the average salary is $X. I’d like to know what can be done to get closer to the average,” McClellan told The Cheat Sheet.

7. You’re underpaying me

empty pockets

Do you have numbers to back that up? | iStock.com

If you felt the salary wasn’t fair when you were first hired, you had plenty of time to fix that during your salary negotiations. Also, what measurement are you using to determine that you’re being underpaid? If you have no tangible way of demonstrating that you are truly being paid less than what you’re worth, you’re simply going on your own opinion. Do your research and then try again.

8. I do the job of 2 people


There are better ways to phrase this. | iStock.com

You may be doing an amount of work that would normally be done by two people, but there are better ways to convey that message. If you start off your conversation with your boss this way, be prepared for a defensive response. Instead, ask your supervisor if you can discuss a new role within the company, since the added responsibilities may have resulted in you doing a completely different job from what you were hired to do. Fred D. Winchar, president of Tradition Media Group, told The Cheat Sheet a better statement would be: “Thank you for my job and the chance to work for the firm. When you have time, can we discuss a career path for me in the company so I can be more valuable to you?”

9. I have a better offer

job interview

Make sure the offer is solid before you use it as a bargaining tool. | iStock.com

If you use this as a bargaining chip, make sure it’s true. Too many employees use this line when they know there are no other companies waiting to offer a higher salary. If you’re going to say you have another offer, make sure you actually have another job lined up and you’re prepared to leave if things don’t turn out the way you hope.

Career coach Roy Cohen told The Cheat Sheet that telling your boss you have another offer puts him or her in a tough position. Your boss may want to give you a raise, but if the resources aren’t available and you lied about having something better, you may be left without a job or steady salary.

Never suggest you have a competing offer if you really don’t. Some companies just don’t have the bandwidth to give you what you want no matter how valuable you may be. Stretching the truth is risky. If you see yourself as more significant than you really are or how you are viewed, you may be tested when your boss encourages you to take the offer.

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