Professional Development

5 things you should never say when asking for a raise

Written by Eric Titner

In the world of work, there are few situations more anxiety-provoking than asking for a raise. Summoning the courage to confront your boss and ask for more money can prove daunting for even the most confident of employees—it’s just something we’d prefer to have happen to us rather than having to proactively go after it.

In reality, there are times when you’ll need to take the first step towards securing a raise if you want to make it happen, which means you’ll have to initiate the discussion—and there are certainly some approaches you should avoid if you want it to work out in your favor. When the time comes for you to ask for a raise, be sure to avoid the following five conversation pitfalls!

1. “It’s not fair…”

This conversation red flag implies that you think you’re being unfairly treated and it could be interpreted that you think your boss isn’t doing a great job of…well…being your boss. Your goal during a productive raise conversation should be to demonstrate your value to the company, not to vent about how badly you think you’re being treated—whether it’s true or not.

2. “I’ve worked here for X years…”

This is a common raise conversation mistake and typically never leads to a convincing argument that a raise is well deserved. Although a work anniversary is a common time to have a performance review where raises often get discussed, in reality your years of service don’t automatically translate into perceived value for your employer.

Your specific contributions to the company you work for, and how they contribute to the bottom line, is the key here, and should be the focus of your raise conversation—not the fact that you’ve simply been showing up for a certain number of years (no matter how long it has been). While company loyalty is commendable, unless it’s specified in the terms of your hiring agreement it doesn’t mean a raise is in order.

3. “I know someone here who makes way more than me…”

This is never a good topic to bring to your boss’s attention, inside or outside of a raise conversation. Discussing salaries with coworkers is typically frowned up by employees and could lead to unintended punitive actions. Furthermore, it does little to demonstrate your personal value as an employee—in fact, it could make you seem petty or bitter, which will not likely help your case.

4. “If I don’t get the raise I want I’m leaving…”

Adopting an adversarial tone rarely works out well in any negotiation, let alone while making a case for why you deserve a raise. Simply put, it’s human nature to feel threatened when given an ultimatum such as this. Do you want to move forward in your relationship with your boss on this footing? At best, you’ll get your raise with a side order of negative feelings and resentment for your tactless approach, and at worst they might just take the other option and show you the door…

5. “You need me more than I need you…”

See pitfall #4. Once again, this contentious approach is the opposite of how you should proceed in a raise conversation and will likely have the opposite effect of what you’re aiming for. A surefire way to get on your boss’s bad side is to tell them that they need you more than you need them, and they may even take the opportunity to prove you wrong by letting you go—not exactly the result you’re aiming for, is it?

Your raise conversation is a classic “show, not tell” moment—showcase your value to the company with real measurable data and quantifiable evidence and you’ll have a much better shot at getting that raise than merely telling your boss that you’re great and they’re not.

Here’s the bottom line—if you’re planning on initiating a raise conversation with your boss, plan for it as you would any other persuasive presentation. Come equipped with a list of convincing, undeniable evidence that demonstrates why you’re worth a salary increase—not why you feel entitled to one and upset why it hasn’t happened yet. Many bosses are “bottom line” thinkers, and if you can make a case that highlights your value to their bottom line, then you’ve put yourself in the best possible position to get the raise you’re aiming for. And if you hear yourself saying any of the five conversation pitfalls mentioned here, act fast and pivot the conversation quickly!

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.