Work Relationships

What to do when you just got a raise but it wasn’t enough? 

Written by Eric Titner

For many of us, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating in our professional careers as the day we get a raise. In addition to having some extra money coming our way on a regular basis, it’s a nice acknowledgment that our hard work and effort is appreciated. However, sometimes these moments don’t go exactly as we envisioned. What do you do when you get a raise, but it’s not quite as much as you were hoping for?

The “insufficient raise” can be a very tricky situation to handle. On the one hand, you don’t want to show a lack of appreciation for the gesture, which hopefully came with good intentions. You also likely don’t want to adopt an adversarial or hostile position with your bosses at work. On the other hand, you don’t want the powers that be at your job to think that you’re a complete pushover with no ambition who can be bought off cheaply. You also want to make sure that you’re being fairly compensated for all of your hard work and effort. So…how do you proceed when you find yourself in this unfortunate position?

Don’t react emotionally

If you’re feeling emotional after being presented with a less-than-stellar raise offer, take a deep breath, relax, and realize that you won’t be doing yourself any favors by reacting on your emotions. Not only will it force calm logic and reason—your best tools to convince your bosses that you deserve a larger raise—to take a back seat, you won’t be doing yourself any favors by letting your boss see you at your less-than-professional best. If you can get a hold of your emotions and let reason lead you, you can calmly discuss the situation with your boss and try and reach a mutually beneficial arrangement—but if you’re feeling overly emotional and need some time to collect yourself, then by all means take it.


Keep in mind that most salary discussions—from the time you’re hired through every raise—are open to some level of negotiation. You won’t be the first employee looking to make a better deal and you certainly won’t be the last. In fact, your boss will not likely be shocked by a “counter-suggestion” regarding your raise, so don’t approach the moment full of fear or the belief that you’re entering hostile territory. If handled well, a conversation regarding your raise can be a polite and effective exchange of thoughts that can truly benefit both sides. Consider the raise negotiation process an opportunity to reassert your value as an employee, and possibly even redefine or clarify your position and responsibilities moving forward—which can be really beneficial for all involved.

Make your case

When you enter into a discussion regarding your raise, it’s in your best interest to be prepared to back up your belief that you deserve more with some strong evidence. When stating your case, highlight what you’ve done on the job to merit a larger paycheck. Discuss your accomplishments as well as any cost saving measures you’ve been involved with, and if you can demonstrate your value to the team moving forward, even better. The stronger your case, the more likely you are to get the raise you’re looking for.

Have you just gotten a raise but aren’t thrilled with the amount? Fear not—all is not lost. Use the strategies and advice presented here to try and salvage a challenging situation and turn the tables to your monetary advantage. Good luck!


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.