4 Mistakes to Avoid When Asking for a Raise

Updated 04/16/19

Let's get one thing straight: Women are paid 80 cents for every dollar men receive, and while asking for a raise is intimidating, it's absolutely essential we do it. Fearlessly. Often. Without self-doubt. That said, there are a number of factors that can hinder your chance of success, so it's crucial to address them before you knock on your manager's door to have the chat.

"If you're asking for a raise, you have to think a lot about your manager," says Romy Newman, president and co-founder of Fairygodboss, in an article on LinkedIn. "The reality is that in most corporate situations, your manager will need to go out on a limb in order to get you that raise. As a manager, I wish that was something I wish more people—women and men alike—understood."

Ahead, we went through four common mistakes with Newman for insight into how managers perceive negotiations. Repeat after us: This is exactly what not to say when asking for a raise.

How to ask for a raise
Harper and Harley

"I haven't had a raise in years."

It's not wise to lead the discussion with this comment, even if it's true. "In many companies, the concept of annual raises has gone by the wayside. And when annual raises come, they tend to be quite modest," explains Newman. Instead, she recommends focusing on your value to the company, rather than the sense of injustice you feel. "It would be far better to show what your material contributions have been to the business that would make you warrant a raise and what you plan to contribute in the future when you get your raise." Come prepared with real data to substantiate your claim.

"I know that my co-worker earns more money than me. That seems unfair."

It's important to speak up if you discover that you're underpaid, but choose your wording carefully. "Equal pay for equal work should be a given, but it is often not the case because there are so many outside factors—past experience, geographic location, whether someone is an inside or outside hire," says Newman. "As my favorite boss used to say, 'Whoever told you life was fair?'" Rather than talking about fairness, shift the focus away from your co-worker who earns more money and back to you. "Treat your request for a raise like a business case. Why should the company invest more in you?" says Newman.

"I know you're in a rush, but…"

Newman can't stress this enough: Timing is critical when asking for a raise. "If you feel like you are due for a raise, you should realize that this is probably not going to happen in one conversation. I'd recommend starting with an initial meeting in which you lay out your business case, gain your manager's support, and ask your manager to work with you on a plan to get a raise over the course of six months," she recommends.

Rather than surprise your manager with an abrupt request, try to make it a collaborative process. and focus on his or her needs. "How are you making his/her life easier? How are you making the performance of the team more successful?" she asks. "A manager will always be far more willing to go to bat for a team member he/she feels he/she can't live without."

"I'm about to buy a house—I really need a raise."

There's no doubt that salary impacts our personal life but that's not a substantial reason to ask for more money. "While these life events do most certainly require more money, I'm afraid that they are just not something your manager is going to be able to build a case on," she points out. "Keep this about a business transaction: What are you offering, and why is it worthwhile for the company to invest more money in you?"

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