Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How to (NOT) Ask for a Raise

Last week I wrote a post about How to Ask for (Another) Raise, which explored my strategy for increasing my compensation and my discussions about the topic with my boss. Today's article is a mirror image of that other post. It's about one of my team members asking me for a raise. This article may seem a little heartless to some of my readers, but I assure you, what I describe below is the way that the vast majority of managers think about the topic of salary discussions with their team members.

Here are some of the things that you should never do when asking your boss for a raise. Believe it or not, the team member that I am referring to has made every one of these errors:

1. Don't Give Me Ultimatums - making statements like "it's now or never", give your boss an incentive to say: "OK, never". Do you seriously think that threatening me is going to increase the chances that I will fight for your raise? If you want to leave, leave. Don't tell me you are going to do so.

2. Don't Bug Me - do you think that you are helping your case by bringing up the topic of a pay increase every time you get me alone for 3 seconds? Instead of making your case, you are simply antagonizing me. There is a time and a place for everything, and compulsively raising the issue twice a week is not the way to go.

3. Your Financial Issues are Not My Concern - a manager's job is to manage his team. One of his responsibilities is making sure that his team members are well compensated, in accordance with their performance. Notice I didn't say in accordance with their financial challenges or personal needs. Happily, we are living in a capitalist society, not a communist one. The fact that you decided to buy a house, are thinking of buying a new car or are planning to have another child, are completely irrelevant to me when we are discussing your compensation. I don't hand out raises to those that most need them, I award raises to those on my team who perform best and that I most want to retain.

4. Do Your Homework - before you ask me for a raise do your homework and figure out your market value. Seriously, have you heard of Also, before we talk turkey, do you have a good sense of what I think of your performance? Are you considered a star performer or are you scraping by? If you are asking for higher than average market pay for your level of responsibility and performance, all I see is someone who has an inflated and unrealistic self image.

5. Don't Gossip - if another manager comes to me and tells me that you have been speaking to him about your salary negotiations, you are not going on my list of "people to help". If my boss tells me that you have been going directly to her to ask about your compensation, you are not winning me as an ally. In case you missed it, the previous sentence was an understatement.

Here is the bottom line. Finding, recruiting and training a new employee to replace a perfectly good team member is a huge headache for a manager. If your manager has come to rely on your expertise and advice, he will do everything he can to keep you on his team. That means he is very likely to fight for the raise that you are requesting. Moreover, your manager may have a personal stake in getting you the highest raise possible. If my team is well compensated, I am likely to be even better compensated. I have some skin in that game.

Simultaneously, employees should recognize that managers never have enough budget for everything they want to accomplish or for all the pay increase requests they receive. As such, managers need to make some hard choices. When given the choice between giving a raise to a star-performer, who has made a good case for his salary increase; and giving a raise to a complaining, threatening employee who goes above your head or gossips with other managers, who do you think will be getting that increase?


Anonymous said...

FYI -- your link to is not working (it links to

Eric said...

I have to agree about the gossip thing. However, I think it goes beyond asking a raise to just how you do your job. People that gossip usually try, at some point, and find out how much others around them are getting paid. Then that becomes their true reason for asking for a raise.

Anonymous said...

Yes asking for raises in hard economic times is really tough. There was one article I was reading and this young lady had this attitude that in her contract she was supposed to get a 10% raise on her work anniversary and she makes a little less than her coworker even though she says she does the same work. But her attitude comes across as the little high school girls that are tattle tales and are whiners like well she does the same as me and so I deserve more pay. But asking for a raise I would have to say one needs to loose the attitude and be very careful in how you ask for a raise. Because if the boss is not very nice he/she might make your job a living hell. Then you will probably wish you could leave your job and in these hard times you could be sitting at home looking for work for a long long time. In hard economic times I might reconsider and not ask for a raise or ask for a less raise and if you are supposed tobe given a certain percentage but the boss is hem hawing around and act's like he/she doesn't want to give you a raise make ask for half your percentage raise at such and such date then set up that you will get you other half raise and such and such later date. But definitely don't go in to the bosses office with the blame attitude like well she/he does the same thing as I do and he is making more then me so I should get a raise. That is a wrong way to approach it and will turn the boss off and probably make your job a living hell.

Shadox said...

I completely agree that in tough economic times asking for a raise is something that you should think about very carefully.

In fact, I recently wrote a post about Keeping Your Job in a Tough Economy in which I recommended avoiding exactly that...

Gordon, the Pay Raise Maniac said...

Don't ask for a raise in front of others.

If your boss declines you, he or she will feel bad about it afterwards.

If your boss does not decline your request, it will be because he or she doesn’t want to look scrimpy in front of the others.

It is a foolish thing to do. Wait for the right moment and have a private conversation with your boss.