7 Things to Never, Ever Say When Asking for a Raise
One of the most anxiety-inducing, awkward conversations you’ll ever have in the workplace is asking for a raise. In your brain, your rationale is simple: “I’m awesome, pay me more.” But with your paycheck’s future on the line, you have to be a bit more eloquent than that.
In fact, setting aside the factors that are out of your control (like the company’s budget), how you ask for a raise can determine if and how much of pay bump you’ll actually get.
Lucky for you, this cheat sheet reveals the phrases that can sabotage your salary negotiation, so strike them from your vocabulary now.
1. “I’m sorry.”
If you lead with an apology, you’re basically admitting that you’re not deserving of a raise, and that’s pretty weak footing to stand on. Exude confidence in your talents and abilities instead of giving up your leverage by acting meek and humble.
Instead: Say thank you. Start and end your meeting by letting your manager know you appreciate his or her time and consideration.
2. “Take it, or leave it.”
Confidence is one thing, but issuing an ultimatum is a bit too brazen, unless you’re actually willing to walk away. If you plan to continue working for this company no matter the outcome, steer clear of saying something that will jeopardize your relationship. Even worse – what if they call your bluff? In other words, there is such a thing as coming on too strong.
Instead: If you actually do have another offer, you could use it as leverage. Say something like: “Another company presented me with an offer, but I love the work I’m doing here, and wanted to see if there’s an opportunity to expand my role.”
3. “I want a 40% increase.”
Having personal salary goals is smart, as is leaving some wiggle room for negotiation by asking for slightly more than you think you’ll get. But let’s be real–no company is going to give you such an extravagant raise in one shot.
Instead: Be optimistic, but realistic. If you have a specific number in mind, make it reasonable–stay in the ballpark of 5-10%.
4. “I deserve a raise—now.”
Of course, you do! But deserving a raise doesn’t mean you get to demand one. Illustrating that you’re flexible and willing to negotiate will help you professionally present your case.
Instead: Use flexible language. Instead of “now,” try saying “this quarter,” or “after the next project deadline.” Instead of “I deserve,” try saying, “I bring value by…”
5. “Look at all I’ve accomplished.”
While it’s wise to prep a list of your achievements, asking for a raise signals that you’re ready to take your career to the next level. In other words, not just focusing on what you’ve done, but also the value you’ll bring to the company moving forward.
Instead: Focus on both the past and future—from your prep list of what you’ve aced to volunteering for a new initiative, or offering to take on extra responsibility in your role.
6. “This is what I’d like to make.”
Research shows that when you start a negotiation with a specific number, that is called “anchoring,” and it will act as a reference point for all subsequent negotiations.
Instead: Do some research as to what the industry standard salary is for your position, and use that range. It will show that you did your homework, and know your worth.
7. “Wow!” or “To be honest, I’m disappointed”
Just like in poker, you want to play it cool and not reveal too much emotion when you’re in the midst of salary talks.
Instead: Ask for time to review the salary offer, so you have time to catch your breath.
Using any of these taboo phrases can work against you, whether they reveal you to be unprofessional, arrogant, or whiny. By watching your wording, doing your research, and treating your salary request like a discussion rather than an ultimatum, you’ll be in the best position possible for a favorable offer.