5 Things Not to Say When You Want a Raise (and 5 Things to Say Instead)

things not to say when asking for a raise cat

You’ve been busting your butt all year long to get your company to hit those monthly goals. Now, evaluation time is here and you’re looking to be rewarded for all your hard work. But, as with many things involving money, negotiating for a raise can be difficult. Whether you’re uncomfortable bringing it up because you think your managers will look at you differently afterwards, or you’ve brought it up multiple times before and don’t want to be “too pushy,” asking for an increase in pay can be tricky.

We reached out to SoFi career expert Ashley Stahl, for her expertise on the best ways to approach the salary raise conversation without selling yourself short or handing out ultimatums. So, find out the five things not to say when you want a raise and what to say instead below.

1. Don’t say: “My salary doesn’t match my cost of living.” 

You moved into a new apartment during the pandemic and your new budget has you stretching your paycheck a bit. Unfortunately, moving, or any other changes to your personal life, don’t have any bearing on whether you get more money or not.

“Your raise and your salary have nothing to do with your cost of living,” Stahl explained. “Even though employers have shifted salaries because people are moving to different markets over the course of the pandemic, that’s still a business decision and you cannot make your personal life relevant. People have to remember that raises come from a very transactional mindset: Business has a need and they’re paying for the result. That’s it.”

What to say instead: “What would extraordinary results look like in this role?”

“By nature, the word 'raise' means more so it’s important to recognize the difference between what you need and what you deserve,” says Stahl. So, instead of making it personal, bring up the topic in a way that demonstrates you’re asking for a raise in conjunction with the value you’re bringing to the business. “Your raise has to correlate to the possibilities within the company. Never bring up your personal life. It’s not relevant.”

2. Don’t say: “If you don’t give me a raise I might have to leave.”

You may have established a friendly relationship with your boss, but keep in mind that your job is still a place of work and you always have to maintain a sense of professionalism. Any inkling that you may have one foot out the door—even when mentioned jokingly—may rub your manager the wrong way. 

“Some people will go into that conversation feeling disgruntled or discouraged or maybe having a very candid conversation with their boss. But no matter how close you are, threatening to leave is bad form,” warns Stahl. “We’re in a job market where there are so many people vying for a job. You don’t want to create fear in your boss that they need to replace you. And besides, nobody wants people to work for them that aren’t happy to be there.”

What to say instead: “I’m aware of the market compensation rates for my level of responsibility.”

It’s not unheard of for companies to underpay their employees, so if you genuinely feel like you’re exceeding every mark, hitting every goal and are still not getting paid what you deserve, it’s best to enter the conversation after having done some market research. That way, it’s still about the business. And in cases where you’ve brought up the subject multiple times to no avail, it’s important to maintain your professionalism because your boss can easily feel backed into a corner.

3. Don’t say: “I have a better offer to go somewhere else.”

While we’re here, let’s talk other job offers. Stahl says, unless you’re genuinely prepared to leave, don’t bring up other job offers as a negotiation tactic. “There are plenty of managers who are [focused on] budgeting and there is somebody above them on the chain who is saying, ‘No,’ and they can’t do [anything] about it. That conversation can very well end with them wishing you well on your new job and you may not actually want that.”

What to do instead: Stay focused on the market compensation rate.

If you do have other offers on the table but you love your current company, try hitting them with the facts as opposed to pointing the finger. Again, your workplace is a business, so it’s best to approach the discussion about a salary increase that way. Find out what other people in your field, with your responsibilities, are being paid. Revealing you have another offer might seem like you’re giving your current company an ultimatum.

4. Don’t say: “I’ve been working here for a long time.”

You’ve just celebrated your five-year anniversary and recently found out that your co-worker who joined the company just a year ago is already making the same or more than you are. While you might feel slighted, Stahl advises that you pump your breaks before getting caught up in those feelings of entitlement.

“I hear it a lot. People are like, ‘I’ve been working here for six years...,’ but that doesn’t matter. What results have you created?” Stahl explained. “Someone can come in and, in six months, radically shift the company. They’ll get paid for those results because the company needs them. They don’t need somebody who’s just passing time.”

What to do instead: “Here’s my vision for the year ahead.”

Longevity at a company not only means you know the ins and out of the business, but it also means you have a gauge on the competition. Show your bosses that you’re an asset to the company by presenting a plan of growth for your position. “You can say, ‘Our competitors are doing X and here are some ideas for us to move forward as it relates to my role and the projects that I can take on.’ When you can enroll them in a vision, time doesn’t matter.” Translation: Show your employers you can take initiative.

5. Don’t say: “X is making more than me for the same job.”

Again, you have to think about your job as a place of business and the reasons why someone may be making more than you for the same position can be nuanced. “There is so much context to that,” says Stahl. “That person could have more relevant experience, educational background, or language skills.”

What to say instead: “I’m aware that there are employees being compensated at higher rates for this title. What can I do to be compensated on par with them?”

It’s less accusatory and more goal-oriented, as well as professional. Your employers will leave the discussion feeling like you actually care about the business and advancing their position just as much as your own. It also shows that you are a trustworthy teammate. “Come to the table with curiosity and don’t out anyone or throw anyone under the bus,” concluded Stahl.

7 Things You Need to Stop Saying During Job Interviews, According to a Career Expert

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Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...