12 Things To Avoid Doing Or Saying When You're Negotiating A Raise

To improve your chances of successfully negotiating higher pay, it's important to do and say the right things, but that's not the whole story. It's just as critical to avoid doing or saying the wrong things. These tips will help you become in-the-know about what to avoid when you have an opportunity to negotiate higher pay.  Preparation is key when you're asking your boss for a raise. As part of your pre-game strategy, take the time to explore this list of all-too-common mistakes people tend to make when asking for higher pay at work. 


As a result, you'll know what you need to do to avoid sabotaging your chance to successfully bend the boss's ear about why you deserve to move to the higher end of the pay scale. As anxiety-inducing as talking to your boss about getting a raise can be, it's the only way to get the results you want.

Make a vague, fact-free request for more money

It's very important to do your homework before you meet with your boss to negotiate a pay increase. One of the worst things you can do when presented with an opportunity to discuss compensation is to make a vague request for more money. Everyone wants to make more money. Saying anything along the lines of "pay me more money" to your boss would be like going to buy a car and telling the salesperson that your goal is to pay less than the sticker price. 


You're not going to get anywhere with that approach, and you're not likely to be happy with the offer you receive (if any). Surely you're hoping for more than a tiny raise, but if you don't give a specific amount your boss could authorize another nickel per hour and still be able to say that they answered your request with a yes. Instead, when negotiating for higher compensation you need to have a specific ask in mind. Not only that, but you also need to have facts and figures that back up the amount you request so you're prepared to justify what you ask for. 

Act like you're entitled to a raise

Let's be clear. Your company does not have to give you a raise. When you accepted your job, you agreed to do it for a certain amount of money. Yes, it's only natural to want to see your pay increase over time, especially if you know you're doing a great job. But that doesn't mean that the company owes you a raise. Having an opportunity to negotiate for a raise is just that — an opportunity, not something to which you are entitled. Don't blow your chance to be considered for a salary bump by taking on an air of entitlement when discussing the matter with your boss. 


If you come across as entitled when seeking higher pay, you're not likely to be successful. Instead, your boss may well start to view you as more than a bit of a brat (best case) or a narcissist (worst case). Regardless, they're probably not going to approve a pay increase for you and your 'tude. Perhaps even more damaging, behaving this way now is highly likely to negatively impact how management views you moving forward. 

Come across as aggressive or adversarial

Acting entitled isn't the only thing you can do to completely shut down your supervisor's interest in negotiating with you for a possible pay increase. It's an equally bad idea to present yourself as aggressive or adversarial in such a situation. Sure, negotiation involves give and take — but it's not a fight and shouldn't be confrontational. A manager certainly isn't likely to reward an employee who is behaving aggressively, which is inappropriate in any workplace, by deciding to pay them more money. That's just not going to happen. 


Beyond that, the way you behave when you interact with your supervisor — and anyone else who has a say in approving or denying requests for higher pay — is going to form a lasting impression. Not only are you not going to get a raise at this time, but behaving like this will surely keep you from being considered for promotions in the future. Beyond that, it could even jeopardize your ability to stay in your current job. After all, your employer probably has a code of conduct. 

Give the boss an ultimatum

Even if you have convinced yourself that you are going to quit your job if your employer doesn't agree to your request for a pay increase, that's not something you should say to them during wage negotiations (or ever). You should never utter, "If I don't get a raise, I quit" or any other phrase that comes across the same. This might seem less confrontational than yelling or screaming, but it's not. It's effectively entitlement amplified to the nth degree.  


It is never a good idea to give your boss an ultimatum like threatening to quit if you don't get your way. First of all, they just may take you up on the offer. Second, you are positioning yourself as an individual who uses temper tantrums as a negotiating strategy. That's going to do the opposite of helping you position yourself as someone who should be considered for a pay hike. It may just backfire and lead your boss to shut down the conversation entirely or ask you to go ahead and turn in your letter of resignation.

Use wishy-washy language

While you shouldn't approach your boss aggressively or bark out an ultimatum, it's also important to avoid going so far in the other direction that you come across as wishy-washy. The key to this is to use assertive language rather than relying on terms that make it seem like you lack confidence or are uncertain of what you're saying. For example, don't say "I hope you will consider my request for a pay increase." If you are having a conversation with your boss that involves negotiating for a pay increase, they are already considering your request. Instead, say, "Thank you for considering my request for a pay increase." 


From there, don't say that you "think" you're doing a good job and "feel like" you deserve higher pay and are "wishing" for a raise. Instead, share specific examples that convey what a great job you are doing and follow them up with a confident statement that paints a picture of why your request should be granted. For example, after citing specific accomplishments, say something like, "As you can see, I have exceeded all performance targets. This demonstrates that my compensation, which is currently below the midpoint of the pay range, belongs in the highest quadrant." 

Downplay your contributions

When you ask for a raise, your boss is naturally going to ask you why they should consider granting your request. That means you need to be prepared to toot your own horn, in a way that's likely to inspire your boss to loosen the budget and throw some more green your way. This is not the time to be humble. Don't be arrogant, but don't downplay your skills and accomplishments. Share them confidently and with pride. 


Sure, humility can be a good thing, at the right time and in the right place. However, sitting in front of your boss making a case for why you deserve a raise is not the time to hold back when discussing what you have achieved and how you contribute to the company. Instead, cast yourself in the role of being your own PR/branding guru and take advantage of being invited to shine a light on all that you have done in your role, as a member of your team, and as part of the organization as a whole.

Compare yourself to other employees

When seeking to increase your compensation, it's important to focus on what you have accomplished without drawing comparisons between yourself and other employees. Don't lose sight of the fact that you're talking to your boss about why you deserve a raise, not why others do or do not. Pitching yourself in the context of why you think deserve more than others (or less, as the case may be) isn't a good strategy. You might end up putting someone else on the boss's radar as a superstar, while you should be focused on positioning yourself as a standout team member. 


Just say no to comparing yourself to other people in a raise negotiation situation. It won't lead to the result you want. If you stress how you outshine others, your boss is likely to see you as an overly competitive individual who isn't supportive of your colleagues. They may even see you as a bit snarky or gossipy. If you are overly complimentary of your coworkers in comparison to you, that can lead your boss to view you as less than sincere or interpret your motives as manipulative. Keep your remarks focused on why you deserve a raise. If you must draw comparisons, discuss how your performance aligns with — or exceeds — your job description.

Point out perceived problems with coworkers

When you have the boss's attention and aim to get a raise, this is not the time to complain about your coworkers. It's never a good idea to try to build yourself up to the boss by tearing down other members of your team. This behavior says a lot more about you than it does them, and the message you'll convey by doing this is anything but positive. After all, if you're having a problem with a coworker, the boss has no way of initially knowing if the coworker is the problem or if you are. After all, there are multiple sides to every story. What your boss will hear if you do this — loud and clear — is that you're anything but a team player. 


The last thing you should do when asking for a raise is say something that sends the message that you're only looking out for yourself. A strong team player would seek to build up their colleagues rather than trying to elevate themselves by putting down their coworkers. If your boss asks you to share your thoughts about other team members, focus on their positive attributes and refocus the discussion on the topic at hand.

Voice complaints about your work or the company

It's not just coworkers you should avoid complaining about during raise negotiations. When discussing a potential raise with your boss or someone even higher up in the company, don't complain about anything. That's right — all complaints should be completely off-limits at a time like this — even if the person you're speaking to asks you to share your concerns. Think about it like this: if you ask for a raise, then go on to complain about working too many hours or having a workload that's hard to manage, what message are you sending to the decision-maker? 


You're telling them that there are things you find dissatisfying about your job separate from the amount of money you make. If they authorize a pay increase, you'll have a higher paycheck, but you'll still have the same workload and your hours aren't likely to decrease. So, based on what you voluntarily told them, they know that you'll probably still be dissatisfied. A decision-maker who's concerned with using the company's money wisely probably isn't going to authorize higher pay for someone who has just 'fessed up to probably being on the way out.

Push to discuss when the time isn't right

Timing is everything. Your supervisor needs to be in the right frame of mind to negotiate with you about your compensation for you to have any chance of securing the outcome you're hoping for. With that in mind, it's very important to avoid pushing to discuss the topic when the time is just not right. It can be frustrating to delay an important conversation like this, but forcing your preferred timeline when it's not convenient for the decision-maker isn't going to lead to a favorable outcome. 


If you approach your boss without a scheduled appointment to start a conversation on the subject of pay, read the situation and their mood to get a sense of whether the time is right before diving in. Are they stressed? Do they seem to be under a lot of pressure? Are there out-of-the-ordinary challenges in the department that day? If so, wait for another day. If you have an appointment to discuss a pay increase with your boss at 2 p.m. on Tuesday and they seem extremely stressed out when you get to their office, ask whether it's still a good time for the two of you to have a discussion. Showing this kind of restraint demonstrates empathy and maturity, traits that can help your boss see — when the time is right — that you do deserve higher pay. 


Focus on personal issues or expenses

When you go to your boss to ask for a raise, it's very important to avoid oversharing personal matters, including financial concerns that may have led you to ask for a pay increase at this particular point in time. Your boss isn't going to authorize a pay increase because your rent went up or because you share that you have a student loan to pay or too much credit card debt. Sure, those are important concerns, but they're personal matters that don't directly relate to the pay structure for your job. 


A company is only going to authorize a pay increase when it serves the interests of the business, not because of a particular employee's personal situation. Business decisions simply aren't based on an employee's personal circumstances. When negotiating for higher pay, your goal needs to be to convince your supervisor that you deserve higher pay because of the quality of your work and how you positively impact the organization. You should never try to get them to feel sorry for you or seek to guilt them into paying more because of factors external to the workplace.

Tell coworkers that you're negotiating for a raise

When you're negotiating with your boss for a raise, this isn't something you should share with your coworkers. If others know that you're asking for a pay increase, they just might decide to do the same. If the boss ends up fielding a lot of similar requests at the same time as yours, chances are that your request will get lumped in with everyone else's. This could result in a delay or even a blanket denial; after all, a company only has so much money to go around. The boss may also blame you for stirring up the team and causing a lot more work for them. If a lot of grumbling ensues after others get involved, the boss may also blame you for negatively impacting morale and productivity. 


That's all bad enough, but it's not the only problem with letting people in on your plans. When the fact that you've asked for a raise starts to circulate throughout the rumor mill, your boss is going to know where that information came from. This could cause them to see you as someone who doesn't exhibit appropriate professionalism or even label you as an office gossip. Not surprisingly, this probably isn't going to contribute to you getting a "yes" to your request for a wage increase. It'll also impact how the boss views you throughout your tenure with the company.