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5 Mistakes To Avoid When Asking For A Raise

Make the case that giving you a raise would be good for the company, and whatever you do, don’t issue an ultimatum.

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Asking For A Raise
[Photo: Kuzmik_A/iStock]

In an ideal world, we’d all be compensated fairly for our work and receive raises when we do well in our jobs without having to ask. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t quite work like that. More often than not, we have to ask for the raise, make a case for why we deserve it, and do it in a way that makes sense to the company we’re working for. Those that don’t ask, often don’t get.

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So if you’re looking to negotiate a salary bump this year, do yourself a favor and stay away from making these five common mistakes that negotiation experts say they see over and over again.


Related: The One Word That Can Transform Your Negotiating Skills


1.  Not Doing Their Research

Ask any negotiation expert the key to a successful negotiation, and almost all will say research and preparation, no matter the context for negotiation.  Nancy Ancowitz, presentation and career coach and author of Self-Promotion for Introvertstells Fast Company that before you even bring it up with your boss, you should have the following information up your sleeve: “What do the competitors offer people like you? How well does your company pay versus other organizations?”

Ancowitz suggests that in addition to researching sites like PayScale and Glassdoor, you should try to draw information from people in your industry. If you can’t get this information from people within your company, you might contact other people you know who are in similar roles in other organizations. You can also reach out to recruiters and headhunters, or even former professors.  Bryant Galindo, founder and CEO of Workplace Collaborations, a negotiation and conflict resolution company, says that he always tells his clients, “You need to be a quasi-investigator.”

2. Not Negotiating With The Company’s Best Interests In Mind

Negotiating salary can feel personal–after all, what could be more personal than attaching a number to determine our “worth”? But Jim Norman, a former HR executive at Krafts Foods Group, tells Fast Company that after the research, you should be preparing your argument in the company’s language. “You [have to] be clear about how you’ve added value in a quantifiable role. It might not be in dollars, if you’re in an activity-based role. ”

For example, let’s say you’re in a call center, Norman said, ” and the standard is x, and the satisfaction standard is 4.0 and you consistently scored 4.8, higher than any of your peers, or you are then able to turn those customer calls into increased business.” That’s the line of argument that you should be using to advocate for your salary increase, not that you need money to get a bigger apartment. “A lot of us walk around in survival mode,” Ancowitz asserts, so it’s easy to default to the “me-centric” approach to negotiating. But a guilt trip is rarely going to get you inspire your boss to give you what you want, so it’s best to keep it company-centric.

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3. Revealing Too Much Information

In her years of coaching many people in the workforce on negotiating salaries, a common mistake that Ancowitz often sees (which can derail an otherwise successful negotiation), is saying too much. She often has to tell her clients, “Once you said your piece and you feel like you’ve connected with your boss and things are going well, stop talking.” A lot of people, she says, tend to ramble on, and inadvertently end up speaking about their weakness, which is not what you want to highlight in a negotiation.


Related: How To Negotiate Your Salary When You Have No Obvious Leverage


4. Seeing Salary As The Only Negotiable Thing

For Galindo, a trap that many of his clients fall into is being overly fixated on the salary– and nothing else. There are many other little things, Galindo asserts, that “you just never think about, that in the long run, can make you happier.” For example, perhaps you can ask for additional vacation time, or if you have a long commute, you can ask to work from home a few days a week. Perhaps you want to take a course or two that you know will help you do your job better. Ask for those if a raise just isn’t on the table this year.

5. Issuing An Ultimatum

When all else fails, it can be tempting to pull the counteroffer card. But this approach is problematic, Norman asserts. First of all, if there is actually no job offer, the organization might call your bluff. And if there is truly a job offer, taking such a combative stance can leave a bad taste in your employer’s mouth, as Molly Triffin previously wrote for LearnVest. “Some organizations might consider you to be disloyal. They question, are you really committed?” Norman states, and this can cost you key projects later on.

At the end of the day, Norman says, salary negotiation should be an ongoing discussion. “You can’t give an ultimatum, it can’t be a tone of resentment. It can’t be a sense of, you owe this to me, it can’t be anything like that. And I think sometimes, that tone might get there. The employee might feel underpaid, undervalued, underloved.”

But seeing the negotiation as a conversation, rather than a fight, makes you more likely to be successful. As career roach Roy Cohen told Glassdoor, always say that you’re looking forward to “working together” when making your case.  He insisted, “Unless you know for sure that you are indispensable, and few of us ever are, successful negotiation should never become adversarial. That is a bad sign that the process has broken down or will.”

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About the author

Anisa is the Assistant Editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. She covers everything from productivity to the future of work

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