You’ve been working toward a raise for months and finally summoned the courage to ask your boss—only to be turned down. It’s natural to feel vulnerable, underappreciated, or even angry.
Though the rejection can sting, it’s important to remember that you’re at a critical career juncture, and the decisions you make going forward can have an impact on your long-term work satisfaction. Before you make any major moves, consider the following:
Ask for clarification
Try not to take the “no” personally. Not all salary decisions have anything to do with an employee or their abilities, so it’s important to try to figure out what the true reason is for your boss’s decision. Perhaps salary increases aren’t in the company budget. Perhaps your boss has other reasons—justified or not—for declining your request.
Ask your boss to clarify what factors were at play. If a raise isn’t possible now because of financial issues within the company, perhaps it will be possible in the next quarter. Can you revisit the salary issue then?
Reflect upon your long-term career plans
While it may seem tempting to jump ship and move on, career coach, speaker, and author Michael O’Brien says it’s best to take some time to reflect upon your long-term plans and consider the impact that not receiving a raise now will have on those future plans. O’Brien says it’s important to dig deep and do some internal work to clarify your personal value and your relationship with money to understand what is driving your long-term career goals.
If your goal is to make $100,000, ask why this is your goal. Is it for the status? Or is $100,000 the income required to support your family? “By understanding what your money is for and the values you wish to honor, you can be more thoughtful with your next move,” says O’Brien.
By knowing what your values are, you can also see greater possibilities. If you value status or influence over money, for example, perhaps a title change or added responsibilities would be a good compromise and would satisfy your craving. But if you require the funds to purchase a house, or pay down debt, you may not have the flexibility to wait for a raise and may need to start looking elsewhere soon. “When it comes to money, it’s essential to be aware of what it means to you to avoid making reactive decisions that don’t help you reach your long-term goals,” says O’Brien.
Look at the bigger picture
Before jumping ship, consider your overall compensation, including any bonuses or benefits, as well as other budget elements, such as your commute, and future growth opportunities within the company. “When you weigh everything, sometimes the grass isn’t greener, but if these don’t align with your future goals, then it’s time to start looking,” says O’Brien.
You may also decide that the compensation you receive doesn’t match the contribution you are making to the company and decide that’s reason enough to move on.
Keep yourself motivated
Staying motivated at work can be tough while you decide what your next move will be. Write a list of all the things you like about your work. Maybe there are some coworkers you enjoy spending time with, or maybe it’s the work itself that you find enjoyable. Focusing on the positive attributes of your work can help you to get through the negative emotions around being turned down for a raise. “Remember life isn’t about what happens to you; it’s about how you respond to it,” says O’Brien.