What Not to Say When Asking for a Raise

Asking for a raise can be intimidating, and there are phrases that you should avoid. Check out our guide to learn what to say instead.
3 min read

Share this Article

  • Focus on your accomplishments and results when asking for a raise.
  • Do not offer your boss threats or ultimatums during rate negotiations.
  • Strengthen your argument using concrete evidence and confident wording to highlight your skills.

Asking for a raise can be a nerve-wracking process. But there's good news: The odds are mostly in your favor if you have the ambition to ask for a raise. According to Payscale, 70% of people who asked for a raise got one, and 39% got the amount they wanted.

Just as you prepare for a job interview, you must also prepare and practice when asking for a raise. You can increase your chances of success by effectively making your case. That said, there are certain words and phrases that you should avoid when asking for a raise.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

"I Deserve a Raise Because I Have Been Here 'X' Amount of Years."

Although companies often reevaluate your performance and salary on anniversary dates, it doesn't mean that you automatically deserve a raise. Time doesn't always equal impact. According to Technical Recruiting Manager Valerie Fogerty, "When you have been at a company or a role for an extended period of time, and you feel as though you deserve a raise, it is better to come prepared with concrete, tangible examples as to your impact on the company."

Instead of using this phrase, Fogerty suggests saying something like, "Due to my work on X project, I was able to increase company sales by 80% and reduce costs by 30%. Based on these results, I am requesting a raise due to my direct impact on the company's bottom line." Using this option provides direct evidence as to why you deserve a raise besides just your longevity.

"I Feel That…"

Michele Dye, CEO and founder of Dyenamic Career Goals, said, "You don't want to base your requests on feelings — you want to base them on facts." Instead, outline your contributions to the company with concrete examples.

Show them why you deserve these things. The words "I feel" and "I think" weaken your argument. People add these words to soften what they will say next, giving the listener an out. Be confident in your negotiation to increase your odds of getting what you want.

"X Is Making More than Me."

Avoid bringing up coworkers and how much they make. While this can be frustrating, you don't know all the specifics of your coworkers' jobs. Maybe they bring something to the table that you don't. And they might not be telling you the truth either.

If you need to address this point, you can say something like, "I've been researching this position, and the average salary for those with my experience is X. I have been doing a great job and would like to discuss my salary." This option avoids calling out specific employees and demonstrates that you have done your research before going into salary negotiations.

"I'm Overdue for a Raise."

It isn't really up to you when you get raises. While companies may do yearly performance reviews, it doesn't mean that you are guaranteed an annual raise. This point is merely your opinion and not a company policy.

Instead, you can ask, "I was wondering when I will have a performance review. I would like to better understand how I'm doing at my job." This phrasing will get you a review that you can cite in the future. If you have a great review, it might be something you can use for evidence when you go back to ask about a raise.

"I Will Leave if I Don't Receive a Raise of X Amount."

Issuing ultimatums or making threats won't lead to the outcome you hoped for. Your manager might not respond well, and it could even make them try to replace you.

According to Fogerty, you should give examples of your value. One example she gave includes, "I love working at X company but feel as though I am not being paid adequately for the impact I bring to the company. (Bring forth concrete examples/metrics). I would love to see an increase of X amount to feel fairly compensated. However, if this is not feasible now, what are some things I can do to ensure I can get to that point by X date?"

This phrasing demonstrates your commitment to the company. It also allows you to provide examples of excellence or ask how you can get there. And know that you have other options if you don't get a raise right away.

"I'm Going to Need to Go to the Competition."

Yikes, this line is still a threat. Instead of threatening to leave, you can say something like, "I've received other offers, but I love working here and would like to make it more sustainable."

If you threaten to quit, your boss could call your bluff and walk you out. You can use other offers as leverage, but you must be careful about it. You could say that you are receiving communication from competitors, but you're more interested in making it work where you are. This phrasing will reaffirm your commitment to the company and show that you want to stay.

"I Need More Money Because I'm in Debt."

While your boss may feel bad for you if you say this, they may also think you have bad money management skills. It's also a bit of an overshare. In most cases, they don't need to know whether or not you can pay your bills. They hired you to do a job, and they have a budget to stick to.

Instead, bring up accomplishments, such as, "I saved the company X amount by finding this new part/method/other." Use measurable examples of how you have helped the company. Your challenges are not a reason for a raise, no matter how debilitating they may be.

"My Pay Doesn't Reflect My Cost of Living."

Citing the cost of living is not enough for your employer to increase your salary. Instead, redirect to focus on performance and impact. Provide examples regarding your performance and what you bring to the company.

Results drive your employer. So you could ask, "What would stellar performance look like in this position?" This way, even if they aren't considering you for a raise now, you could get more information about how to work toward one.

Bottom Line

When it comes to seeking a raise, the biggest success comes from bringing concrete examples about whatyou've done, not why you think you deserve it. This evidence might include specific numbers, cost savings, and other data that shows how you have personally contributed to the company.

The bottom line? You need to prove your impact on the business, and the best way to do that is with evidence, not ultimatums or preconceived expectations.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare Your School Options

View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.