Salary Negotiation Mistakes

Dear, Anita,

I think I may have blown it when asking for a raise. I thought it would be best to email my boss and outline my financial situation (I recently incurred huge medical bills for my son). I was also talking with a friend about what his company pays for my position, which is more than I make, so I mentioned that, too. My boss called me into his office and turned me down. What did I do wrong?

Raising_HandDear, Raising Eyebrows,

Recently, a bank employee emailed his CEO asking for a $10,000 raise and CC’d about 200,000 of his coworkers. See the full story here. I would not recommend this tactic.

Here are 10 salary negotiation mistakes employees make when asking for a raise. Since I don’t know your entire situation, I can only guess that you made a few of these errors.

  1. Bad timing. Don’t make your request after you’ve made a major mistake, such as losing a big client, or bungling a manager’s travel arrangements. Making a raise request during budget cuts won’t get you far. Keep your ear to the ground, and know what’s going on within your company.
  2. Requesting a raise via email. You can request a meeting by email, but it’s best to have delicate salary discussions face-to-face. You can better gauge body language and adapt your presentation to the reactions you experience.
  3. Citing personal reasons. Asking for more money because of medical bills is not a compelling reason for your boss to give you a raise. While he may be sympathetic, your compensation is based on your value to the company, not the stack of bills on your dining room table.
  4. Complaining versus explaining. While your workload may have increased, be sure you are not whining about it when asking for an increase in salary to go along with your additional responsibilities.
  5. Throwing coworkers under the bus. Whether Sandra in the next cubicle told you her salary, or John is not doing his fair share of the work assignments, now is not the time to bring it up.
  6. Money_Steps_iStock_000014098920_SmallUnreliable facts. Water-cooler gossip and cocktail party chats may not be the most dependable source of salary information. Check out average salaries for similar positions in your area at But use this information in a non-confrontational way.
  7. Acting entitled. Years at the company alone, or the fact that you have a family, does not give you claim to a pay raise.
  8. Stating a specific number. If push comes to shove, state a range, preferably in percentages rather than dollars. Give your supervisor some wiggle room.
  9. Threatening.  If you issue ultimatums – “If I don’t get a raise, I’ll walk” – you may find yourself walking to the unemployment office.
  10. Holding a grudge. If you are turned down for a raise, continue to do your best work. Ask your supervisor what steps you can take in the upcoming months or year to warrant a pay increase.

Readers: What are some successful tactics that have earned you a requested raise?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

I Resolve… to Get a Raise
Achieving the Annual Raise
Transparent Salaries: From Hourly Employees to the CEO


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
%d bloggers like this: