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10 Terrible Ways to Ask for a Raise

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Asking for a raise is the adult equivalent of asking your crush to prom.

It’s stressful. It’s awkward. You’re talking at the wrong speed, volume or both. You’re probably sweating too much, and the answer will either be the best thing that’s happened in a while or the worst ever. Even if you learned a few Jedi mind tricks back in Psych 101, you still may be feeling the anxiety of trying to play cool and confident in front of your boss.

Just like talking to the object of your desire, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about asking for a pay increase. Here are 10 don’ts:

1. Don’t dawdle.

Don’t wait until later to speak up about a raise when you know you deserve one now. First, you’re only going to get more upset at yourself for not asking—and more annoyed at your boss for not just giving you one. Second, if you’re really worth more than what you’re getting paid right now, you’re giving away good work when you should be getting paid for it.

2. Don’t pop the question; schedule it.

Your boss is either busy or pretending to be. It’s a good idea to respect that, even if it isn’t true. By scheduling a meeting, everything becomes more professional, and the odds that you’ll get a knee-jerk response go way down. When scheduling, think about other things that are going on in the company and avoid stressful, budget-sensitive occasions like the end of the quarter.

3. Don’t show up unprepared.

You’re awesome, and you know it—but your boss will probably need a few reminders. Rather than appearing fumbling and forgetful when your raise request is met with the inevitable questions, have your list of reasons ready.

4. Don’t ask for something unreasonable.

As tempting as it might be to demand $1 million and do a Dr. Evil impression, asking for more than the competitive market rate (or more than your boss gets paid) only serves to start things off negatively. Ask around, and do your homework.

5. Don’t give ultimatums.

When you announce to your boss that you’re going to quit if you don’t get a raise, two things can happen: 1) you get the raise, or 2) your boss kills two birds with one stone when you, the disgruntled and cocksure employee, quits rather than needing to be fired. Empty threats like this don’t make you look worthy of a raise; they make you look foolish.

6. Don’t bluff about other offers.

Pretending you’ve got another offer on the line could work …or your boss could congratulate you on the new job and accept your resignation.

7. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Whether you’re doing it to show how great you are in comparison or because the person you’re comparing yourself to just received a raise and you feel it’s your turn, comparing yourself to someone else in the company only opens the door to criticism.

8. Don’t give any reasons other than why you deserve the raise.

Wanting more money is not a good reason for a raise, and providing a list of reasons (my dog needs dental surgery, it’s been a year since my last raise, I just became a parent) only makes you seem needy. Instead, regale your boss with all of the ways you earned a raise (I just finished my business degree, I saved the company more money last week than what I’m asking for now).

9. Don’t mention the company’s financial issues.

Even if you’ve been working harder because everyone else in your department got laid off, reminding your boss that the company might be in dire economic straits isn’t going to help you get more money.

10. Don’t get too emotional.

If you’re feeling overworked and underpaid, chances are high that you’re upset about it. Totally understandable and legitimate. But take a deep breath and check the hostility at the door. You should exude confidence when you ask for a raise, not swear like a sailor, point fingers or imply you need anger management training.

Remember: You deserve this raise. Tuck in your shirt, fix your hair and go get ’em.

Karl Fendelander cut his teeth on writing for the Web in the late 90s and has been plugged in to the newest technology and latest trends ever since. When he isn’t writing about online education for OnlineColleges.com or giving career advice, Karl can be found biking about town or hiking and climbing throughout the West.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.