When it’s time for your annual job review, you’re probably ready to negotiate a raise for all your hard work. There are many factors that go into whether your company will give you a raise, and only some of them are within your control.
However, when your boss utters certain phrases, you can be certain that your work habits — or something else — cost you your next raise.
‘The Company Can’t Afford It’
During your salary negotiation, you might be told that raises are simply not in the company budget. Although this has no bearing on your productivity or whether you deserve a raise, it is usually a pretty firm “no.” If there is no additional money available for salary increases, a raise can’t happen until finances turn around.
If you hear this phrase, you need to decide how important a bump in pay is at this time. Your company might rebound and you might qualify for a raise in the future, but there is no guarantee. If an immediate raise is necessary, it might be time to dust off the resume and start hunting for a more lucrative job.
‘Your Performance Doesn’t Qualify You for a Raise’
Many companies don’t guarantee an annual raise to employees who merely meet the expectations of their positions. Instead, these companies only offer raises to those who exceed their expectations and take the initiative to go above and beyond their duties. If you’ve been doing the bare minimum to get by, your performance might make you among those who get a minimal cost-of-living increase — or no increase at all.
If you’re given this reason for not getting a raise, take it as a challenge to improve your performance. Show initiative by coming to work early, improving and expanding your skill set, or doing anything else that shows you’re not content with being just “good enough.” Revisit asking for a raise with your supervisors after time has passed, and they have recognized the change.
‘Your Work Has Not Been Noticed’
Your boss might tell you that your performance is not deserving of a raise even though you have gone above and beyond. It’s possible that your efforts have gone unnoticed. If you’re a soft-spoken individual, or work in a large department, it might be necessary to bring attention to your work.
Singing your own praises can be a touchy issue and requires a certain amount of finesse. You don’t want to seem presumptuous or too full of yourself, but you do deserve to have your efforts noticed. When interacting with your bosses, don’t be afraid to bring up examples of your hard work. After some time has passed, their opinion of your productivity might change.
‘Your Salary Is Already at the Average Market Salary for Your Position’
Your employer might respond to your request by telling you that you’re already making a fair salary for your position compared to the market as a whole. While this is great for you in your current position, it can also hinder your ability to increase your earnings.
Check average salary data on Glassdoor or PayScale to confirm that you’re already making a fair salary for your job title. If so, keep applying yourself but seek new responsibilities. Continue to grow your applicable skill set. If you keep proving yourself in your current position, you will put yourself on the short list when an opening comes for a promotion.
‘Our Company Doesn't Offer Annual Raises’
Your company might tell you it no longer offers annual raises. Many companies are steering away from rigid evaluation schedules and regular annual raises to adopt more organic forms of evaluating performance and compensation. While a regular annual raise might not be an option, it doesn’t mean raises are off the table altogether.
Don’t get discouraged and start doing less. Keep your performance up, and document your successes. When the timing feels right, bring up the issue of a raise with your boss, using your documentation to make your case.
‘I Haven’t Seen Enough of Your Work’
Being a superhero on a project or two might make you feel like you’re doing much more than the company is paying you for. Management looks for production over the long haul, so if you ask for a raise after a sprint, you might hear this phrase.
If you hear this one from your employer and feel you’ve been giving an above-average performance over time, you’ve probably been too quiet about a raise. If you’re the modest type, you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone and tout your accomplishments.
Request another meeting in a week to get time to gather evidence of your long-term contributions that went above and beyond the call of duty. In the future, be sure to tout your accomplishments to your employer in a way that makes you feel comfortable.
‘I’ll Need to Check With HR’
Hearing that your boss needs to consult with someone else shouldn’t come as a surprise if you called an impromptu meeting with your boss to ask for a raise. However, if you’re hearing this during your annual review, you can most likely kiss your raise goodbye. Employers carefully prepare for performance reviews, and potential salary increases are part of the process.
Ask your boss if there’s any information you can provide to assist the process. Go into your performance review armed with a list of your accomplishments, and offer a copy to your boss for her meeting with HR. Ask what the expected time frame is for hearing back, and try to set a follow-up meeting with your boss accordingly.
‘Your Attitude Needs Work’
If you hear that your attitude is not up to par during your performance review, chances are good you won’t be getting a raise. Difficult employees who complain frequently, bring down team morale with negativity or otherwise cause problems for management make raises harder to justify.
Critical thinking is a valuable workplace asset, but criticism isn’t. Reflect on your workplace attitude. If you criticize company policies, others’ ideas or other employees, you could be painting yourself as a difficult employee no matter how much your work shines.
Learn to harness your communication skills so you’re seen as making positive contributions, not complaining. Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” addresses these problems specifically, making it a good place to start to learn more.
‘Tell Me More’
When you hear “tell me more,” it’s not necessarily the kiss of death, but it could be. Dick Grote, a performance management consultant, said to the Harvard Business Review that managers should use these words instead of giving a direct answer right away.
Be prepared to answer this question by having a list of your top accomplishments with you. This will give you something to refer to if you feel suddenly awkward in the spotlight. You also could slide a neatly typed copy across the desk for your boss to follow along.
If your boss meets your eyes and has open, relaxed body language during the process, the odds of getting a raise might still be in your favor. If your boss avoids eye contact by taking notes or staring at your list, crossing her arms or putting things in front of them, you can probably kiss your raise goodbye.
The Sound of Silence
Let’s face it: It’s not easy asking for a raise. Your employer isn’t legally obligated to give you a raise if it’s not spelled out in a contract, so don’t expect your boss to bring up the issue without you asking.
Hints like mentioning that a headhunter contacted you about employment, or how hard you’ve been working, aren’t enough. Practice asking for a raise before heading into the meeting so you’re prepared to bring up the subject. And lastly, research competitive salaries for your position and be prepared with a number.
More on Making Money at Your Job
- Best and Worst Cities to Score Your Dream Job
- Use Your Body Language to Win Mentors and Earn Raises
- Negotiating Is the No. 1 Money Skill You Need to Master: Here’s Why
- Watch: The Key to Negotiating a Higher Salary at Your New Job
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About the Author
Jodi O’Connell is a freelance wordsmith based in Sedona, Arizona, who writes about everything from vacation vagary and adventure sports to real estate and pets. She spent more than a decade in Arizona’s real estate industry advising first-time homebuyers and commercial investors before indulging her passion for the written word on a full-time basis. Her articles appear on websites as diverse as U.S. News and World Report, USA Today, Hipmunk, Roots Rated, and Travelocity.