5 Phrases You Should Never Use When Asking For a Raise — And 1 You Should

woman asking her boss for a raise

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Anne Matsushita197

Spoiler alert: “show me the money!” is not effective. You know you deserve a pay bump — now you need to convince your manager. 

5 Phrases You Should Never Use When Asking For a Raise

1. “I need the money because my rent went up / I bought a new car / I’m saving for a vacation.” 

I hear you, we all have expenses. But sadly, that’s not enough of a justification for a company to make it rain. You need to show why you need raise because of your work, not what’s going on outside of it.

2. “I show up on time,” “I’m polite to our customers,” “I respond to all my emails.” 

Working in HR, I’ve heard all of these. It’s great that you’re doing this, but these are also the expectations of the job you’re already being paid to do.  

3. “I’ll take whatever you can give me.”

Know. Your. Worth! It’s up to you to articulate your value and advocate for yourself. Is it uncomfortable? Yes. Is it bragging? No.   

Sites like Salary.com, Payscale, Levels.fyi, and teamblind.com can help you figure out what the market pays so you have data to back up your request. Glassdoor and Indeed salaries tend to be slightly inflated but they can give you an idea.

4. “I’ll quit if I don’t get it.” 

People don’t like being threatened. This should be a conversation, not a confrontation. If you don’t feel like you can have an open dialogue with your manager about your career, you may want to step back and consider if this is the company you want to grow with.  

Plus, your company wants you to be excited to work there because then you’re more likely to be productive. If a paycheck is all that’s keeping you, your company may not feel it’s worth the investment.

5. “You probably can’t do this, and I understand the pandemic may have impacted budgets, so no worries if the answer is no.” 

Be confident! Don’t give them a reason to shut you down without considering it. If they truly can’t make it happen now, ask for your performance to be evaluated in six months or at the beginning of the next budget season, whichever comes first. This gives them time to plan for an increase.

The 1  Phrase You Should Always Use When Asking For a Raise

So what should you say? 

“This is how I’ve added value and how I’ll continue to add value.” 

These discussions tend to be more successful if you can point to your accomplishments. If you aren’t already tracking them, start now. While your manager has an idea of what you’re working on, they don’t know everything that hits your desk. What have you been doing consistently to demonstrate you go above and beyond your job description? And will you continue to do these, or other higher-level responsibilities, to warrant a salary increase? Unfortunately, filling in for your teammate who went on a 2-week vacation isn’t going to cut it.  

Then, frame your ask by putting yourself in your company’s position. They are thinking “what’s in it for me?” so help them understand why it’s in their benefit to find extra dollars. You already have leverage, especially during the Great Resignation. It’s much easier and cheaper for a company to find some extra money than lose you, a known quantity. Keep in mind it costs them time and money to recruit and train your replacement.

To connect the dots, here are other phrases you can use:

  • “I really enjoy my job and can see myself staying here long-term. I’ve had some recent wins and would like to talk about my salary. For the past few months, I’ve taken initiative to train our department intern and shown leadership abilities.  

  • “I also volunteered to oversee the XYZ project and revamp our marketing campaign, which has already increased customer engagement.”

  • “And, you may not be aware, but I received positive praise from our CFO, who was one of my stakeholders in the project. She appreciated my creative problem-solving with limited resources. She even asked me to join a steering committee for a cost-savings initiative next quarter, which I happily said yes to.”

  • “In the future, I’d love to continue using my project management skills and become a people manager. I’ve also been doing some salary market research. Based on what I’ve found, and given my contributions and how I plan to add value going forward, I’d like to ask that my salary be raised 5%.”

Some internal conversations will likely take place before a decision is made, so don’t panic if you don’t hear back right away. Many people find talking about salary awkward, so you’re not alone if you do too. Regardless of the outcome, be proud of speaking up!


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

With more than 13 years of progressive HR experience in the entertainment and education industries, Anne created training and development programs, streamlined processes, and drove initiatives to enhance culture. Currently a Career Coach with Randstad RiseSmart, she’s passionate about crafting customized job search strategies for diverse clients and helping them navigate emotional highs and lows. She’s thrilled to see clients land at City of Hope, Dish, KCBS, Mattel, Salesforce, Workday, etc. and negotiate additional double-digit compensation. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn!

What’s 1 phrase you’d never use during a raise conversation — and 1 you would? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!