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4 Mistakes to Avoid When Asking for a Raise

Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool

Though asking for a raise is easier said than done, it's essential that you push yourself out of that comfort zone and make the case for more money. Your earnings at your current job will most likely influence your salary at your next job, so if you've been avoiding that uncomfortable conversation, it's time to get it on your boss's calendar.

That said, asking for a raise isn't something you can get away with doing repeatedly. Once your manager agrees to a sit-down, you may have just that one opportunity to make a strong case. And that's why it's crucial to avoid these mistakes that could lower your chances of getting the boost you're hoping for.

Professional woman holding papers while talking to a professional man

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

1. Not doing your research

Maybe you have a friend who does the same work you do at a different company and makes a lot more. That might seem like reason enough to get in front of your boss and demand more money. But how do you know that your friend isn't the exception rather than the rule?

Before asking for a raise, be sure to do your research and determine what the actual going rate is for your industry. Job site Glassdoor has a handy "Know Your Worth" tool that allows you to pull up salary data by job title and geographic location (keeping in mind that where you work can influence your earnings). If you find that most local workers in your field are making more than you, then there's some convincing data to present to your manager. But don't go in without that information on hand, because you'll have a much harder time making your case and will be less likely to get what you want.

Along these lines, if you come to find that you are being paid fairly given your job title and experience level, you'll want to take a different approach to that conversation. Maybe you consistently work late and deliver outstanding results. Both of those factors can also make a pretty strong case for a raise, but the key is to know what angle to approach that conversation with. In other words, you don't want to make a big deal about being underpaid when, in fact, your salary itself is more than competitive.

2. Making a personal plea

We all have our reasons for wanting more money. Maybe you just bought a home or added a baby to your family. While those circumstances are indeed stressful, they're also not your company's problem, so rather than focus on personal reasons why you want or need a raise, focus on facts and performance. If research dictates that your salary isn't up to par, put that data in front of your boss. If your efforts alone saved your company $30,000 last quarter, show your manager those numbers. But don't burden your boss with a sob story about your personal need for money, because frankly, that's on you to sort out.

3. Not negotiating for other benefits instead of money

Even if you go in armed with a great argument for why you deserve a raise, you may come to have that request rejected. But before you retreat angrily to your desk, try asking for other benefits in lieu of actual money. Your company might have a limited budget, but it may be willing to throw a couple of extra vacation days your way instead of actual cash. Is that the same thing? No. But it's better than nothing, and certainly worth trying for.

4. Giving your company an ultimatum

If your initial request for a raise is met with a morale-crushing "no," you may be inclined to give your company an ultimatum along the lines of "if you don't raise my pay, I'm out of here." Big mistake. It's natural to get heated and emotional when your appeal for a raise is denied, but unless you're really prepared to quit if you don't get your way, don't threaten to do it. Your company probably won't take kindly to that sort of attitude, and the last thing you want is to find yourself out of a job with no income to count on at all.

It's never easy to ask for a raise, but if you're going to do it, go in with a solid plan of attack. Do your research, present a strong case, and have a backup plan in case you're told no. It's a far better bet than winging it and risking any of the mistakes above.

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