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Looking for a Raise? Avoid This Mistake

What's the number one thing people do wrong before asking their boss for a raise? Consultant and executive coach Karen Cates suggests it's failing to ask whether they deserve one in the first place.

What’s the number one thing people do wrong before asking their boss for a raise? Consultant and executive coach Karen Cates suggests it’s failing to ask whether they deserve one in the first place.

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(Photo Credit: stuartpilbrow/Flickr)

Before you get indignant, consider the context of Cates’ suggestion, which she recently made in an article on Businessweek.com.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

“As an executive coach, I often work with clients who think they’re owed a raise. I also work with leaders who have to field those requests, in my other role as a consultant,” writes Cates. “Having sat on both sides of the table, I’ve seen raise-seekers make common mistakes, and noticed that they often overlook the employer’s perspective.”

In other words, when we want a raise, we tend to think about things from our own point of view, and not from our boss’s point of view, and we sometimes fail to consider our position in the market. To figure out whether a raise is really warranted, we need to be able to do all three:

1. Do research.

PayScale’s Research Center offers salary ranges for most job titles, factoring in variables like years of experience, geographic location, company size, and employer. Before you can figure out if you’re being shortchanged, you need to get an idea of what the market will bear.

2. Consider the employer’s perspective.

Has your company had a good year, or a lean one? What’s the budget look like? Have co-workers received raises recently, to the best of your knowledge? (Remember, with this last question, you’re probably going to be relying on word of mouth, which is about as reliable as eye witness testimony — in other words, often not always very reliable at all.)

3. Be honest about whether you’ve achieved your goals.

Ideally, you should set goals ahead of time, aligning them with your company-mandated objectives, and measure them as you go. It’s easier to be honest with yourself week to week, when a raise isn’t immediately on the table, than it is to assess your performance months later, when your attention is focused on money.

Over at The Muse, Sarah Chang shares her own personal feedback system, which involves a self-imposed ratings system on a scale of one to 10.

To use it, Chang regularly rates different blocks of time and work experiences on that scale, and then asks herself what she could do to make each a 10.

“Putting a number on an intangible experience suddenly makes what was amazing or not so amazing about it a lot more clear,” Change writes. “When you acknowledge that things didn’t go perfectly, you accept the fact that there’s room for improvement, and more importantly, what that improvement might look like.”

Over time, such a system might give you a better sense of whether you’re hitting your personal and professional goals — and whether, all other things being equal, you really deserve that raise.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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