6 things you shouldn’t say when an employee asks for a raise

The new year is upon us, and nearly everyone is thinking about how to be happier and more fulfilled in 2015.

And guess what? Some of these folks are reflecting on their pay and gearing up for a earnest chat with you.

When that day comes, here are six things you must not say.

Seriously, I mean it.

Learn More About Our Compensation Software


#1. “Back when I worked in …”

Stop right there, because whatever follows is sure to be a mistake. For one thing, your employee’s request isn’t about you. For another, your employee doesn’t want to hear about your past career trials right now.

Bottom line, if this trip down memory lane isn’t a prequel to what a lovely raise your employee is getting, it’s a waste of breath and might even be viewed as dismissive and condescending, which will likely cause more harm to your relationship than good.

#2. “How dare you!”

Fine, you’d probably never utter this exact phrase, but your tone and body language are making your attitude clear—you think your employee’s got nerve asking you for more money.

First, and to repeat, your employee’ request is not about you, so please don’t take it as a personal affront. Your employee is looking out for his (and possibly his family’s interests), which is perfectly within his rights to do. Does his performance warrant more money, and can you afford it? That’s the only question you should be asking yourself right now.

#3. “If you weren’t paying child support, you wouldn’t need a raise.”

If the manager who told me she said this ever reads this article, I want to make it clear I know she was trying to counsel the employee to see straight, but still … don’t say stuff like this… ever. Again, raises are about market and merit, not need, so your employee’s financial obligations should be of no concern when considering a pay increase.

#4. “So THIS is why you agreed to take on the XYZ project?!”

Again, cool it with the indignation. Even if your employee took on additional work as a strategy for making herself more raise-worthy (as opposed to, I don’t know, out of the kindness of her heart) that’s no reason for you to behave as though you’ve been betrayed. I’ll say it again—your employee is looking out for her interests, which is something grown ups are obliged to do. Don’t hold it against her.

#5. “Sorry, we can’t afford it” (following the umpteenth company-wide announcement about a promotion for so and so)

If you won’t at least consider your employee’s request and/or are unwilling to respond with a thoughtful, honest answer, expect trouble. Automatic “no’s,” are a no-no, especially if other managers are giving out “yeses” (or so it seems to your employee) like candy.

#6. “I’ll have to check with my boss.”

It’s okay if you don’t have the authority to approve a raise unilaterally (most managers don’t), but it’s not okay to avoid having this conversation with your employee by immediately claiming that someone else has to weigh in before you can utter another word. If your employee is deserving of a raise, it’s your job to go to bat for him or her—not pass the request through to the next level as though you’re completely outside the process and not responsible for the result.

It bears saying that money is an emotional topic, and requests concerning money should be handled with sensitivity and care.

Barring that, just remember to never, ever say anything on this list.


Learn how to communicate effectively about compensation with all involved, with the help of this informative eBook: Communicating Compensation.



Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of