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How to Destroy Your Chances for a Raise

by Vivian Scott
June 2011

From Vivian Scott's Conflicts Of InterestBlog

Vivian Scott

Bosses don’t generally take it upon themselves to hand out generous raises without employees making a good case for increases. You may have only shot to get it right so avoiding common mistakes could mean the difference between disappointment and getting the hefty increase you believe is warranted. Steer clear of:

Rambling. Going in to have an important conversation about your paycheck should be approached with great care and forethought—not with the attitude that you’ll just wing it once you close the door. Instead, decide what you’ll say, the order in which you’ll say it, and be succinct. Bring a few notes, the documentation you’ll need to support any claims you’ll be making, and keep to an agenda.

Making threats. Blurting out that you’ll walk if you don’t get what you want often comes across as an empty threat and makes you look silly especially if both you and your boss know you’re not going anywhere. Similarly, trying any sort of blackmail tactic (like saying you’ll let his manager know what an idiot he is) is a great way not only to avoid a raise but to get booted as soon as your boss has the chance. If you feel you need to provide an ultimatum, present it respectfully and be prepared to follow through.

Talking about personal problems. Blubbering about collection agencies or the fact that your wife just took the dog, the flat screen TV, and moved out of the country won’t win you any points. It’s not your manager’s responsibility to put your life back in order. Use outside resources to fix what’s outside work. If your work performance merits a raise, your personal finances are irrelevant.

Asking too early. If you’re still carrying the new kid on the block moniker, asking for an increase could send the wrong message—and delay any raise that your boss may have been considering for you when the time was right. Get your feet wet, have accomplishments you can point to, and let your boss know you’re in it for the long-run. Raises are often based on past performance and future potential. Make sure you’re covering both.

Assuming that time equals money. Believing you should get a raise because your warm body made it into work for an extended period of time may not cut it. Talk about how your experience was applied. What did you do that someone with less experience may not have been able to accomplish? Simply saying you’ve “been here longer” may cause your manager to glaze over.

Only talking about what benefits you. Forgetting to mention what you’re willing to do for your boss, her manager, or the company in general could be a mistake. How will you grow the business? What’s the next big idea you’ll tackle? Asking for a pay increase is a strategic negotiation and only thinking about one side isn’t strategic at all.

Failing to perform. Some employees think that if they suck up a little during the few weeks prior to a review, the boss will forget or overlook the fact that they’ve made mistakes, presented sloppy work, badmouthed others, had attendance issues, and generally did as little as they could to get by. Not so. Your plan for a raise at the next review period should begin as soon as you finish the last one. Map out what you’ll do and work the plan, keeping track of your achievements along the way.


Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator and the author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies.  She spent many years in the competitive and often stress-filled world of high tech marketing where she realized resolving conflict within the confines of office politics was paramount to success.  Through creative solutions to common conflicts she was able to bring various entities together, both internally and externally, for the betterment of projects and a productive working environment.     

Prior to retiring from Microsoft in 1999 she developed the “America at Work” video series, a six-part program featuring small businesses employing technology in attention-grabbing ways.  “America at Work” aired on the USA Network and received the Silver Screen Award from the International Film and Video Festival for outstanding creativity.   Using discerning negotiation, mediation, and problem-solving skills, she successfully worked with others to co-create “How-to Guides”, “Seminar in a Box”, and even one of the first on-line Guerrilla Marketing books.   

Since her retirement, Ms. Scott has gone on to earn a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences with a concentration in American Studies from the University of Washington.  She completed an extensive practicum with the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish & Island Counties where she has mediated numerous cases, helping parties resolve conflict in workplace, family, and other disputes.  Her private mediation practice has handled cases ranging from assisting business partners in ending their relationship to creating a new working environment within a law firm.  Ms. Scott is a member of the Washington Mediation Association and spends a majority of her time advocating embracing peace in a volatile world.   

Her book, Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies, can be found in bookstores, on,, or any number of on-line bookseller sites.    

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