Work & Career
8 Huge Mistakes Women Make When Asking for a Raise
Across the board, women are significantly less likely to ask for a raise than men. Over decades of working, this can add up to a giant discrepancies in income. The best way to get the cash you rightly deserve? Avoid these mistakes that career experts say women make when standing up for their career and advocating for their worth.
Why are women less likely to ask for a raise?
In her experience as a corporate recruiter, Vicki Salemi, a career expert for monster.com, says that “nine times out of ten, women don’t negotiate a job offer, while nine times out of ten men always do.” While every woman might have a different approach, Salemi says that women don’t ask for a raise for a variety of reasons. “The mindset tends to be, ‘I should just be lucky to have a job.’ Or, ‘I don’t want to come across as greedy’” Or, ‘I don’t think they have money anyway so why bother?’ Another reason is feeling uncomfortable talking about money so the mindset is to avoid having a confrontational, assertive conversation,” she explains. While there are countless reasons, the bottom line is, “Unfortunately women are less likely to ask for a raise. We absolutely need to change this mentality.”
Why is it important to ask for a raise?
Regardless if you’ve been in your current role for several years and you’re prepared to take the next step, or you’re switching to a new company and you want the pay jump to go with the move, Salemi says building confidence is essential for career development—and your financial value. Sticking up for yourself, every step up the ladder, demonstrates to your employer that you’re serious about your career, assured in your talent, and you’re willing to put in the hard work to achieve success. “Whether or not you get the raise is one thing, but the ask means you value yourself and your work, and that you are putting yourself first,” she explains. When you’re ready to have that conversation, here’s are mistakes to avoid.
Mistake #1: You don’t lay the groundwork
So you’ve burned the midnight oil countless times while working on a big project. Or you’ve stepped in and taken on double the work after a co-worker had an unexpected family emergency. But, without the documentation and the convincing answer to why you need the raise, your boss doesn’t have a reason to give you those extra zeroes. Consider the discussion in the same way you might have approached a term paper in college and prove your argument down to the last paragraph. “You can’t just say, ‘I think I need to be paid more,’” Salemi advises.You need to show why–start gathering information prior to meeting with your boss.” This means bringing accolades from colleagues, clients, and/or vendors. Show numbers: If you managed a budget, how much did you save the company this year? Did you streamline a process that saved your company valuable time and money? “Outline everything and prepare your talking points with proof points,” Salemi suggests. Here’s what you can do to get your boss to trust you.
Mistake #2: You overthink it
If your anxiety gets the best of you and dampens your courage, consider the hard truth: Men ask for raise unapologetically, and women need to, too. “Sometimes women overthink it like, ‘Oh, will they think I’m greedy?’ or, ‘They may not like me’ or whatever the reason. No, it doesn’t look bad for you to ask for a raise. What is bad? For you to stay working for an employer that doesn’t value your contributions,” she says.
Mistake #3: You apologize while you’re asking
Ever find yourself saying “sorry” to a person who blatantly bumped into you? Or when you’re overly excited about something, you instantly feel like you’re being boastful or prideful? These are traits that women (and men, too) sometimes exercise when asking for a raise, according to Marc Cenedella, the founder and CEO of Ladders. “Don’t be apologetic or explain away that you understand if they can’t give you more money or say you feel bad asking. This is a business transaction; you provide value and they pay for it. You shouldn’t be working for free, nor should your employer expect that. Ask confidently,” he says. These are 20+ things you should also stop apologizing for.
Mistake #4: You don’t get real with other women
You might feel uncomfortable talking savings account and pay stubs with your best friends—especially since your mom probably told you friends and finances don’t mix—but one of the best ways to get ahead is to even the playing field. Without knowing where you should be starting, you’ll discount what you’re really worth. Salemi says confiding in a trusted mentor in your industry will help you gain a firm understanding of what you’re up against and more importantly, how to win in the end, even if that means quitting your gig and going somewhere new. Check sites like PayScale to determine your value in the marketplace, and then come up with a number to ask for, she suggests. (Here’s how you can build trust with your co-workers.)
Mistake #5: You don’t know the right time to ask
While it might seem like a cruel loophole, Salemi says that some companies have strict guidelines on when compensations are revisited and examined. If you’re having a one-on-one with your boss, expecting to “woo” her with all of the reasons you’re due for more moo-lah, but her hands are tied for another quarter, you’ll end up disappointed. “When would you like the review to occur/when is the next salary review process, or can it be done ad hoc? Some companies have strict policies about raises and timing so read your company’s HR policy on the intranet site to have more knowledge. Don’t let that stop you from asking for a raise, but knowledge is power. Set your expectations accordingly,” she says. Think it may be time to move on? Here’s how you can secretly look for a job while you still have one.
Mistake #6: You don’t get in writing
Repeat after us: If you don’t have proof of the conversation, it never, ever happened. Don’t let your negotiating skills fall on deaf ears that go in one and out the other. If your employer responds well to your desire for more funds, Salemi says to put it in writing—via email or formal letter—ASAP. “Follow up with your boss to confirm the conversation and ask them to reply in agreement. The chances of them leaving the office that night and getting hit by a bus are slim but hey, you never know. If they resign pretty soon, chances are your raise is not top of mind before they leave,” she advises.
Mistake #7: You don’t follow-up to get the ball rolling
Every company has a different way of handling merit and performance raises, and it might take a pay period to see the uptick reflected in your take-home cash. But if it’s been a month or more and nothing has changed, it’s time to follow-up, pronto. Salemi explains that depending on how large your company is, your boss might have to go through a series of approvals that take time to get through the bureaucracies. And the longer it takes to get the ball rolling, the longer you’ll have to wait to see your new salary. “Ask when you should follow up, put a date on the calendar within the next two weeks to keep the conversation—and consequently your approval—moving forward,” she says. “Yes, you’ve surpassed a hurdle you may never have previously approached by getting it approved or en route to getting it approved, but the only proof in the actual raise is—you guessed it— an increased paycheck.”
Mistake #8: You don’t look for a new job soon enough
When you go into this somewhat-awkward conversation with your employer, you don’t only want to come armed with all of the reasons you’re due for more compensation, but also prepped with an exit strategy. No matter how much you love what you do, or how well you get along with your co-workers, if there isn’t room for upward mobility, you’re holding yourself back by staying still at a company that’s not going to help build your career. Even if your employer did give you more funds, Salemi says it’s important to do your due diligence and think critically: Is this what I really want? “There’s always a better opportunity out there where you won’t have to constantly prove your worth to your employer. By leaping to a new company, chances are your starting salary will be higher than the raise you would have gotten anyway. And yes, you can do both–get that raise and then look for a new job,” she says. Don’t miss the signs that you’re in the wrong career—and how to find your true passion.