How NOT to Get a Raise at Work

Money makes the world go round. At least that’s what we seem to think. So when you go to work, the big reason is most likely to earn money. And you want to get as much money for your work as you can. Therefore it seems logical that you want to learn how to get a raise at work. But what if you are trying your best, and you just aren’t getting anywhere?

How Not to Get a Raise at Work

You feel like you work hard and you deserve that raise. After all, they gave Dave a big raise and a promotion and everyone knows he’s not half as smart as you. So why not you?  What did he do that you didn’t do?.  You did everything they asked you to do and you always do. You‘re a model of consistency, you show up every day on time and you never miss a day. What’s the heck is wrong with them? Can’t they see you need a raise?

Well, let’s face it. Either you’re not doing something right, or they (those guys with the fancy suits and big offices) are doing everything wrong. My bet is on the former.

Here’s a primer on how not to get that raise at work!

1. You aren’t being taken seriously

People always say that’s it great to have a personality in the office. You know…the life of the party and a friend to everyone. Well, sometimes you can go just too far. You never want to be such an extreme that you are being viewed as someone who can’t ever be serious. You can’t make a joke out of everything. You shouldn’t be the first one to make light of a tough problem. You don’t have to be the first person out the door to lunch or the last person to get to that 4 o’clock meeting. It’s fine to be friendly and personable when it’s appropriate, but there are times when your shoulder must be at the wheel and you need to make it known that you take your work seriously. Show the boss that your attitude is in the same direction as the business’ wind and you’ll be noticed for that. Coming in early and staying a little late occasionally when the pressure is on speaks volumes where being on time every day says, thanks for doing just what we expect!

2. You do what’s expected and just what’s expected

Just like showing up on time every day, doing just what your job requires is viewed as “adequate” by most employers, In today’s world, you have to go the extra yard to be really noticed and appreciated. In almost every job environment, there are opportunities to contribute solutions, suggestions, and think outside the box. This isn’t because you are a rebel, but on the contrary, you are showing how valuable you can be. Even when your ideas aren’t used, they still make the impression you want to make and that is the goal as much as the solution might be.

3. You aren’t a team player

If you work for someone else, 1 or 100 others, you are a part of a team. That simply means you care, communicate, and work well with others. If you had comments on your report card in school that said other than that, you will need to change your tune to get ahead at the job. Think of people rowing a lifeboat. They all need to be coordinated or that boat is going nowhere fast. Is that you?

4. You haven’t become more valuable

If you notice, some people are constantly gaining new skills and experience either in the office or outside by taking courses, certifications, and just learning new skills in general that can help them become more valuable at work. That should be you. The more you become an asset, the better the chances you will earn more. There are chances and opportunities that will come up and when they do, you need to be ready for it. Even if doesn’t immediately pay off, it will down the road. You become a viable candidate for increased responsibilities and salaries.

5. You didn’t brag

When you achieve some success in your job performance, make sure in the appropriate way, you get the credit. I’ll call it bragging but essentialy it means letting people know you had a role in some problem solving. How? You can simply write yourself a note and keep a record of it to use at an annual review session or even better, discuss it (ok, brag about it) with your co-workers and supervisors to reaffirm your role and contributions. They have an old saying, “it’s not bragging if it’s true”!

6. You made it personal

If you deserve, want, need, and must have a raise, never make it personal. The company isn’t interested in the fact that your kid just started college, you need to pay off your credit cards, or that you want to go to Tahiti to celebrate your 10th wedding anniversary. They do care about the business, so that’s what you need to focus on and the reasons that you get that raise should be all and only business related.

7. You didn’t give them a reason

Remember I said write it down when you make a contribution? Well, this is the time to pull out your list of accomplishments when you sit down to talk about your job performance and raises. Don’t necessarily wait for your annual performance review, or raises may already be decided. Be straight forward and honest and document what you did and what it meant to the business and your boss. Simply being Mr. or Ms. Dependable and doing “your job” won’t move the needle in the direction you want it to go.

8. You just didn’t ask

The number one reason that you won’t get that raise at work is as obvious as the nose on your face. You didn’t ask! If you have done the items in this list well then now is the time to move to the head of the class and make your case. It’s my experience that tells me that your supervisor will go to bat for you if you are doing everything the right way. Don’t think that the percentages are against you and that “no one is getting a raise.” That’s not true in 99% of the cases and if it is, then some other form of compensation may be in the offing. Things like added vacation time, or company paid courses. Or a new job title with a new pay scale. Companies never want to lose star players and if you have become a star you want to be recognized for it. It’s not about ego, it’s about the money. You remember money don’t you? It’s that reason you’re working.

As you can see, whether or not you get a raise at work is mostly up to you. Sure, your supervisor might say the group is only getting a 2% increase this year, but that might not be across the board. In other words, some might get nothing while others get 5%. Make sure you’re in the group that’s getting what they deserve. And if you’re in business for yourself, most of these still apply. Make yourself valuable to your clients and then ask for that increased rate. Whatever you do, just don’t settle for adequate.

Have you prepared yourself for a raise? What are you doing right not to make it happen?


  1. I keep a document on my desktop to help document my accomplishment during the year as they are complete. So during review time I can remember all of the things I completed. Often a manager or supervisor will ask you to send a list, because the are reviewing multiple people and often overlook things. It’s always in your best interest to stay organized and be prepared.

  2. Apathy Ends

    Number 2 and number 8 are my personal pet peeves. If you aren’t willing to take on additional responsibility until the reward comes, you will be waiting awhile.

    People that don’t ask will be years behind their peers that do in most organizations. If you do decide to ask, make sure you do it the right way!

  3. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank

    I find my value in the company I am working for when I ask for a 2-week leave, and I think when I get back, I’d try to find an opportunity to ask for a raise. I think sometimes, circumstances really help us find our value.

  4. I started keeping a record of every accolade, appreciation, award I’ve received on the job and it indeed does come in handy when it comes time for performance reviews. People think that it’s not good to brag or talk about yourself, but in your self evaluation of your review, that’s your opportunity to do just that. I take advantage of it and it got me recognized for my performance last year and I was recognized at our company wide appreciation conference in Disney World. I will never skip out on the opportunity to do it again in the future. There are no limits to how many times I can go to Disney, after all!

  5. I think going the extra mile can really do wonders to create opportunities for yourself at work. I did this to the extreme at my last corporate job. And I was promoted quite a few times because of the effort I made. On another note, I wasn’t actually that happy as the extra effort I put in sort of became “the norm” and it was a lot of hard work!

    1. I appreciate you saying that, Hayley. You reminded me of something…I once had one of my employees ask me why I always selected her for the really tough assignments. Besides being a terrific worker, the reason I picked her was that she always said yes. Does that sound like something you might have done?

  6. #8 makes more sense to me now as someone who has hired people. We never offered the highest compensation offer because most people just take what’s offered without pushing at all. We also never volunteered raises, but there often was money in the budget for anyone who could point out why they deserved a raise, even if it was just a little bit.


    I, like many people above, keep a running document of everything I accomplish from year to year. However, in my current place of employment, that document doesn’t really affect our raises, only by about 1/2 of a percent. Generally, you just get a raise after you’ve been here a certain amount of time and that’s it. Great tips if you’re in a position for negotiation though!

  8. Mrs. CTC

    Ooh number one is definitely me. Took me a while to figure it out though. I’m like a golden retriever, definitely want to have a good relationship and a laugh with my coworkers. I do my work properly, at least, but that is not enough.

    It starts with taking yourself seriously. Food for thought Gary!

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