What to Do When You Ask for a Raise and Get Turned Down

ask for a raise

By Yvonne Milosevic

If you’ve mustered the courage to ask for a raise and get shot down, you might wonder what’s next. Do you threaten to quit? Cry in the corner? Bad-mouth your boss to anyone who’ll listen? While all these options are tempting, none will improve your chances of getting what you wanted in the first place. If this happens to you, it’s time to get strategic. Executive coach Melody Wilding recently shared pro tips on how to bounce back from rejection in Harvard Business Review.

When You Ask for a Raise, and it Doesn’t Go as Planned…

Tip No. 1: Summon your inner diplomat.

While you have every right to feel upset or angry by this turn of events, keeping your cool in the moment is vital. Until you have more intel on the reason for the rejection, remain gracious and professional.

Wilding suggests acknowledging the disappointment to your supervisor and pledging to continue putting forth your best efforts for the organization. Doing so demonstrates resilience in the face of a challenge, she says. “You’ve also opened the door for a follow up conversation to discuss compensation in the future.”

Tip No. 2: Identify possible reasons why.

Unless your boss made that decision based solely on your poor performance, you’ll want to uncover relevant factors putting the kibosh on a raise right now. Times are still tough at many companies, and a salary boost may not be in the cards for anyone. Or you might already be at the top of the salary range for your position. If that’s the case, you’ll need to figure out what you need to do to get to the next level.

ask for a raise

“Getting more information can help guide your decision whether to stay and advocate for yourself — or to create an exit plan and focus your energy on a new role where you’ll be more valued,” Wilding says.

Tip No. 3: Consider a compromise or ask for other perks.

Once you understand where your boss is coming from, you can propose alternatives that may leave both of you satisfied. For example, if a $20K salary increase isn’t possible right now, how about $10K along with a few additional perks? Instead of obsessing over the dollar amount, consider other factors that would make your job more enjoyable.

Wilding suggests negotiating for other things, such as stock options, more vacation days, or schedule flexibility. If you like the company and its culture, and you hope to continue growing with it, it may be worthwhile to stick it out if you know you’ll end up in a stronger position later.

Tip No. 4: Focus on the future.

“If you’ve been denied a raise, use the opportunity to your advantage,” Wilding advises. Find out from your supervisor exactly what you need to do to reach that desired salary. Ramp up your productivity. Accept new assignments with enthusiasm. Aim to deliver ahead of the deadline, if possible. One of Wilding’s clients created a plan with her boss that included “key metrics and specific improvements that would justify a compensation increase.” Working in partnership with your manager ensures that you’re focused on the right goals and priorities.

Ultimately, the problem might be that you need to get better at self-promotion. Make sure your manager remembers your value by regularly updating them with your latest accomplishments. Many workplace cultures value results-based models to gauge employee accountability. To that end, share a weekly recap with your boss that focuses on progress made and quantifies performance whenever possible.

When you ask for a raise and get turned down, don’t let that be the end of the discussion. Keep your cool, find out why, and make a plan to get to your goal in the future. As Wilding explains, while “being rejected for a raise might initially feel like the end of the world, it’s an opportunity for development, not a step backwards.”