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Negotiation Stories: ‘The Best/Worst Time I Asked for a Raise’

Topics: Negotiation

When PayScale compiled the Salary Negotiation Guide, less than half of the 31,000 respondents said that they had ever negotiated salary. Why don’t more people ask for a raise? For 28 percent of those who declined to negotiate, it was because they felt uncomfortable asking for more money. When you read some of these stories, it will become clear why some people feel that way.


(Photo Credit: Travis Isaacs/Flickr)

First things first: it’s important to get comfortable asking for what you deserve, pay-wise, even if it leads to awkward conversation. Seventy-five percent of people who ask for a raise, get one, and those who don’t ask can cost themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their careers.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

These negotiation stories, collected via Facebook, show that it can definitely get uncomfortable asking about salary. But even the folks who didn’t get the raise they sought learned valuable lessons in the process, whether it was about how and when to negotiate, or that the time had come to seek out better opportunities.

1. The Squeaky Wheel

Sarah: “I was told that I was not allowed to make more/the same as a co-worker who had the same title (but way less editorial experience) as I had. The reason? He would pitch a fit and no one wanted to deal with him when he was like that. I quit shortly thereafter.”

2. Titles Matter

Meghan: “I asked for a raise and was offered a better title. At the time I felt like I was getting screwed but in retrospect the title was really valuable and I should have been more patient and played the long game regarding compensation. I was young and dumb.”

3. Creativity Counts — But Doesn’t Always Add Up

Susan: “I drew a bar chart in a childlike scrawl that had three bars: 19th Century Coal Miner, Susan’s Salary, and A Living Wage. The first two bars went into negative territory. They laughed, but I didn’t get a raise.”

4. Get It in Writing

Kimberly: “I once secured a job offer that represented a sizable raise so I discussed it with my boss who gave a competitive counter offer. After I formally declined the new job, my boss rescinded the offer … with a chuckle. Lesson? Always get an offer in writing! I secured a new position within a couple of months.”

5. Fortune Favors the Brave

Johnny: “My first job out of college I quickly got a lot responsibility and was doing the same job as my boss who was making significantly more than me, so when it came time for my raise they offered me a standard raise, but well below my boss, so I countered and said I wanted the same amount. I reasoned that if I was doing the same work, had the same responsibility, I deserved the same salary. I completely took them by surprise, while I didn’t end up getting the same amount, I did get a much better raise then I was originally offered.”

6. Don’t Believe What You Hear

Beth: “I had a part-time position and needed to start working full-time. I asked for more hours and was told they couldn’t afford it. I looked for a full-time position, got one, and when I gave notice was told, ‘you should have just said something — you can work full-time here.’ By the same person in a very small company.”

7. All Skills Are Worthwhile; Some Skills Are Rewarded More Than Others

Magdalena: “Me: ‘I have a master’s degree in writing now so I deserve a raise.’ My Boss: ‘Get in line; even the editorial assistants have master’s degrees.'”

8. The Magical Stretching Budget

Dennis: “When I was younger I asked for a raise of $1,000 per year so that I could at least break even per month and got a hard ‘no’ — when I quit a few months later for a job that paid $13,000 more, they told me they could match that, no problem. I obviously did not take the matching offer.”

9. Need Bargaining Power? Get Another Offer

Molly: “I was out with my boss and some other co-workers at a bar and being rather tipsy I pretty much demanded a raise. He told me to get another offer, not knowing that I had already been interviewing for other jobs. A few days later, I got an offer and brought it to him. He said, ‘that was fast,’ and then processed my raise. Politics!”

10. Don’t Be Scare of Math

Jenn: “My boss neglected to do reviews (which is what generated raises) for two years. When his boss figured that out, he was forced to do reviews for his team. I was offered the standard COL (cost of living) + 1 percent raise (1 percent because I got a better than average review). I then pointed out that I hadn’t had a raise in three years and I expected at least COL for three years PLUS 5 percent or more. He blinked at me for a second then put it through. We had to argue with HR for a bit, but I ended up getting a 15 percent raise, which was HUGE for that company.”

11. The Gender Pay Gap Is Real — But It’s Not Unfixable

John: “Kind of a twist, as I was the man in the middle in this. I was a principal of a professional service firm with a widely diverse, international management team. A key project manager came back from maternity (took only six weeks, but could have had six months) into a situation that she was now making less than every man in the organization with the same job, all of whom also had substantially less talent and experience. (She had missed the regular annual review date during her family leave.)

“I put in the paperwork for her status change to include a raise that would put her 2 percent ahead of her nearest organizational peer. Two of my fellow principals had a snit when they heard, citing racial and reverse gender discrimination issues, but really responding to the old ‘my boy should be first’ drag that troubles many of these boutique creative shops. I got around it all when the VP, trying to avoid a painful dispute among the practice leaders, promoted her and gave her control over his biggest project, and sweetened my salary plan for her by another 5 percent increase. The next week, he told me on the way to lunch, ‘That’ll shut ’em up. But I’m not really sorry I had to steal your best talent.’ No good deed goes unpunished.”

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever asked for a raise? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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