Life & Work Skills

What to Do If Your Request for a Pay Rise Gets Turned Down


Having the confidence to ask for a pay rise is no easy feat. There’s the daunting task of having to sell yourself to your seniors, the tricky dynamics of knowing your worth, and the unfortunate truth that women are much more likely than their male counterparts to have a raise request refused. But once you’ve mustered up the courage, prepared your case, and set up a meeting with your boss, there’s one truly terrifying scenario left to contend with: what if your request for a pay rise is flat-out refused?

Being told that a pay rise is out of the question is a disappointing scenario. In addition to missing out on the money that you feel that you deserve, it can cause a host of other complex issues for you and your employer. Will the situation make things awkward between you and your boss? Should you feel embarrassed for asking for a pay rise that they potentially don’t feel that you deserve? What does this say about they way that your employer values their staff?

When a pay rise request is refused, it can be easy to let your pride get in the way of moving on. However, there are more constructive ways that you can go forward and ensure that this setback doesn’t get between you and career success.


Take some time and then arrange a follow-up

Asking for a raise is scary business. You may have come to the meeting well-prepared and running on adrenaline, and then have been shocked to see your pay rise proposal received badly. If this is the case, then this meeting might not be the time to express how you feel. Instead, thank your boss for their time and take a few days to take their reasoning on board before arranging a follow-up. This is a good opportunity to express your disappointment — ask any further questions about your boss’s decision, and discuss what they think you can do to better prepare you for future potential pay rise discussions.

Seek concrete reasoning for why the pay rise was refused and plan your next steps accordingly.

There are a multitude of reasons why a raise request might have been refused. Perhaps your company doesn’t have the budget right now; perhaps you’re already being paid above market rate; perhaps you’re not ticking all of the boxes that would qualify you to move up in the salary range.

Whatever your boss’ reasoning, it’s important that you get a clear explanation for why they said no. This will help you to plan your next move and will turn your experience into a learning opportunity for future salary negotiations.

Plan for the meeting by preparing possible objectives to discuss with your boss. For example, if your request was refused because you’re not yet attending company events as part of your role, or because you have yet to secure a certain number of clients, you could suggest ways that you could build this into your workload and ask for assurance that your request will be reconsidered once you have done so. If your boss’ reasoning is more arbitrary, such as being reliant on budgets or targets, ask if you can touch base on this again once the business is in a better position to consider your request.


Consider if you think that your boss’ reasoning is fair

Although in many instances pay raise refusals might be legitimate, there are plenty of occasions when this is not the case. Evidence suggests that whilst men and women ask for raises at a similar rate, men tended to be successful around 20 percent of the time compared to 15 percent for women. Working mothers are even harder hit by the request success discrepancy, as are people of color.

If you think that there is cause to believe that you are being discriminated against when it comes to your salary, then it is important that you report this to your HR team, and you may also wish to consider legal action. It is illegal for employers to discourage their workers from discussing salaries, and you are therefore within your rights to ask coworkers how their salaries measure up. This will enable you to figure out if you are receiving equal pay for equal work, which is the legal standard that your employer should be following.


Work hard to show your worth

If a raise request is refused it can be easy to feel disgruntled. After all, why work hard if you don’t feel that you are remunerated accordingly? However, this attitude will only harm your case and potentially your future career prospects, whilst also earning you a reputation for being a sore loser.

Instead, continue to maintain the high standard of work that you felt merited a pay rise in the first place. Show your employer that you can be reliable and hard working even in the face of disappointment, and prepare to demonstrate all that you have achieved when another opportunity to negotiate your salary comes up.


Don’t take it personally

It can be easy to take a request for a pay rise personally. After all, it takes an enormous amount of courage to assert that you deserve more. When you don’t receive the response you hoped for, it can be easy to feel devalued or that your request was misguided.
Remember that everyone has a right to ask for a raise, and that your boss’ response is not necessarily a reflection on you. An employer might not be able to offer you a raise for many reasons, and their response may even reflect more poorly on them and how they value and develop their workforce.

Focus on the positive aspects of the situation, such as any feedback you can take on board and use to improve your skills. Consider what you’ve learned from the experience and how you can better approach future raise requests rather than being put off from asking again. And most of all, congratulate yourself on being a total #boss who has been incredibly brave simply by having the guts to ask.


If all else fails, seek a new role

Sometimes your boss will have justified and legitimate reasons for turning down a pay rise. Often they will be able to work with you to develop your skills and equip you to up your salary in future; however, this isn’t always the case. There are some employers who simply do not value their staff and are unlikely to be able to offer you what you need financially or deserve career-wise. If you suspect that this might be the case, then update your resume and begin to seek jobs with other companies who will better appreciate what you can offer and pay you fairly.