What To Do If You’ve Been Turned Down for a Raise

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Being turned down or passed over for a raise can feel devastating. But understanding why can help you respond appropriately to the decision and use it as a learning opportunity to improve your chances for a raise next time—or to decide it's time to move on.

Inflation has made raises more important for workers, as rising prices mean salaries don't go as far. A survey by the compensation consulting firm Pearl Meyer found that average raises for all employee groups came in at 4.8%, the highest increase in decades.

That's significantly higher than the standard 3% cost of living adjustment, but still lower than the rate of inflation. And there are still some employees who haven't seen a wage increase in more than a year.

Key Takeaways

  • There are many reasons companies don’t approve raises. Your performance may be one, but other reasons include the company's performance or the timing of the request.
  • Prior to asking for a raise, take the time to learn about company policies regarding salary, and research salaries for someone in your role to learn what you can expect.
  • Even if you’re upset that your request was declined, be sure to be professional (and calm) in all your conversations with your manager.
  • Find out why you were turned down and use it to improve your chances next time, or to fuel motivation for a job search.

How To Handle Being Passed Over for a Raise

There are many reasons why your employer may not give you a raise, including performance-related concerns, the timing of your request, or the company's general financial health.

It could be that your company is one of those with financial constraints, and nobody received an annual salary increase. That can happen, especially during challenging economic times, but what if you’re the only one who didn’t get a raise?

You may know this if you have colleagues who have told you about their own situations. The National Labor Relations Act gives employees the right to discuss wages with other employees.

But the company isn’t required to share salary information with you and it's hard to have a discussion with your manager based on information you received unofficially. That's why it's important to be careful how you approach being passed over for an increase.

Note

Even if your coworkers got a raise—and you didn't—it's a better strategy to focus on yourself rather than other employees.

Try to determine why you didn’t get the raise, then work on what you can do to resolve the situation.

Reasons Why You Didn't Get a Raise

Here are some of the most common roadblocks that may have prevented you from getting a raise.

The Timing Isn't Right

When you ask for a raise, timing is important. Did you request a raise in June, when the general company policy is to make decisions at the end of the year? Maybe you asked too early in your tenure or made your request soon after the company had a recall, poor quarterly report, or other bad news.

That's not the only timing problem. While your manager's bad day shouldn't affect your raise, a meeting scheduled on a stressful day could be the reason your request was turned down.

Next Steps: Ask human resources or coworkers when raises are typically given out, and time your meeting for a low-stress time of day and week.

Lack of Company Resources

Sometimes, the reason you didn’t get a raise isn't related to you at all. It's possible that your company doesn't have room in the budget to give you a raise.

Next Steps: How important is the raise to you? And does it seem as though the company finances will turn around? The answers to these questions will determine whether you stay put or use this as a cue to begin a job search.

Your Performance Needs Improvement

Are you exceeding expectations, or only doing the work outlined in your job description? At many jobs, in order to get a raise, employees need to go above and beyond the basic requirements. If your work is competent, but not stellar, this may be why you didn't get a raise.

Next Steps: Talk to your manager about what they would like to see from you. Consider how to transform from an ordinary employee into an exceptional one. Keep a list of your accomplishments and any praise you receive, and highlight them the next time you request a raise.

Your Boss Doesn't Know About Your Accomplishments

On a day-to-day basis at work, do you mention your achievements? You should offer evidence for why you're deserving of a raise at the moment when you make the request, but also lay the groundwork in advance.

Note

While it's good to be self-promoting, be cautious about excessive self-promotion, or stealing the spotlight from deserving coworkers, which can work against your request.

Next Steps: In one-on-one meetings with your manager, and over email, highlight your accomplishments. Be careful not to overdo it—you don’t want to be too modest or overly boastful.

You Ask for Personal Reasons

For most companies, salary is an unemotional calculation, based on the employee's performance, geographic considerations, and competition. If you asked for a raise citing factors in your personal life—increased rent, family-related concerns, etc.—instead of professional reasons, your manager might feel sympathetic. But that doesn't mean you've presented a valid argument for a higher salary.

Note

Requesting a raise because you heard that other workers got one doesn't boost your argument, either.

Next Steps: Frame your raise request around the value you provide to the company. Rather than detailing your own expenses and needs, point to ways you've saved money or added to the company's revenue.

You're a Difficult Employee

This sounds harsh, but if you're a challenge to work with, a downer in meetings, or a frequent complainer, you may be a problem for your manager, making him or her unwilling to make the case to superiors that you deserve a raise.

Next Steps: Evaluate your attitude. How do you present yourself in meetings and on everyday occasions around the office? Consider whether your complaints and critiques may be overshadowing your good work.

Employers Fear a Wave of Requests

Many companies can be hesitant to give out raises, since granting one request could lead to others.

Next Steps: This puts you in a tough position. You can mention that you'll be discrete about your raise, and also make the point that your increase should be evaluated on its own merits. However, if this is the response you get, it may be a sign that it's a good time to kick off a job search.

Your Salary Is Already Market Rate

If you didn't do research on the typical salary range for your position before requesting a raise, your manager could decline the request, reasoning that you're already getting the amount you deserve.

Next Steps:
Do some salary research at sites such as Glassdoor, PayScale, or Salary.com, and take a look at the data on average pay raises, so you know what you can expect.

You Didn't Ask for a Raise

While it's certainly possible that a raise will appear in your paycheck before you request it, that's not often going to be the case. PayScale’s Raise Anatomy Survey reports that only 30% of employees received a raise before they asked for it, that only 37% of employees have asked for a raise, but 70% of those who asked for a pay increase got it.

Note

If you believe that you are deserving of a raise, ask for it.

Next Steps: Learn how to request a pay raise, and schedule some time with your manager.

What Not to Do When You Don’t Get a Raise

When you don’t get the salary increase you expected, don’t panic, try not to take it personally, take a deep breath, and consider your strategy for moving forward.

  • Don’t Quit Right Away. Unless you have another secure job offer waiting for you, it's probably wise to avoid quitting in a huff. (In fact, think carefully before resigning dramatically even if you do have an offer.)
  • Don’t Make It Personal. Don't get personal or insulting in your response. Sometimes, managers or companies are under financial constraints. State your concerns about the decision professionally.
  • Don’t Slack Off. Don't change your day-to-day work habits in the weeks and months following your raise request being turned down. Being frustrated by the decision doesn't negate your responsibilities to the job, and you don’t want to lose your position because you’re unhappy. It’s better to leave on your own terms.
  • Don’t Be Negative. Gossiping with coworkers, slowing down work, or having a bad attitude will not endear you to colleagues or managers, and could make it even harder for you to get a salary increase in the future.

What You Should Do When You’ve Been Passed Over

  • Evaluate Your Request: It's not easy to ask for a raise—even if you put in solid prep work. It’s possible that you could have timed your request better or phrased it more effectively. Consider how you made the request, and remember that some of the common reasons companies decline raise requests may be totally unrelated to your performance.
  • Use the Feedback: Treat the feedback you received from your manager or human resources department about why your raise request was declined as a blueprint for your next steps. If you did not receive helpful feedback, schedule a time to meet again.
  • Gather Information: Ask direct questions about what types of benchmark you'd need to meet to get a raise. You can also request a timeline or schedule a follow-up meeting. Ask questions non-confrontationally. Your objective here is to get practical information about why you did not get a raise and where you need to improve. 
  • Consider Your Next Goal: As you evaluate the feedback and information you received, consider what next steps you'd like to take. If you feel that you will not receive a raise but deserve one, starting a search for a new job might be your next step. Or, you might want to establish a timeline for when to ask for a raise again.
  • Switch Strategies and Seek Non-Salary Benefits: A raise isn't the only way to get ahead at work. You could also request a bonus in lieu of a raise, or additional vacation days, for example. Or, consider non-financial benefits, such as being able to work from home a day a week, a flexible schedule, or reimbursement for work-related classes or training.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I quit if I don't get a raise?

Don't quit right away in anger, especially if you don't have another job offer in hand. Take time to think about why you were denied a raise, and whether it's worth sticking around. If, for instance, the company is in a dire financial situation and you don't think it will improve any time soon, it may be time to launch a serious job search. But otherwise, you may want to see if you can improve your chances for a raise at a later date.

How should I follow up after asking for a raise?

You should follow up on a raise request if your boss wasn't ready to talk about it when you brought it up, but they didn't reject you outright. If you didn't agree on a certain time frame to follow up with your manager, two to four weeks after your request is appropriate. Either in person or by email, remind your boss of your request, summarizing your argument for a raise. Be assertive but polite, concisely stating why you deserve an increase. Then thank them for their time.

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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pearl Meyer. "2022 Implemented Base Salary Increases." Page 4.

  2. The National Labor Relations Board. "Your Right to Discuss Wages."

  3. PayScale. "How to Ask for a Raise and Get it."

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