Top 10 Reasons You Didn't Get a Raise

Asking for a raise

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Was your request for a raise declined? There are many reasons why your employer may not have given you a raise, including performance-related concerns, the timing, and style of your request, or the company's general financial health. Find out ten of the most common roadblocks preventing you from getting a raise.

Possible Reasons Why You Didn't Get That Raise

  1. Poor Timing: While it's not a marriage proposal, asking for a raise is an important question. Timing is key! 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 co-workers when raises are typically given out and time your meeting for a low-stress time of day and week.
  2. Lack of Company Resources: Sometimes, the reason you don't get a raise isn't related to you at all. It's quite possible that your company isn't flush with money, and simply 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 answer to these questions will determine if you stay put, or use this as a cue to begin a job search.
  3. Your Performance Needs Improvement: Are you exceeding expectations, or simply 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 the raise.
    Next Steps: Talk to your manager about what she'd like to see from you. Consider how to transform from an ordinary employee into an exceptional one. Keep a list of your big accomplishments, and any praise you receive, and highlight them the next time you request a raise.
  4. Your Boss Doesn't Know About Your Accomplishments: On a day-to-day basis at work, do you trumpet every accomplishment, even the most banal? Or, conversely, are you quiet about your triumphs? 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. While it's good to be self-promoting, be cautious about excessive self-promotion, or stealing the spotlight from deserving co-workers, 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: you want to be neither overly modest nor overly boastful.
  5. You Ask for Personal Reasons: For most companies, salary is an unemotional calculation, based on the employee's qualifications, 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 may feel sympathetic. But that's doesn't mean you've presented a valid argument for a higher salary. The same logic applies to requests based on a co-worker's salary.
    Next Steps: Frame your raise ask 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.
  6. Skipping the Prep Work: Wearing unprofessional clothes, and giving a disjointed, rambling, or off-the-cuff rationale for your raise does not impress. Even if your company doesn't have much of a dress code, it's still important to look and act professionally at this moment.
    Next Steps: Plan talking points, and rehearse ahead of time. Dress to impress: this is a good excuse to break out your interview outfit.
  7. You're a Difficult Employee: 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 everyday occasions around the office? Consider if your complaints and critiques are overshadowing your good work.
  8. Employers Fear a Wave of Requests: Many companies can be fearful of giving 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 raise 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.
  9. Your Salary Is Already Market-Standard: If you didn't do research as to the typical salary range for your position before requesting a raise, your manager may deny the request, reasoning that you're already getting the amount you deserve.
    Next Steps: Do some salary research, at sites such as,, or, and take a look at the data on average page raises so you know what you can expect.
  10. You Didn't Ask!: 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. If you feel 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 to Do When You Don't Get a Raise

Let's start with what not to do: 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 quitting dramatically even if you do have an offer.) Don't get personal or insulting in your response: sometimes managers or companies are under constraints. State your objections to the decision professionally.

As well, 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. Gossiping with co-workers, slowing down work, or having a bad attitude will not endear you to colleagues or managers, and could endanger future requests.

  • Evaluate Your Own Request: It's not easy to ask for a raise — even if you put in solid prep work, it's possible you could have timed your request better or phrased it more effectively. Consider how you made the request, and review some of the common reasons companies decline raise requests, many of which are totally unrelated to your performance.
  • Use the Feedback: Treat the feedback you received from your manager or human resources 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. Ask direct questions, about what types of benchmarks 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 goal 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 you received, consider what next steps you'd like to take. If you feel that you will not receive a raise, and 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 can also request a bonus in lieu of a raise, or additional vacation days. Or, consider non-financial benefits, such as being able to work from home a day a week, or reimbursement for work-related classes or training.