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The 5 Best Times to Get Turned Down for a Raise

You’re going to call me Mr. Negative, I’m positive, but I must admit that I was dubious when I came across an article by Liz Ryan titled “The Five Best Times to Ask for a Raise.”

I’m sure Ryan, the founder and CEO of Human Workplace, is very wise in the ways of the business world, but frankly, her ideas scare me. And they’re going to scare you, too.

For example, she starts from the basic assumption that you have value at your workplace. Moreover, she suggests that you leverage this so-called value by not only talking to your boss but actually talking to your boss about how you deserve a raise.


This assertion is difficult to say, and difficult to swallow. Since you have spent the majority of what we laughingly call your career trying to keep your head down, the idea that you would suddenly put your hand up and say, “Hey, Boss. Look at me!” is a very scary proposition.

Of course, if the rent is due, and your children are starving, and, really bad, the repo men are coming to take back your 60-inch high-def TV, asking for a raise may be your only option.

Because all you know about dealing with your manager is how to lick her Ferragamos, let’s examine a few of Ryan’s ideas, such as the strategy that “you can get a raise if you can make the case that you’re underpaid relative to people who do the work you do.”

This would make a lot of sense, if the people who do the kind of work you do weren’t in Bangladesh, where they are currently paid an annual wage that can be computed by taking your salary and moving the decimal point three places to the left.

Ryan also suggests that a good time to ask for a raise is when “you’ve taken on a big new responsibility that makes the organization money, or saves money for them.” Once again, a decent plan but hardly applicable in your case. The last time anyone gave you a “big new responsibility” was decades ago, when you were interviewing for your job, and the receptionist gave you the key to the restroom. And you still haven’t returned it!

Ryan is on firmer ground when she suggests that you ask for a raise “if somebody quit or got laid off and you took over their duties.”

Unfortunately, there is something about a co-worker losing their job, or an entire department being disbanded, that doesn’t immediately trigger a bold demand for more lucre. You tend to want to cling to whatever small shred of security you may think you possess, and being woefully underpaid could make the bean-counters think, “We pay him so little, we might as well keep him.”

Not satisfied with asking for a raise, Ryan also recommends you sit down with your boss and have a “Roadmap Conversation.” This is a “one-on-one conversation where you and your manager talk about what each of you sees for your future in the organization.”

Since what you see is only grief and oblivion, I assume you are supposed to enter this roadmap meeting with some high-flying fantasy about how you or your job is going to change. This is better than a real reality check. A roadmap route that starts at the junction of a miserable job and lousy pay, and ends up with you living in a refrigerator box under a freeway underpass, does not immediately strike me as a reason for a major salary increase.

Ryan also suggests you demand a bump “when your boss acknowledges your contribution.” If you wait for this to happen, you might as well also ask your boss to start sending your new salary directly to your nursing home, McSenior Estates, because that’s where you’ll be.

As I said in the beginning, I am probably not the best person to get enthused about your opportunities for getting a raise, no matter when and how you ask for one. But here’s my idea: After you ask, and after you are fired and being escorted out of the building, it wouldn’t hurt to call back to your boss and ask for a big, fat raise.

It’s a way to show that you are out of touch with reality and saddled with an out-of-control ego. Yes, that’s right — exactly the qualities your company looks for in management.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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