We all wish to have a higher income, thus it is essential to avoid any unnecessary errors when asking for a salary increase. Requesting a raise can be daunting – particularly when uncertain if the request will be regarded as inappropriate.

Nevertheless, there are some regular blunders that many professionals make when asking for an increment, and I will be highlighting those.

Many professionals are apprehensive about asking for a raise, and I am no exception. In the salary negotiation workshops I regularly host for German professionals, I witness this issue firsthand.

It’s because that we’re in such an intimate group setting, that all participants dare openly discuss their worries about being too pushy and jeopardizing their chances of a salary increase. Feeling shy, awkward, or anxious can prevent us from communicating strongly when discussing this topic with our supervisor.

All we need is some understanding and encouragement on how to avoid major mistakes. Once we’re aware of the underlying principles, it’s so much easier to finally get our share.

Now you have the choice how much time you have and how deep you want to dive into this topic.

First, I’ve published two episodes of my podcast about this topic:

Podcast Episode Part 1, I will be discussing the powerful word ADJUSTMENT instead of a raise. This was a personal breakthrough for me, which demonstrated the importance of attitude when communicating with my boss. Additionally, there are techniques we can acquire to become more effective negotiators. It has aided me in understanding the true essence of salary and compensation.

Podcast Episode Part 2, I will be delving deeper into the missteps to dodge when asking our boss, supervisor, or management for a salary adjustment.

If you want to read about how to communicate a raise, I’m going to explain how to avoid the biggest seven mistakes (and how easy it is to avoid them ✌️:

#1 Suggesting you will be more costly to the company

#2: You deserve more pay because of your length of service with the company

#3: Do not reason your request with equal pay to that of your colleagues

#4: Don’t say you’ll quit if you don’t get the raise

#5: To be too meek when making a demand

#6: To be hesitant to give a clear number of xyz EUR increase

#7: You take the plausible reasons for not getting an increase this time

Now we have an overview of all seven blunders and let’s get started:

#1 Mistake: Suggesting you will be more costly to the company

Visualize that you’re in a gathering with your supervisor and you declare:

“Dear Boss, I would like to have a conversation about a salary increase!”

I am unsure how this request will be received by you. But if I were in your shoes, I would be considering one thing above all else: I have to pay more for one of my employees.
There is a more sophisticated solution: Instead of asking for a raise, you discuss a salary adjustment.

Isn’t „adjustment“ a lovely term? Now you can delve into your accomplishments. This could be the most equitable action because it seems you have been carrying out more and more duties for the company.

You may have made some noteworthy contributions or saved the company funds in an important manner by reducing costs or providing savings in other areas.

These and similar arguments will also assist you in formulating your salary expectations when looking for a job.

The strength of such an approach is immense. With yourself, you observe how the concentration is shifted towards your performance.

Suddenly there are no issues issue anymore if granting you a raise.

Rather, it becomes a matter of respect and fairness.

#2 Mistake: You deserve more pay because of your length of service with the company

Now, let’s again imagine us sitting in the meeting room with the manager. This time you say:

“Dear boss, I haven’t received an increment in the last 6 years. I truly would appreciate a salary adjustment.”

What is your opinion on this sentence, do you believe it will be successful?

First, you’re already using the magic word “adjustment” instead of raise. That’s good.
Nevertheless, here is the caveat:

The reality that you’ve been carrying out this role for 6 years does not imply that you are automatically entitled to a higher salary.

Six years ago, you agreed that you would be compensated with this salary in return for your labor. This was established in your job description, and you may still be executing the same responsibilities every day. If that is the case, why should you be deserving of, or want more money?

If you wish to earn a higher salary, you must apprise your supervisor that you have enhanced your performance, that you complete your work more proficiently, and have taken on more relevant or complex tasks.

My recommendation for being even more convincing is, to back up your claims with as many facts and figures as possible.

When you approach your ambition in this manner, your supervisor will be a hard time denying your request because obviously, it’s so well deserved.

#3 Mistake: Do not request equal pay to that of your colleagues

Again, we’re in the salary negotiation meeting, or at the end of the appraisal meeting. You say:

“Boss, I heard that Rakesh, who does the same tasks as I do, earns 300 EUR more. That is not fair. I would like the same compensation“.

I feel with you. To have found out that your colleague is getting higher pay than you is a nightmare! Not being appreciated for our work is a sting that really goes deep, I know this our of my own experience.

Even though I feel your frustration, do not tell your manager!

In German companies, management doesn’t want their employees to talk about their salaries. It’s beause many companies have not rules to pay each member of the team the same amount of money.

They say, that the pay depends an the individual performance. Well, we could also say that companies pay a higher salary depending on how well an individual can reason 😳.

That’s also a reason, why many employment contracts still contain a paragraph that PROHIBIT employees from talking about their salaries over lunch with each other.

But in fact, an employer can no longer prohibit people from discussing salary levels or even salary components with colleagues.The German labor courts are clear about it: mployers may not threaten consequences.

Nevertheless, supervisors and management want to avoid public disclosure of the often differing salary levels of employees.

That was a long speech and shows you that you should not tell your superior that you are underpaid compared to your colleague.

Instead, knowing the salary of your colleagues will open up new negotiating space for you. After all, you have now the verification that there’s more money in the budget.

#4 Mistake: Don’t say you’ll quit if you don’t get the raise

What do you think of this bold demand:

“Hey, boss, my salary is too low. I’m underpaid ! …. if you don’t boost my salary, I’m out.“.

Hey, are you kidding? Are you putting a gun on your manager?

What options are left for your manager? She or he has to decide what rather lose: A good employee, or her or his face.

It’s quite clear that such an argument can only backfire. But that can still occur easily in a debate.

Namely, when emotions are running high.

If you feel unappreciated or totally disappointed in your job, this kind of statement may be uttered in the heat of an argument.

It’s much smarter if we win our boss to follow you. If we treat her or him as a friend. When we’re cooperative.

Confrontation doesn’t lead anywhere.

So says the Harvard concept of negotiation, which is one of the most famous negotiation concepts created more than 30 years ago at Harvard University. Its core principle says we need to be gentle in the relationship, but tough in the matter. We need to find a solution that makes both parties a winner.

Only then we’re able to keep our good relationship at the workplace. And the respect for each other.

#5 Mistake: To be too meek when making a demand

“Dear boss, … well …, it would be nice … if I could … maybe … get a raise of EUR 250.“.

Do you hear the hesitant, silent plea in it? Do you hear the subjunctives as well as the hope that your request will be fulfilled?

Through words and voice, we easily make ourselves smaller and smaller.

This request is such a weak request that might easily be ignored. With two soft words, you signal that your conversation is a trial balloon. You ask and you request… and it sounds that you’re ok if your request for a pay rise is denied.

Requesting a pay raise with a too soft a voice is a big topic in workshops in which I’m teaching women on the topic of negotiation. In Germany, women are still brought up learning they need to be like girls: Delicate, nice, sweet, and reserved.

Girls in Germany are too often not encouraged to fight for their rights, not to be too straightforward and claim their demands loud.

But in business it’s needed (sometimes) to bang ones‘ hands on the table and demand:
Dear boss, that’s not enough money. My performance is worth much more than what I currently get. I don’t accept that anymore.“

Such words are not a request, but a demand. Spoken in a calm voice but very specific – this is what we need to learn.

This is not only a women’s topic, I believe, but depends on how we grew up and our family culture.

The good news is that communicating and negotiating is not genetically predetermined. It’s just a skill.
We can align and learn. And we all get better with practice.

#6 Mistake: To be hesitant to give a clear number of xyz EUR increase

“I would like a salary adjustment between 200 and 500 EUR“.

A span does not bring success in a negotiation. Your boss doesn’t hear 500 EUR.

The boss hears only the small number, 200 EUR. And will trade you down further, probably. So in the end, you might end up with just 100 EUR 🤣

There is only one good course of action, but it takes courage: Give a high number full of conviction and confidence. In this example it’s 500 EUR you deserve for your performance.

Because your boss wants to have a win, too, he or she will negotiate you down to 350 or 300 (and thinks he has done well 😜).

#7 mistake: You take the plausible reasons for not getting an increase this time

Now, what do you think of the following conversation: 

The Boss says: „No, can’t pay more. The company is short of money.“
And the employee answers: „Ok“

As a reminder: We are in phase of negotiation a higher salary right now, aren’t we? And one party, the boss, says that, unfortunately, the company is not in a good state. And the economy is down. And many more very plausible reasons.

I know, it often is very plausible. But hey, if we accept the rejection straight away, we are NOT in a negotiation.

Because the definition of a negotiation is that you have diverse interests. A negotiation by nature BEGINS with a „no“. It has to be like that.

If we don’t negotiate our salary, we could leave money on the table. If we pay attention to the points mentioned here, the conversation with the supervisor will be sucessful.

Wrap up

It is common practice in Germany for employees to ask for a pay increase. However, some companies may offer automatic increases due to inflation or collective agreements, but this does not necessarily mean that the employees receive a raise according to their performance.

It is, therefore, up to the individual to understand how to properly and effectively advocate for their own interests.

The seven mistakes I’ve outlined here provide basic rules to follow when doing so.

I wish you the best of luck in asserting your rightful interests. If you have applied these tips successfully, let’s grab a coffee!