5 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Raise (and What To Do About It)

Asking for a raise, or striving for one, is quite the gamble for most.

You’re the first in, last out, and your mind is constantly churning with thoughts related to work. You bust your tail for a year, make personal sacrifices and shelve other plans, all in the hopes you’ll get a promotion and with it, a raise. 

Sometimes, it pays off. That’s ace!

Other times when it doesn’t, it really makes you question if everything you do is worth it. And you spend your time wondering what you could have done differently to change the outcome. 

Here’s why you might have been passed over for a raise.

1. Out of season

Timing your request is just as important as showing your achievements.

For most companies in the private sector, there are certain quarters in which the company does exceptionally well. For other seasons, however, the company is usually busy coming up with ways to get through the dry spell. On top of that, take into account the appraisal cycle and try your best to avoid the periods where your company might be struggling. If an organisation is facing economic challenges or cost-cutting measures, your request for a raise may be denied due to limited resources.

Remember when we were young, we knew to wait for our parents to be in a better mood before asking them for what we want? The same concept applies here. 

At the same time, practise some empathy. Asking for a raise when your manager is dealing with problems or going through a tough time is not a considerate thing to do, not to mention it would not be the most opportune time. This is regardless of how qualified or deserving you are.

What you can do about it: 

  • Understand the company’s financial health and performance
  • Express your commitment to the company’s success and inquire about the possibility of revisiting the salary discussion at a later date
  • Raise the topic after your company had a big win or a string of triumphs. If you’ve played an integral role in those wins, that’s your leverage. You’ve put in the effort to support the company and it’s only right for them to reward you.
  • Explore alternative perks or benefits that may be offered in lieu of a salary increase, such as additional vacation days or professional development opportunities

2. Not selling yourself

Most bosses don’t dig into what you’ve contributed to the team. Rationally, why would they? They’re usually swamped with trying to bring everything together.

There are great performers who try to keep their heads down – which is good, but only up to a certain point. Doing so does not help you sell who you are, what you’re capable of, and the above-and-beyond little things you’ve done. And often, you’ll get passed over for inferior candidates, who are better at selling themselves.

Lean forward, ask unorthodox questions, flag the things nobody realised, and most importantly, copy others on your emails. Assertiveness is proven to make you more money. Getting a promotion or a raise is less about what your manager thinks about you. They already know if you’re doing good work or not. It’s the higher-ups and the decision-makers who need to be convinced. If they haven’t seen your potential, it makes the sale much harder.

Play the part, and then more. Don’t just say you have the qualities – demonstrate them. Here’s an idea of what you can do about it: 

  • Take the time to document your achievements and contributions
  • Prepare a compelling case that outlines how your work has positively impacted the company
  • Highlight any additional responsibilities or projects you’ve taken on since your last salary review

An employee’s value is defined by how replaceable they are. A company never pays you what you’re worth. They pay you according to what the role is worth.

Make yourself scarce and hard to replace; the laws of supply and demand apply.

3. You’re just too young

When you first start, you’re at the bottom of the food chain and no task is beneath you. All that matters is you commit to it all, do the job properly,  and do your part to help the team win. Doing a job carelessly only creates more problems for others in the team, and that slows the entire company down.

Over time, you’ll learn more and more about the company, and more importantly, the world. Only then you can think about how to advance within your organisation.

The reason fresh graduates are at the bottom of the company is that they have yet to have the experience needed to be a decision-maker. Although obvious, many of us often forget it.

Even with an extraordinary work ethic, experience is still an extremely crucial ingredient that cannot be missed. You simply don’t know what you don’t know.

You can press the button 40 times, but that will not make the lift come faster.

“Patience, young padawan,” – Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Take your time to climb the corporate ladder, and here’s what you can do when you’re ready:

  • Volunteer for additional responsibilities or projects that showcase your leadership and problem-solving abilities
  • Demonstrate a proactive attitude by identifying areas where you can contribute more to the team or company

Clearly communicate your career goals and express your interest in taking on more significant responsibilities.

4. Performance issues

If your performance has been subpar or there are concerns about your contributions, it could impact your eligibility for a raise. If your contributions are not perceived as aligned with the company’s goals, it could also impact the decision to grant a raise.

What you can do about it:

  • Seek feedback on your performance and areas that need improvement
  • Develop an action plan to address any identified shortcomings
  • Demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement

5. Market value mismatch

Your salary expectations may not align with the current market value for your role or industry. If your salary request exceeds industry standards or is not commensurate with your experience and qualifications, your employer may be hesitant to grant the raise. 

What you can do about it: 

  • Research industry salary benchmarks for your role and experience level
  • Consider factors such as your location, industry trends, and company size when evaluating your salary expectations
  • Be open to negotiation and willing to discuss a reasonable salary adjustment based on market standards

What now?

Whether you got it or not, it’s creditable that you made the step to ask for one. There are only three things that could have happened:

  1. They say yes.
  2. They say not now. Then, you’ll have the opportunity to ask why and understand the KPIs you need to meet.
  3. They say no. Now you know where you stand and if you’ve met your KPIs, raise the question of whether your skills are better appreciated elsewhere.

Regardless of the outcome, you will still have gained some experience and lessons.

When you’re sure your company doesn’t appreciate you in the way they should, their competitors will fight to get you. And you’ll have the leverage to negotiate for a better salary or, even better, let competitors offer you something better. It’s your turn to make a move. Just don’t forget you have more than one choice.

Read more: How To Ask for a Raise the Right Way

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