Negotiating a Raise with a Manager You Don’t Trust


I want a raise and better benefits. I know if I job hunt, I’ll find an employer who’ll pay more, but I’m comfortable where I work. I have a short commute, great coworkers, and a decent supervisor who gives me flexibility.

I let my supervisor know I wanted a raise. He said he didn’t have that power and referred me to his manager. The manager was all smiles. He said, “You do an outstanding job. I’d give you a raise if I could, but our company isn’t making a lot of money. No one’s getting a raise.”

I feel lied to. My girlfriend works in accounting, and I know for a fact that three management-favorites received raises two weeks ago. She’s told me the managers fly first class when they travel and regularly have pricey business dinners at places like the Crow’s Nest. The managers recently remodeled their executive offices with top-of-the-line furnishings.

I want to stay with this company, but only if they give me a raise. I know they can afford it. How do I handle this manager who speaks with a forked tongue?  


Many employers use the “we don’t have the money” line as their first defense. For some employers, it’s reality. At other companies, the senior leaders find money for what benefits them personally and keep profits high by paying as little as possible to their employees. Here’s how to maneuver past that initial line of defense.

Ask for a meeting

Ask for another meeting, one in which you create a win for yourself regardless of what your manager says. Either you’ll get additional compensation, or the manager will again shadow box with the “there’s no money” line. If that occurs, you’ll have an answer—it may be time to move on unless you’re willing to take the deal offered—staying in a generally good job without a raise.

Prepare to negotiate

Before this meeting, you need to answer three questions—what motivates your manager; what’s a fair salary, and why you deserve it.

What motivates your manager

Effective negotiators understand what motivates the other party. Your company’s managers appear to take good care of themselves and those they value. If  they’re like many managers, they’re focused on making the maximum profit possible, meeting business targets, and progressing their own careers. At great companies, managers are motivated by engaging and retaining top-level employees.

Employees can learn their managers’ priorities by looking at their company’s strategic plan, their department’s objectives and by listening to what their managers praise. Employees intent on moving up within the ranks need to know how their performance contributes to their manager’s and employer’s goals.

Why you deserve more

The manager you spoke with may feel your current salary compensates you well for your work. Be prepared to outline specific results you’ve achieved in the last six to twelve months, the benefits they’ve brought to your employer, and the positive impact you’ve made on your employer’s bottom line. Highlight how your work is helping your supervisor and his manager meet their departmental goals.

What’s a fair salary

Use, and to learn what employers pay for comparable positions. You may also find interesting positions for which you might to apply.

Based on what you’ve learned, you can develop a reasonable “ask.” Because it’s negotiation,  ask for slightly more than you want to give yourself room to negotiate.

            Negotiate with clean energy

Despite what happened at your last meeting, approach this meeting with professionalism and a positive attitude. Thank the manager for taking time to meet with you. Ask that your request for a raise be reconsidered.

Listen to everything the manager says. Ask questions, such as “What is your reasoning?” “How do you arrive at that figure?” and “What did those other individuals do to merit raises?” You want to understand how the manager makes salary decisions and to make the manager your ally.

The manager may have given you double-talk, but you won’t win a raise if you give an ultimatum or play the “you’re lying” card if he again says no one else has had a raise. Managers give raises to employees they want on their team and in their company, not those who act like they have one foot out the door or who judge the manager negatively.  

Finally, if you don’t succeed, take a week and reconsider whether the positives you now experience make up for working for a manager that thinks you’re paid enough and fudges the truth.

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2 thoughts on “Negotiating a Raise with a Manager You Don’t Trust

  1. “My girlfriend works in accounting, and I know for a fact that three management-favorites received raises two weeks ago. She’s told me the managers fly first class when they travel and regularly have pricey business dinners at places like the Crow’s Nest.”

    Disclosing this information (IMHO) would likely make her continued employment tenuous.

  2. There are good tips here for the person with the energy and perspicacity to pursue them. When I was working I just got frustrated too easily to follow through on these sorts of ideas–they are good ones to try!

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