An Ungrateful Woman’s Guide To Asking For A Raise

Half of U.S. workers currently feel underpaid. Thanks to the ever-present gender pay gap, in which women working full-time in the U.S. earn 83 cents for every dollar men receive, women in particular are very familiar with being underpaid. (And if you’re a woman of color, you also get to contend with the racial pay gap! We love a double whammy.)

Fighting for fair pay can feel like an uphill battle. In my novel Must Love Books, out January 18, a twentysomething editorial assistant makes a devious decision when the publishing company she works for cuts her already low salary: she secretly takes a second job with a rival publisher.

Now, I’m not suggesting violating company policy is a viable solution for being underpaid. (Though I’m not not suggesting it.) But let’s say, hypothetically, there was another way to go about making the salary you deserve. What if you asked for a raise? 

No, really. Ignore the research that suggests women can be penalized for trying to negotiate for higher pay. Just, you know. Set that intel aside and give it a try. If you feel up to asking for a raise in hopes of being able to afford things one day, I’ve outlined some helpful tips below. Best of luck!

First, do your research. You need to know the going rate for your skills and experience. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a way to do this. Discussing salary among coworkers is taboo for some reason. So, I don’t know, just do a few online searches and hope for the best. Obviously, your coworkers could tell you exactly what they’re making, which would be super helpful. In theory, all you’d have to do is ask. But don’t even think about it, unless you want to be known as the nosy weirdo who tried to start an insurrection.

Dress the part. Women who know their worth can seem intimidating. Set your boss at ease by adding a humanizing touch to your ensemble: a dab of cream cheese on your nose, a splash of coffee on your blouse, a misbuttoned shirt. It’ll be hard for your boss to find you intimidating when he’s brimming with second-hand embarrassment.

Don’t forget to smile. Men hate having to remind women to smile. (Well, actually, some men seem to really enjoy it—hard to tell.) Either way, walk into the meeting with a smile plastered on your face. Even if it feels weird. Even if the room is empty. Anything is better than letting your boss catch a glimpse of resting bitch face. Resting bitches don’t get raises. 

Start with an apology. Asking for a raise is an inconvenience—not to mention a waste of time, considering that women are less likely than men to get raises when they ask for them. Begin the negotiation by sincerely apologizing to your boss for wasting his time. Don’t forget that his time is more valuable than yours.

While you’re at it, apologize for not smiling that one time last month when you were eating a Caesar salad at your desk and the VP of Synergy had to remind you to smile. What were you thinking? Acknowledge the error and offer a sincere apology. Owning up to your mistakes shows growth.

Use terms they understand. The best way to do this is by feeding the CEO’s company-wide emails into a word cloud generator and picking out the most common words. Your boss will be impressed when he hears you throwing around phrases like “team player” and “game changer” and “change agent” and “change changer.”

Share your salary history in excruciating detail. Break out the pay stubs. Really lay out how not negotiating for your first job out of college has weighed down your salary ever since. Your boss will be horrified to hear how your former employers perpetuated past inequities by basing your new salary on your previous salary. He definitely won’t use that information to his advantage. You once worked for eight dollars an hour, you say? Interesting. How funny that you’re asking for so much more now. That seems a little greedy, ha ha.

Bring up your accomplishments. Wait, you don’t have any. You’re a team player and your accomplishments belong to the team. In that case, don’t mention any achievements and your boss will be impressed by your humility and teamworkmanship.

Explain why you deserve a raise. But don’t actually explain why. Discussing the realities of rent and student loans is vulgar. Instead, outline how giving you a raise would benefit the company. They increase your salary, you stop stealing the office toilet paper! Win-win!

Be prepared for a no. It’s highly likely that your boss might decline your request. Have a plan in place in case that happens. Consider working twelve hours a day instead of ten. Try getting a second, third, or fourth job. Give up on your dream of home ownership and commit to living in a shoebox for the rest of your life. You’ve got options. Now get back to work, you ungrateful slacker!

Image: Keren Levand / Unsplash

Shauna Robinson
Shauna Robinson
Shauna Robinson is a writer and the author of Must Love Books. She is highly skilled in avoiding phone calls and finding dessert. She spends much of her time reading, baking, and rewatching the same six shows over and over again.