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You got a no on your ask for a raise. Now what?

Written by: Sophie Warwick.

Salary negotiations can be nerve wracking and emotional conversations. We spend a lot of time preparing and crafting exactly what we’re going to say. However, sometimes budget constraints are real, and our ask can’t be approved in the moment. How do you move forward ensuring you maintain a positive relationship with your leader, while still being recognized for the value you’re delivering?

In this article, I’ll outline four key steps to define a positive path forward after receiving a “no” on your ask for a raise.

Prepare for the potential of a “no” in advance. Salary negotiations are emotional because you’re deeply invested in the outcome of the discussion and a lot of us assign so much of our personal value to our compensation. Many of our clients are concerned about navigating their emotions during the conversation to ensure it remains positive and productive. Developing a plan in advance to remain solution-oriented will set you up for success. The best way to do this is to scenario test different outcomes so that you’re not surprised in the moment. It will be much more difficult to manage emotions if you’re considering an outcome for the first time during the meeting.

Carve out time prior to your meeting to brainstorm different outcomes and how you might respond. For example, how would you respond to: “we don’t have the budget right now,” or, “let’s discuss at your performance review next year.”

Tip: This is a great opportunity to test out different scenarios with a friend, family member, or coach so you can ensure you’re prepared for all scenarios.

Craft a plan with your leader to move towards your number in the future. Budget constraints may be real today, but new budgets will be available in the future. Transparency and respect on both sides fuels trust. Communicate with your leader that you’ve carefully considered this number and ask what the path to that raise looks like for them. It may be that additional budget will be available later in the year, or that there are some areas for growth needed before hitting that level of the pay band. Identifying the rationale behind the “no” will help you define a plan to move towards a “yes” in the future.

Tip: Positive negotiations are fueled by mutual respect of each party’s needs. Practice communicating your rationale to ensure you’re clear in your ask.

Set a time to revisit and stick to it. Schedule a meeting within a timeline that meets both you and your leader’s needs to discuss your ask again. This will ensure that your ask isn’t forgotten and will make it easier for you to approach your leader when the time comes. When we haven’t taken the time to schedule a follow up during the initial ask, it can feel daunting to reach out to your leader and feel like you’re “asking” all over again. Establishing upfront that you’re both committing to a future conversation will make it less intimidating.

Tip: Send a follow up email after your meeting to schedule a time to revisit your ask. This can also help manage any confusion if there are leadership changes in the future.

Consider other compensation elements that are negotiable. Compensation is so closely tied to our feelings of being recognized and valued at work. If it’s a “no” right now on your salary ask, is there an opportunity to ask for additional vacation, flexibility, bonuses, or other key elements that are part of your total compensation package that might be more negotiable? Getting coverage in another area can help mitigate any frustration and offer some interim recognition.

Tip: You’ve taken a lot of time and space to define a number that feels right. Maintain you’re plan towards a “yes” in the future even if you get a “yes” on another element now.


Book a 1:1 prep session with us at The Thoughtful Co today where we help you determine what compensation, benefits and perks to ask for, craft a negotiation script, and build out your negotiation strategy. We help our clients achieve a +25% higher compensation package than their current on average, and have worked with women across Canada, the US and the UK.


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