Asking for a Raise? Why It Can Harm You

Jacqui Kenyon

ask for a raiseYou put in the hours, you get great results, your boss and co-workers alike love you.

But these factors in themselves aren’t necessarily enough to get you that raise you know you deserve.

You have to ask for it.

However, this may be inherently easier for one gender than the other—and not for the reasons you might think.

Many people argue that women’s hesitance to ask for more money is the culprit behind the gender wage gap—if women asked for raises like men do, the gap would evaporate. But it may not be that simple.

The Compensation Conundrum

Research from Harvard and Carnegie Mellon indicates that asking for more money can actually hurt women in the workforce. When women ask for higher salaries, they’re more likely to be viewed as greedy, demanding or “not nice” than men in the same position … all characteristics that tend to be frowned upon in a female employee.

This creates a double-edged sword for women in the workforce: Their careers may be hurt if they do ask for raises—even if they get them—because they end up being less well-liked by their peers and bosses, and their careers may be hurt if they don’t ask, because their earning potential decreases.

RELATED: True Tales of Lost Earning Potential

Laura Kray, a professor of leadership at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, told NBC that both male and female superiors may respond negatively to women who ask for higher salaries. Margaret Neale, a management professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a negotiation expert, added that among bosses who judge women more harshly, it may be largely subconscious, making it even more difficult for women to combat.

What’s an ambitious woman to do? Despite the warring research, it boils down to the fact that you’ll never get what you don’t ask for—and not asking could be a million-dollar mistake.

Have you successfully negotiated a higher salary without negatively impacting your work image? Let us know how you did it in the comments.

  • Liz

    I asked how I could improve my job and my worth to the company, and help it better reach it’s goals, so the company in turn could be in a position to better help me reach mine. I got a job promotion with the option of which department I’d feel best suited to, and the raise. :)

  • wonkgirl

    I was more educated, more qualified with more years of experience, was the highest producing member of my all-male team, and also the lowest on the totem pole. When I asked for a raise, I was immediately pushed out, and they brought in another young woman to replace me. I had already found a better, higher profile job, paying more money than the one I’d had, so I ended up being fine, but it was quite the wake up call. I’ve now found a team I love, and a place I can see myself growing in, and since I’m the most senior woman in the office, Im’ making sure what happened to me doesn’t happen to any women in my new office.

  • Eri

    Wait this article actually doesn’t discuss the way to negotiate for women that will yield a better result. Sheryl Sandberg discussed this in her book “Lean In”, if you are a woman negotiating – go at it from a communal-building and pleasantly insistently route. It’s sad that women need to behave so differently than men when asking for what they deserve.