Top 7 mistakes women make when asking for a promotion

It’s a fact that, on average, women earn less money than men. And while some experts hypothesized women are less likely to negotiate salaries, a new Harvard Business Review study shows the opposite is true. In fact, the data reveals women are asking for promotions just as often as men, but aren’t getting them at the same rate. 

Reading the article’s research instantly brought me back to one of the toughest moments in my career. There was a time when my dream position had just opened up at work and knew that in order to get this position, I’d need to ask. 

As I walked the halls that lead to my boss’s office, the knot in my stomach grew larger and the lump in my throat heavier. When I approached the wooden office door, I took a deep breath and looked to God for reassurance. 

“Come in,” I heard my boss say.

I walked in slowly and sat at the chair near his desk. He asked what I was there to discuss. 

“I’d like to fill the open position,” I said as my heart raced. 

We sat there for a moment staring at each other. 

“I’m not sure you’re ready for that position, and others aren’t either,” he said. “But I tell you what—if you show me you can do it, I’ll give you the title and pay.”

I faked a smile and accepted the offer. I darted towards the bathroom to ugly cry and thought about all the sacrifices I’d made for this job. The weekends, the late nights, the early mornings, and other decisions I made to prove my worth. 

By the time I left the bathroom, I shifted my thoughts. I decided I wouldn’t be passed over for this position. And in order to do that, I needed to do things a little differently. 

This time I’d showcase my worth instead of trying to prove it. I’d focus on offering value to the company rather than getting something out of it. Instead of making it about me, I’d make it about the team and the mission. 

And you know what? It worked. 

I was offered the role as VP. Later, when another promotion became available, I put the same strategy in place to earn a title as executive. And it worked once more when I became a partner. These promotions happened over a span of three years—and after year three, I was told I was on track to be CEO.

I tell you this not to humblebrag, but to show you I’ve been through the lows and have come out on top by shifting my thoughts, behaviors, and approach when it comes to promotions. 

And with the right strategies in place, you can too. 

Not sure where to start? First, let’s take a look at the top mistakes women make when they ask for a promotion.

Top 7 mistakes women make when asking for a promotion 

  1. Don’t make it about you. When you sit in the chair across from your boss, don’t make the conversation about you. Don’t make it about the length of time you’ve worked somewhere or the sacrifices you’ve made to deserve the position. Afterall, being the next person in line isn’t what makes you deserving of an advance. 
  2. Don’t make it about your personal needs. Avoid asking for a raise or promotion simply because you’d like to expand your family or be more comfortable as you struggle to pay bills. It’s not a boss or company’s responsibility to fund employees’ personal lives, so don’t vocalize it as a reason why you’d like a promotion or raise. 
  3. Don’t go in without an understanding of your value. Often, employees walk in asking for an arbitrary number that’s not rooted in reality. Be sure to research common salaries for the position you seek, and don’t forget to consider how salaries are affected by your area of work. Walking in without a solid understanding of your value could leave your boss confused or you asking for less. 
  4. Don’t ask for raise just because someone else is making that amount. Don’t ask for a raise simply because you found out a coworker is making more. A lot goes into salary negotiations, and that shouldn’t be the only reason you seek one.
  5. Don’t expect a promotion if you’re underperforming. Are you meeting the goals and responsibilities listed in your job description, or are you underperforming? Are you going above and beyond to add value to your company or doing the bare minimum to keep your job? Take a hard look at your performance levels as you consider whether or not it’s the right time to discuss a raise or promotion with your boss. 
  6. Don’t have only one conversation with your manager. You should be having regular check-ins with your boss. That way, you’re never sideswiped if you’re touching base regularly with him or her. You’ll have consistent feedback on your performance and understand the areas you need to improve on as they come. If you feel like you’re never spending time with your boss, make it a point to ask for his or her time. 
  7. Don’t threaten to leave your company to get a raise. You need to build trust in order to advance. Threatening to leave shows you’re not committed or loyal to the true mission. If you threaten to quit, chances are you want to leave anyways. Doing so accomplishes nothing other than making your employer fearful—and overall, it’s not good for the company. If you do threaten to leave, you better be really ready to go. 

Now that we’ve discussed what you shouldn’t do when asking for a raise or promotion, here are some things you should do:

  1. Be thoughtful in your approach. Go in with a plan. Think about how you’re going to approach your boss and consider how you’ll respond in a variety of situations. Be ready to share some of your biggest achievements and don’t be afraid to have them readily available on paper for your boss to keep. 
  2. Offer ideas that add value. Your raise is based on your perceived value to the future of the company. So instead of making the conversation all about your needs, talk about how you plan to add value to the company and the steps you’ll take to get there. 
  3. Do research on what your current position makes in the area and nationwide. Talk to colleagues in your profession to see what they’re making. Do plenty of online research through reputable sources to gauge the number you should be asking for.
  4. Know what you want. Are you looking for a promotion or a raise? Be straightforward on what you’re asking for and outline it clearly for your boss. 
  5. Be straightforward. We have a tendency to sit idle in hopes of being noticed instead of actively seeking what we want. The truth is you have to ask for it. Get clear on what you want, and practice, practice, practice. 
  6. Open with gratitude. Start the meeting by thanking them and showing appreciation for the things the company has given you. This will go far in setting the meeting off on the right foot and letting your boss know you’re thankful for the opportunities you’ve been given so far. 

Learn more. 

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