Six Mistakes to Avoid When Asking for a Promotion

Requesting a promotion or raise can be a tricky proposition. In addition to building a good case and timing your request right, don’t make the following mistakes that can derail your chances of scoring a new job title:

1. Catching your boss off guard.
When asking for a promotion, the element of surprise generally works against you. A manager who hasn’t before considered you in a new role may have an adverse, knee-jerk reaction if you spring your idea on him or her. To avoid this scenario, set up a meeting a few days in advance and let your supervisor know that your career path is on the agenda.

2. Taking an "us versus them" approach. In most cases, your manager is not the enemy, so don’t go into combat mode when you’re making your request. Instead, treat your manager as a fellow professional and potential ally; this will increase the chances of your supervisor going to bat for you.

3. Playing the sympathy card.
Sure, your escalating mortgage and sky-high daycare costs may be what prompts you to seek a more lucrative job title, but those aren’t the reasons you want to give your boss. Stick to business when making the case for a promotion. The conversation should center around your contributions to the firm and their value.

4. Raising the stakes too high. You may think a job offer from another firm will cause your company to jump into action and make you an offer you can’t refuse. In some instances, this is true, but you also must be prepared for the other option—a goodbye handshake and "best of luck to you." Also, if you do end up staying with your firm, the company may question your loyalty in the future. The bottom line: Don’t play hard ball unless you have to.

5. Not listening.
If your manager isn’t amenable to your request, it’s only natural to be hurt and upset. But try not to let those feelings prevent you from hearing what your boss has to say. Take notes on what he or she tells you, and ask probing questions such as, "What steps do you recommend I take to prepare me for a future promotion?" and "Would it be possible for us to revisit this issue in six months?"

6. Making snap decisions.
The meeting make take an unexpected turn. For example, your manager may deny your request for the position you were seeking but offer you a different type of role. Don’t commit to anything until you’ve thought it through. If you’re unsure of an idea, ask for a day or two to think about it. You might say something like,"This is something I hadn’t thought of, and it’s pretty interesting. Before committing, though, I want to make sure it’s the right move. Would it be OK if I got back to you by Friday?"

Julie Ann Sims is director of communications strategy for The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing creative professionals, and HOW’s official career partner.