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I've read some answers on a couple of questions about money and they generally assume that saying "I want more money" is something that shouldn't be said as it makes you look greedy.

Why? Money is a part of every remunerated work and, ceteris paribus, more of it is always better, so why the cynicism?

Of course, we also work for personal growth and satisfaction, but that doesn't negate the money issue.

Would the objection disappear if one said instead "Well, I want to keep learning, have more responsibility, and more money?"

EDIT:

The answers seem to be based on the people who only focus on the money, providing no further arguments to back their wanting more money. That's obviously childish.

But why does having a rewarding and satisfying job make it wrong to even ask for more money if there are arguments that back that up (market rate, more responsibility, increase of value provided due to training or insights)?

For example, what about: "I'm very happy with my job, it's very satisfying and growth enabling, but I know that my latest contributions have raised my responsibility levels, where I've succeeded, and I think I should be rewarded in kind."

EDIT 2:

Summing up, I've perceived from some answers in this site that saying "I want more money" is perceived negatively even if backed up by (relatively) sound justifications. That's another side of the question I'd like to explore. It's harder than if the person is fixated on receiving more without providing sound reasons.

EDIT 3:

Thanks a lot for the thoughtful answers. Summing up, it's a bad thing to say by itself and even accompanied by arguments, you can generally say the same thing in a better way, focusing on the value instead.

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The former ("I want more money") puts the focus on you specifically. The latter (essentially "I want to do more X to earn more money") puts the focus on the value you provide to others. That's a fairly big difference in any culture that values cooperation toward some sort of shared goal (which is what most employment is all about). –  Michael Kjörling Oct 23 '12 at 8:06
    
@itsbruce: It was not my intention to be hostile, I'm sorry if I misinterpreted your answer (looking at a comment down there it seems I was not the only one.) –  Vinko Vrsalovic Oct 23 '12 at 12:50
    
No problem. Digital communication and misunderstandings go together ;) –  itsbruce Oct 23 '12 at 12:51
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But why does having a rewarding and satisfying job make it wrong to even ask for more money if there are arguments that back that up? I do not see anyone saying that it is. Perhaps if you included some links that back this claim up. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Oct 23 '12 at 13:48
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Because the people you are saying it to would prefer to keep that money. –  psr Oct 23 '12 at 16:49

11 Answers 11

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Realize that money is the hardest win/win condition to negotiate. Assuming that the revenue of the company is fixed (for a given time period) then the benefit in the form of a given monetary unit can either be given to the individual or the corporation. It can't be owned by both. If I give you a dollar, you have one more dollar, I have one less dollar.

This is really the hardest case for a negotiation. If two groups can improve the respective trading stance in almost any other vector, it is possible to find a condition where both sides benefit more than they would have pre-negotiation. This is true in cases like education - where saying "I want education, it will let me do my job better, so the company will get more efficiency/new product out of me" then the money given by the company to the educational institution is not lost but transferred to the company in terms of a more valuable employee. The employee, in return, has improved his market position by learning new skills. Money is still a factor, but it is not the factor.

Similarly, "I want a promotion" is saying "I want to do more in return for more money" - in a good promotion, the company should be able to make/save more money, some of which is returned to the employee as increased salary for increased capability. This is a far easier position to negotiate, presuming the employee is currently qualified for the promotion.

Note - both of the above examples result in the employee getting more value from the company, and the company getting more value from the employee.

As mentioned in the edits - it's the case where the employee is essentially saying "give me more money for no appreciable change in my work" that makes the situation difficult - that's basically saying to the company "I want a greater share in your profits", which will cause anyone in authority to question whether there's a reasonable point in saying yes. At that point, the company is justified in wondering whether the market rate for the work has increased, or whether a different potential employee would be pleased to work for the current rate. It can go either way, although there is something to be said for the cost of a learning curve and how long it takes to amortize the inefficiency of employee transition. Thus the reason for things like "standard of living increases" in many industries.

That's a pretty complicated question to answer in any individual case. It is certainly influenced by market rate, but also by things unique to each employee due to non-montary factors. So while a job at $X/year is "too low-paying" for someone with a long/expensive commute, it may be ideal for a person with the same training who lives right next door to the office. The way to win the "give me more money for the same work" conversation is to be very sure that you are either WAY below market rate, or indispensible. In many cases, however, when the boss realizes that an employee is so indispensible that they can name their price, then the smart boss will also start to plan an organizational transition that makes the indispensible person more dispensible - not only because the trading conditions are sub-optimal, but also because it is a big business continuity risk.

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We all want more money, that doesn't mean we're automatically entitled to it. Of course this differs between cultures, but generally I don't believe that there is a negative connotation to discussing an increase in salary when you generate more value for your company or the worth of your services increases. Just plainly stating that you want more money without any rational justification to back it up, however, does makes you look greedy. I think that might be the vibe you're picking up.

I do believe that a lot of people are uncomfortable discussing or negotiating about salary as most are conflict-averse and want to "get along". But that is a different thing altogether.

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True. I hadn't thought about "I want more money" without specifying some reasons justifying it. I'd argue that it's more than greedy, it's childish. –  Vinko Vrsalovic Oct 23 '12 at 8:16

Few candidates actually ask for a higher salary, and I suppose shyness, and fear of appearing greedy, are the major reasons for this. However, you should definitely try to negotiate as high a salary as you can, when you first join your job. This is your most significant chance to try to earn more.

But directly asking for I want more money is not good, instead justify yourself to be paid more money. find or develop a role which commands a higher value, and therefore salary. You can do this either and both with your present employer by agreeing wider responsibilities and opportunities for you to contribute to organisational performance and profit, and/or perhaps with a new employer.

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Right, the impression I got from reading the answers here was that saying "I want more money" was frowned upon, regardless of the context, even when justifying it properly. It's saying "I want more money" without proper justification what's frowned upon, and that I agree with. Also, changing the focus from "money for me" to "value for my employer" is better. –  Vinko Vrsalovic Oct 23 '12 at 8:55

Why does “I want more money” have a negative connotation?

To answer your original question, try turning the transaction around.

In a hiring scenario, you want to hire a gardener to make your yard look better. A prospective gardener whose main concern seems "more money" doesn't convince you as well as one who tells you what he will be able to do for your yard. After all you're probably not hiring a gardener to give away money.

In an asking for a raise scenario, a vendor who additional benefits of the product or service which weren't available with the "old version" may convince you to pay more for the "improved" product or service. If you choose not to upgrade, the vendor may take his business elsewhere, and you'll have to find another source for that product or service.

If you outline the additional value that you provide, and indicating that you believe you should receive additional compensation is a reasonable approach, especially if you can appeal to fear (of losing you to someone who pays more) and greed (enjoying the benefits of keeping you on staff).

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If you ask only for more money you did not understand how negotiations work.

You should discuss with your manager what you can do in order for the company to make more money and therefore earn a piece for yourself. Simply put, you cannot negotiate when you have nothing to offer.

In my opinion, many candidates do not show enough empathy to be able to discuss money matters in an adult manner: people often feel unrewarded and think they should earn more but they are unable to explain why.

It has a lot to do with the environment you are working in. If you want to earn more money while working for a charity, I suspect you will not have the same approach than if you are working as a trader for a financial institutions.

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+1 for the first sentence. This is a really good point! –  enderland Oct 24 '12 at 16:51

It would be so easier if there were transparency in the companies, and you know how much value you bring, how much money the company has, how much your peers earn, etc.

Assuming that your salary is close to the market level, asking for more money indicates that the money are strong motivator, but only passion for the job can make you really good at what you do (you can't be the best in any sphere just because they pay you a lot to be the best; otherwise we all would be in sports, holywood, etc). So there should be a reason you are asking for money - if you earn enought to be in the higher levels of the Maslow's pyramid, you should not think about money at all. So the question is always: why you are asking about more money: maybe this covers another dissatisfaction. If I'm the manager, I'd try to uncover the real need.

If you are asking for more money because you believe you are being paying unfair is another story. I do believe that fair pay is much more important than high pay, so unfair pay can demotivate you no matter what the actual amount is. Here you should ask for fair pay. If you are under the market average, the motives are clear. You can earn more in another company, but you prefer to stay in this. And I'd ask just in this way: Dear manager, I can earn XXX at other company, but I prefer staying here, may I ask what are the opportunities for pay rise in near future and how they are connected to my performance? Or you know that in this company you can earn more (other people on similar role earn more). Then again, connect the payment with performance. If you are recenltly promoted / given more responsibilities, take it as learning experience and ask for the rise after you are condifent enough you are doing good job and can do this at another company as well.

Finally, if you are either underpaid - way bellow the market - or you have financial issues and you just need higher salary, justify your needs. Don't state "I want more money", state "I need more money and I'm going to find a way to earn them - within or outide the company.

But, to answer the question short, if you are asking for more money because you are very good at what you do, it's open the question why you are asking for more money - are you underpaid or there is another issue that is covered by your request - and wheter you got to the point your job is boring and only money can motivate you to continue doing it - in the last case, moving to another position may be better for both of you and the employer, then just a pay rise.

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Are you asking for a raise or giving a reason for wanting a new job? It's hard to ask for a raise without asking for more money and who thinks there's anything wrong with asking for a raise? If you don't ask, you rarely get it. If you prefer or are willing to accept benefits, ask for those.

If you're asked during an interview why you want a particular position or why you want to leave your current position, just saying, "I want more money" doesn't sound like you've given the question much thought. This should be one of many reasons. Rarely does anyone want less money, so it's a given.

When you're going through the interview process, the subject of salary usually comes up in a couple of different forms: 1) here is the salary and/or range 2) they ask what you want. Usually, they ask what you are currently making. If what you are looking for is much higher, they get the picture.

You can ask for more money without any justification. Who knows, you could get lucky. Imagine a sales person asking for higher prices so they get a higher commission. Most buyers would decline.

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@Chad - thank you for the constructive criticism. I've expanded on my answer. –  JeffO Oct 23 '12 at 17:20
    
Much better thank you –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Oct 23 '12 at 18:14

In my experience, as long as the wages are not insultingly low, what most people want from their employment is job satisfaction. They want a job that is intellectually or emotionally rewarding, one that allows them to do good work in a context where that work will be valued. Money usually becomes a primary motivator only when they are frustrated in those other desires.

Certainly, the best colleagues and subordinates I've known have seen their employment in that way. If I found myself in negotiations with an employee who was focussed solely on money, I would worry that either we were failing to use him appropriately (which we could fix by a change of focus or team) or that he wasn't really interested in the work (which we could fix rather less sympathetically). I'm not saying I'd reject the possibility that we weren't paying him what the job was worth - sometimes these things do slip by from lack of attention. But I would be more wary than I would with an employee whose focus was on improving their job satisfaction.

There are areas of work where money (and the desire for more of it) is expected to be the primary motivating factor (e.g. high finance). Are you in one of those? If not, do be aware that pure focus on financial reward is a little out of fashion at the moment, largely due to the economic consequences wreaked by those same sectors.

Note: in response to the extended question from the OP, I've added some emphasis markup to the above to clarify, without changing any of the content.

The original question asked why "I want more money" can have a negative connotation. So my answer seeks to explain the perception. It does not say that anybody should not aspire, nor that they should never ask for more money.

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I want a job which is BOTH intellectually rewarding as well as financially smart. While money is not the primary motivation for my career choices, it does affect them - I would be stupid to not let it do so. Also, it sounds like that someone who was focused solely on money has exactly the effect they likely want to have on you by bringing up salary. –  enderland Oct 23 '12 at 12:18
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@enderland For your first point, you seem to have ignored the fact that I talked about somebody solely focussed on money. I think your second point is simply wrong, since I made it clear that my response to a money-focussed employee would not be equally money-focussed (almost the reverse). –  itsbruce Oct 23 '12 at 12:29

If you are earning less than the market rate for your current skill set then you are not realising your full earning potential. If the work you do is particularly rewarding or interesting then you may decide that you're happy to absorb that cost, if not you should talk to your employer and explain the situation you are in.

My wife stays at home to look after our children and I want to deliver them the best quality of life that I can. This means that if I choose to work at less than my open market salary I'm selling my family short. When this has been the case I have always gone to my employer and explained this to them.

I wouldn't spend £500 a month on repayments to have a luxury car, I would spend the money improving my family's quality of life. In the same way, I wouldn't stay in a job that paid £500 per month less than I could otherwise comfortably earn - both courses of action have the same effect.

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There can be the appearance of an ultimatum here, "I want more money," said in a way that implies, "Or else...." with all kinds of different visuals one could use those Milton from Office Space's threat would be a favorite of mine in terms of humorous notes here.

Money can’t buy you performance would be a bit of a counter argument for more money not always getting better performance which is generally the implied trade. There are some people that may pursue this further where a TED Talk about the Marshmallow Challenge provides further evidence of how higher pay can backfire in some cases.

Doesn't the "That's obviously childish" response give one answer for the negative connotation?

In many mid to large-size companies, there are policies around changing salaries and thus giving someone a raise outside of these times is highly discouraged. This is coming from the HR/Finance departments that would say, "No, we don't usually just give spontaneous raises here."

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Context is everything. It is OK to ask for more money if the company perceives that you provide enough value to justify it. But anytime you make it your first focus, people are going to lose interest.

I have interviewed way too many people through the years that state this as their reason for wanting the job opening I have. Many of these people don't recognize that even though they want more money, they are not worth more money and that they can't actually do the job I have (you would be amazed how many people look alot better on paper than in person). You have to bring something of value to the table to get more money. It may be outstanding technical skills or good management skills or experience saving money at previous companies. But there has to be somthing that makes you stand out from the rest of the folks we are interviewing to get us to offer you more than we orginally intended.

I have seen many a person ask for a raise because their expenses have gone up. If you are valuable to the company, you might be able to negotiate a raise (depending on other factors like the current financial status of the company), but most managers are not going to give you one just because you can't manage on your current salary.

Now an exception to that might be if something impacts your current financial position that you had no control over like having your spouse die. If you tell your boss in that case that you want to stay but are seeking new employment because you simply can't live on your old salary without your spouse's salary, you may be able to use sympathy to get more if you are aready known to be a top performer.

The best time to get a raise is when they ask you to take on more responsibilities. You are providing more value to the company (and often saving them from hiring a whole other person), so you should get more money. However, if you take on the new responsibilities and expect that they will reward you for doing so a year later, you will probably be disappointed.

When people discuss money first over value to the company, then people will generally feel that they are not really interested in the job itself, just the money. And when they ask for more than the current market will bear, they had better be offering something pretty spectacular.

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