How to ask for a pay rise
A 6 minute read • Simon Q
Part of our career counselling and financial management series. You’ve been in your job for a couple of years. Feedback is great yet you don’t get offered a raise, or what you are offered is small. You feel you deserve more and wonder if you should move on to another company.
Prepare your pay rise pitch
Think of your request for a pay rise as a business pitch. It’s like new business you need to win and a negotiation from which you want the best possible outcome. You’ll need a good case and either some justification for the request or something you can offer in return. Preparation is key. Here are some questions and ideas to help you.
- Why do you want the pay rise? More money to pay for holidays or becoming a parent? While this is really your business and nobody else’s, having an identifiable reason can help you build your confidence and motivation. However, don’t use this in the actual negotiation. Your boss is not interested in what you want the money for, only in what you can do for the company
- Have you taken on extra responsibility that has not yet translated into a raise?
- Which of your achievements can you use to promote your success?
- What vision do you have for your job, team and company?
- What can you offer to do in addition to your current role to increase your value to your boss and the company?
Perhaps you could offer to help your boss by taking on some of her tasks, or maybe you could offer to do something else that will be of value to the company.
- Are you happy to accept a more senior or bigger role that stretches you in return for a pay rise? Certainly, if you are offering to do more, that can help your negotiating position
- What’s non-negotiable? Your boss could offer you a role in a different office but that could mean moving house or dealing with a long commute
- What data can you find that supports your request? You can easily find average salaries for similar jobs online, but don’t bring your colleagues’ pay into the discussion
- What’s your best case outcome – and what’s your fall-back? Ideally, you may want a 10% rise but would accept 5%
- You’ll need to be realistic yet ambitious and prepared to compromise
- Remember that sometimes it’s easier to get additional benefits such as holidays in place of money. Would you be happy with 3% and an extra two days holiday?
“What’s your best case outcome – and what’s your fall-back?”
Another essential part of preparation is ‘objection handling’. It’s rare that a boss will immediately agree to a request for a pay rise from an employee so your preparation should also be geared around anticipating and responding to the objections that she could make. You may find the ABC or ‘bridge’ approach useful:
- Acknowledge the question, issue or objection
- Bridge the conversion back to your topic
- Communicate your pitch and, if appropriate or possible, loop back to the original objection in order to answer or dismiss it
An example of this in practice could be: “I understand your concerns about salary parity with other members of the team, but I have some examples of where I have already taken on additional duties that have made a difference to customer satisfaction”.
Once you have prepared, you can decide when to speak to your boss.
Choose the best time to pitch for your raise
Choosing the right moment to bring up a pay rise with your boss is easier said than done. Your company may have an annual pay review process that would be an ideal time to bring this up. But if you have a good reason, don’t be afraid to make your request at another time.
You’ll also be wise to avoid high-stress periods that are part of your company’s business cycle. Your boss is unlikely to be receptive during these times and you could jeopardise a good case. And don’t make your request by email as this is a person-to-person matter.
Pitching the pay rise case
So, you have done the hard work and prepared a solid case. You have anticipated some objections and have an appointment booked with your boss. How should you play it?
“Don’t threaten to quit if things aren’t going your way”
- Dress well for the meeting but not so that you look like you’re attending an interview. Aim to look neat, well-groomed and rested; project positivity and energy
- If you can’t meet your boss in person – perhaps she is based in another country – book a teleconference so that you can see each other
- Present your case in a calm, controlled way. If interrupted, use the ABC approach outlined above
- Briefly outline your achievements but also talk about the future and what you can offer
- Pitch in initially with something above your ideal salary to start – but expect it to be rejected
- If your summary of achievements falls on deaf ears then offer something in return for your pay rise
- Remember your fall back position and aim to land somewhere between your ideal and your fall-back positions. It may take a few rounds to get there but you’ll prove that you mean business
- As a compromise, suggest a trial period to prove you are worth the pay rise
- If the discussion becomes difficult, be assertive and mature but not arrogant or aggressive
- Don’t threaten to quit if things aren’t going your way. Many managers would see this as disloyalty or blackmail and let you carry out your threat
- Be cautious about giving away personal information about your finances to avoid making your request sound like an emotional plea
- If the discussion doesn’t go your way, remember that some things are better left unsaid. Don’t be critical of your boss, colleagues or company
If you are successful, then tell your boss how grateful you are and how you won’t let her down. Alway be true to your agreement and ensure that you are worth the investment that your boss put in you.
There’s one small hurdle to be aware of if your boss said yes. She may need to clear your pay rise with her manager or with HR, either of which could over-rule her or bring up a company policy that doesn’t work in your favour. If this happens, you can reasonably ask why and discuss an appropriate game plan with your supportive boss.
Your raise was rejected – what next?
First, don’t feel bad. If you did your preparation and pitched a great case then the decision may not be about you. If you were rejected immediately in the meeting with your boss, then ask what you need to do to prove yourself – and do it. Then agree to have another conversation in a few months to review your progress and achievements. Keep trying until you get what you want.
If you were super smart during your preparation you may have a few things up your sleeve. Perhaps you could ask for a small benefit that will make you feel more valued, for example, a better mobile phone or attendance at a conference. You may have picked up a few relevant clues from your conversation with your boss so stay sharp and listen carefully.
If you keep trying and don’t get what you want, be prepared to leave the company [link], especially if you feel they don’t properly value you. But never threaten that as part of your negotiation.
How likely are you to be successful?
I’ve asked for a promotion or pay rise on at least five occasions over my 30 year long career. Not once was I refused. That’s doesn’t make me an expert but it shows that it’s possible with the right approach and at the right time.
So don’t be afraid to ask. I wish you well.
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