Show me the money! How to ask your boss for a pay rise.

Steven Fulop - September 17, 2018

At some point in your career, you are going to believe you’re worth more money than what you’re getting paid. If you’re otherwise happy in your role, it could be time to start considering asking for a pay rise. Asking your boss for more money isn’t a task you necessarily look forward to, but despite the stigma, if it’s done in the right way, most employers are reasonable and understanding.

Keep the following in mind:

  • Just because you think you deserve more money, it doesn’t mean everyone else thinks the same. Ask yourself why you deserve it and make the reasons tangible.
  • Planning and preparation is key to successful outcomes. What have you done to show your worth?
  • Timing, market conditions and business performance are also important to consider before asking. Is it the right time, or will the request come across as out of line?
  • How long have you been at the company? How long has it been since your last pay review or rise? Show discretion and be aware about how you may come across. Self-awareness is key.
    If you still believe you deserve a pay rise, and the timing is right, here are some key tips to help you.
  • Research an appropriate pay raise. Understand the market rates for your job and experience – this will set realistic expectations for yourself and your employer. What are ‘like-for-like’ roles paying, in your sector for someone with your skillset? Speak to recruitment agencies who have a track record placing role at your level. Get their advice on salary benchmarking.
  • Familiarise yourself with pay review cycles at your company. Are they quarterly, annual, or ad-hoc?
  • It’s also good to understand your current company’s financial health and performance. It could be perceived as naïve or narrow-minded asking for a pay rise during a business downturn.
  • Review your work contributions that justify your pay increase. Why do you deserve the pay rise? How did you go above and beyond? You need solid data, and to quantify your contributions. Make a list of goals / KPIs you have accomplished for the company. What has their impact been? Make a list of cost savings, staff development or promotions, projects delivered on time on budget, above and beyond customer service, etc. Demonstrate not only the tangible value you have brought to the business, but also the intrinsic qualities you have added to the team. Make a list of ‘above and beyond’ responsibilities. This could be taking on a bigger team or rescuing poor-performing projects.
  • Set a salary increase goal in your mind. This must accurately reflect the contributions above. It should be based on merit and accomplishments and be realistic and reflective of current market rates.
  • Set up a meeting with your manager to discuss a review of performance and salary. I always recommend giving them a heads-up beforehand. Pick your moment. You don’t want to blindside them; you want them to have time to prepare. Don’t ambush them, especially when they are busy or stressed. Try asking to set up the meeting on a day when they are in a good mood.
  • Once you’ve set up the meeting, pre-prepare a document outlining a list of your achievements and responsibilities over the past year, and any ways you have tangibly added value. Mention the shortfall in the salary relative to market and outline a proposed increase in the document. Your boss can use this document to vouch for you to senior management.
  • In the meeting, be straightforward in addressing your request for an increase and back this up with your market research and evidence of your contributions.
  • Focus on why you deserve it, not why you need it.
  • Don’t be passive or shy, and awkward silences can be your friend in this context. This is your time to (respectfully) make your case.
  • The meeting is a negotiation. Go in knowing what you are prepared to negotiate on, and what are deal breakers. Be conscious of your body language, especially crossed arms and slouching. Practice your pitch and anticipate push-backs. Negotiate, but don’t debate. Be positive about the future, even if you get a no. Listen and be gracious, and prepare yourself to hear a no. Don’t threaten to quit, this is a low-blow to your employer, which doesn’t reflect well on you.
  • If your boss says they cannot provide a pay raise currently, ask what you need to improve on to make yourself eligible in the future. An unexplained no is not good enough; seek an explanation. Ask what you can do to improve in coming months. Set in place a plan to move forward.
  • Have a plan B. If you get a no on a salary increase, work towards improving other benefits. These could be more flexible hours, paid training or certifications, executive mentorship, work from home, paid parking, or even another formal salary review in six months. Try not to leave the meeting empty-handed. You want to get something out of it.
  • Finally, follow up with an email to formalise the conversation and thank your boss for their time. Any commitments agreed in the meeting need to be in writing for future reference.
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