“Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?”: The Essential Do’s and Don’ts of Getting That Pay Rise
Let’s face it, even those of us who are both happy and fulfilled by our jobs don’t go to work, day-in, day-out, because we enjoy getting out of the house for a bit of a jolly – as that old saying goes, it’s all about the money. The bills aren’t going to pay themselves.
Although the matter of pay is not the most important factor in determining workplace happiness, it cannot be denied that we must feel that we are being adequately rewarded for our work. Certainly, we would soon be heading for the exit if we were denied a pay rise, only to find that a colleague doing the same job, with the same level of experience, commanded a higher salary. Times are tough and we all want a fair deal after all.
If you are feeling somewhat overworked and underpaid, it might be time to think about asking for a pay rise – the problem is that this is easier said than done! There are certain things in life which are very awkward to talk about, and a pay rise probably ranks just behind incontinence in the sensitive subject stakes.
If the thought of sitting down with your manager, face to face, to ask for a pay increase fills you with fear, than you are not alone – it is a prospect which brings most of us out in a cold sweat. Asking for a pay rise is one of the more delicate conversations you’ll ever have with your boss and it is important to tread carefully.
Here are a few useful dos and don’ts to help boost your chances of getting that much needed pay raise.
Find out your market value
Wouldn’t it be swell to command a salary of £150,000 per annum, plus stock options? Of course it would. But unfortunately market forces will probably suggest that your services are worth a little less than this, as will your boss. When asking for more pay, it cannot be stressed enough that you should have a clear idea of what kind of increase you are looking for, and that the pay rise that you have asked for is in-line with market valuations of your worth – this will require a little homework on your part.
In order to find out what the going rate is for your job role, confer with the experts – you could have a chat with local recruitment consultants, complete a salary survey online, and scour the jobs boards and compare the salaries offered with what you are being paid – this will allow you to find out what salary you can expect for someone of your level of skill and experience, not to mention geographical location.
As a side note, it is worth mentioning that if you find that you are being paid equal to or even above the market rate, it will be difficult to press for more money. That is unless you are considered to be utterly irreplaceable in your workplace.
Build a case for why you deserve a raise
Right, so you’ve confirmed what you already knew and are armed with the cold, hard stats which show that you are being paid less than the industry benchmark. What now? Well the next stage is to build a convincing and compelling case as to why you deserve the salary increase that you are about to ask for.
Even if, in your eyes, you are being criminally underpaid, try to look at the situation from your employer’s perspective – upon being asked to stretch a potentially already stretched budget further to increase your pay, they are first and foremost going to want to assess if you are worth it. Your boss will consider what value you currently bring to the business and what further value you could provide in the future – if they can’t see this value, why would they increase their investment in you? Your employers decision to award you a pay rise, or not for that matter, will be made as a business decision – one which is in-line with your employer’s best interests.
With this in mind, build a strong argument in favour of what value you offer in the workplace and show your boss why you are worth the money. If your job sees you work to targets, such as in a sales role, compile a spreadsheet which highlights your ability to continually meet or exceed target. But what if you have a job which is more manual in nature, or perhaps you work in the service sector – in other words, roles which are not so much target based and therefore more difficult to measure in terms of achievement? Working in a non-targeted role makes things a little trickier when it comes to setting out your stall for a pay rise but there are other ways of demonstrating your worth, in the absence of cold, hard figures:
- How to Arm Yourself
- Delivery to date – go back over the last 6 months or so and look at what you’ve actually delivered as part of your job role. It may not have been set out clearly beforehand but looking back is easier.
- Additionals – try to find and highlight things you’ve done or delivered that were above and beyond what would usually be expected from your job description.
- Adding Value – try to remember occasions where you’ve added value to another department/project/team. If you’re in compliance you may have helped the sales manager pull together some stats etc.
- Feedback – gather some feedback on yourself/your performance from your peers or (even better) other managers. Try this informally at first (chat by the coffee machine) if the feedback is positive ask them to email it to you. If it’s negative set out a plan to make sure it’s positive next time.
- Coaching/Training – often in non-target roles there’s the opportunity to teach or train other members of staff. This is usually informal but can still be just as valuable.
- Future actions – set out what you want to achieve and how you intend to develop the role and add value. This can be tricky as you’re asking him to invest in you against future deliverables but at the very least it will demonstrate your commitment and enthusiasm and show you’re thinking about how to help drive the business forward.
If you can provide clear evidence of the value that you bring, you are placing yourself in a position of strength – from an organisations viewpoint, they will do their utmost to keep hold of their best people. Show you are within this club.
The importance of appropriate timing
There is a time and a place for asking for a pay rise. Pro-tip: don’t just walk up to your boss’s desk and blurt out that you’re not paid enough on a Monday morning. And don’t just ask for one outright in an email! It is good etiquette – essential, in fact, to submit a meeting request to your boss for a later time and date. And ideally it is better to make your pay request coincide with an annual pay review or appraisal, as it will always make for an easier appointment.
This isn’t gospel of course – if you feel that you have a strong, strong case for a pay raise, don’t hesitate to request a meeting at a mid-way stage. Just request your meeting in a professional manner and be sure to inform your manager that you are seeking to discuss the subject of pay.
Schedule a 1-to-1 meeting
Now that you have a solid case in favour of a pay increase to present to your boss, it is now time to schedule a meeting – but with who? All companies will operate differently in terms of their hierarchy and corporate structure, and it is important to find out both who is the correct person to approach on the subject of pay increases, and what procedures might be in place.
If you are working for a smaller to mid-sized company, you may well have direct access to senior business executives, such as departmental leaders, your Managing Director/ CEO, whom you can speak to about an appraisal, aka a pay rise. But it is more likely that you will have to go through the chain of command and first speak to an appropriate line manager or HR manager as a first port of call. Similarly, you could always speak to one of your longer serving work colleagues who have already been through the process of seeking a pay increase in your company – clued up long-serving workmates are a veritable font of knowledge who can offer valuable advice, prior to you submitting your meeting request.
Meeting time: box clever when negotiating, aim high, propose objectives, and don’t get emotional!
So, the big moment has arrived and you are about to enter into the meeting room with your boss. You are psyching yourself up to pop the big question (about pay, not marriage obviously) and such is the fear that your mouth palms are sweaty – two words: don’t panic! This might be easier said than done but by keeping a clear head you will make your life a whole lot easier. Remember, asking for a justified pay rise is not an unfair request, and besides, panicking will only hinder your ability to negotiate.
Once in the meeting, a similar approach to posture should be taken to that of a Sunday dinner with an elderly relative: sit up straight, maintain eye-contact, and speak slowly, deliberately, and with conviction.
As before mentioned, it is likely that the initial phase of the meeting will centre around an appraisal of your performance in your role, what objectives you have achieved, and what objectives you would like to meet in future – be enthusiastic and positive when discussing these topics. As discussed earlier, your boss will be evaluating your value to the company and will want to see that you are invested in the success of the organisation that you work for.
Assuming that you have given your boss notice of your intentions, they will either raise the subject of your pay request at the end of the meeting or wait for you to bring it up. Once the subject has been broached, present a clear and concise case as to why you feel that you warrant a pay rise, using your earlier research as a reference point of course. Demonstrate your value to the company by discussing recently completed projects, targets that you have exceeded, appraisal targets that you have met, and future objectives that you hope to achieve. Raise the fact that you are being paid well below what you should be, with evidence. Justify your case! But of course be sure to present your case for a pay raise in a manner which is professional and which focuses on your merits as an employee – don’t make the age old mistake of bombarding your boss with sob-stories of personal reasons as to why you need more money. Unless you are good, good friends with your boss, they won’t care that your clothes are threadbare and that you have resorted to eating 11p noodles. Do yourself a favour and keep it strictly business.
One last recommendation: ask for a pay increase which is slightly more than you want. It is likely that your boss will seek to haggle you down a bit on the amount that you are requesting. And if they don’t haggle, and agree to your proposed pay increase outright? Well, that’s a bonus, isn’t it?
Your request for a pay rise has been rejected: time for greener pastures?
On the other hand, what to do if your boss is less than enthusiastic about the idea of giving you that pay raise, or goes so far as to reject you outright?
Well there is an age-old objection handling technique which you can fall back on as an attempted final save: upon having your request for a pay rise rejected, ask them what you can do, what objectives and goals you can meet, in order to earn the pay increase that you are seeking. This way you can put the ball back in your boss’s court and give them the option to meet you half-way. In such circumstances it is common for the boss to then set you a series of staged objectives to meet over a 6 to 12-month period, which upon being met will trigger incremental pay increases. Again, this is a commonly used means of saving negotiations, via compromise.
And if they still reject the idea outright? Well in this instance your next move is down to you. If you’re happy with your job in every other respect aside from pay and feel that you can still continue with your role happily, it might be worth staying where you are – the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere after all.
However if you are going to harbour serious resentment at having your pay raise request rejected, it might be a good idea to start looking for a new opportunity. A little change from time-to-time is no bad thing and if you have been with your employer for more than two to three years in the same position, pastures new might be a positive step.
A couple of recommendations here: do not get emotional and take the nuclear option of immediately giving notice in the heat of the moment! And similarly, do not take the blackmail-esque option of telling your boss that you have a job offer elsewhere and imply that you are going to leave unless they match your proposed new salary. Giving an ultimatum like this means that there is a 50/50 chance that your boss will call your bluff – this is less than ideal if you are not actually all that keen to leave. Equally, the ultimatum route can be a great option if you are indifferent about whether you stay or leave.
Best of luck!
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