How and when to ask for a pay rise

March 15, 2019

Even the most confident of us tends falter when faced with making that one Big Ask – negotiating  an increase in the value of our regular pay packet.

Somehow, it’s never quite the right time.

And of course, now in April 2019, it could hardly be worse, could it? After all, salaries are bogged. There’s been a downturn in business confidence. Property, retail, rural and other traditional goods and services markets are all on the swing. Interest rates barely exist. Things are not looking good in a lot of areas.

So, surely it seems fanciful to think you’ll be favourably received when you ask for those much-needed extra bucks?

Well, providing you’re sensitive enough NOT to ask when you’re aware the business that employs you is in genuinely dire straits, the truth is that there’s no perfect time.

And pundits say that “all things being equal” – what a ridiculous proviso that is – pay rises are achievable, even under today’s negative conditions, IF you faithfully follow a proven line of attack.

Here’s what you should do ….

The first rule of negotiating a pay rise is to ask for it. Stop prevaricating. Do your homework, screw your courage to the sticking point and just do it. But first, be absolutely sure you know what you’re asking for – and why!

The second rule is NOT to apply for a raise just because you want or need it, (that’s everyone!) but because you genuinely believe you have earned the right to raise.

Thirdly, you need to research, deeply and accurately.

To find out what you are worth in the market place, you need to research people in jobs like yours. You can use SEEK, LinkedIn and Glassdoor to get a realistic expectation of what jobs like yours are currently paying.

Recruitment firms, particularly sector specialists like Windsor can also provide  good data on pay at both staff and executive levels. (Windsor periodically researches and recommends contemporary salary bands to organisations looking to replace an executive who may have been in the same role for along time. It has excellent data for those who care to ask).

(4) Mind your manners.

If you’re part of a large company, it is both wise and courteous to have a chat with HR about any policies and procedures that attach to asking for a pay rise. While you’re there, keep an ear to the ground to try and get a feel for how the company is travelling. Being in tune with the performance of the business can help you build your case. Or not, if the ground is shaky.

(5) Build a business case

When you’re asking for a pay increase, the goal is to convince your manager that you’re worthy of a higher salary. So, you need to know your reasons (i.e. your selling points) – all of them provable and pragmatic – and have examples to clearly illustrate these. Take a list of those to refer to during your interview.

What you’re showing here should be the many times you’ve gone above and beyond what is expected of you in the role you occupy.  These efforts should have resulted in a direct contribution to good business results. SEEK advisors say: “If you can show you’re delivering more value than is expected of you, it’s easier to make a strong case.”

(6) Use your listening skills.

Once you’ve presented the reasons why you think you deserve a pay rise using examples to strengthen your case, step back. Give your manager a chance to respond and listen with an open mind, even if you sense it’s not going your way.

If it has been decided not to increase your salary, ask for feedback on how you can improve your performance over the next year, and try to take any constructive criticism on board.

(7) Strive for a clear response.

Many employees requesting a pay rise are placated and ‘put off’ with fuzzy promises. This is not a decision; it’s a stone wall.  What you need is a firm ‘yes, a definite ‘no’ or a date when you can expect a definite answer. Push politely until you achieve one of those.

(8) Have a plan B. 

If your manager doesn’t agree on a pay rise, you should also consider asking for alternative packaging arrangements, such as work at home elements, more flexibility, increased holiday time , or better training.

(9) Stay calm, negotiate with confidence and to the best of your ability.

Do not get confrontational and don’t take the results personally, - although sometimes, it’s hard not to. But be gracious, thank the powers-that-be for their time and tell them you look forward to revisiting this request at another acceptable time! Diarise that – and stick to it!

(10) Write a thank you note

If your employer declines your request for a pay increase, it’s smart business to use a thank you letter that briefly revisits your reasons for asking. This holds the employer to account and offers a starting point from which you can begin your negotiations next time.

If asking for a pay rise in the first place is rule #1, then try, try, try again is your continuing call to action. Never let a year go by without requesting a salary review.