Very few people are comfortable asking for a pay raise, even if well-deserved.
We are taught from a young age that it is rude to discuss money. We fear confrontation or rejection, and we don’t want to come across as grasping or egotistical.
But in today’s working landscape, you are very likely to be overlooked if you do not actively seek a raise. This is no time to be a shrinking violet. Instead, get proactive, come up with a plan, and market yourself and your skills to make sure that you are paid fairly for the work you do.
- Make an appointment
This might feel counterintuitive given that most of us prefer an ‘open door’ environment. But pulling out a salary request as you pass in the hallway is unlikely to impress.
People don’t like to be surprised when it comes to money. So ask via email for a good time to talk and give the heads up that it’s about your compensation. This gives breathing and thinking space, and improves your chances of a ‘yes.’
- Be specific
When asking for a raise, you should specify what you believe to be fair.
Do your research first. If there’s a great argument to be made for a certain increase, then prepare it — and don’t be tied to asking for base salary only. If your business is strapped for cash, try some of the ideas below to effectively put money in your pocket without necessarily asking for more salary. Both common and unusual employee benefits open the floor for broader negotiation.
- Present a case
You’re not going to get a raise based on past performance alone. Make clear what you can deliver in the future and how you see your potential to grow within the business. You’re not likely to be contractually entitled to a raise, so you need to present a strong case as to why you deserve it.
Look for the business metrics you can use to describe your current and predicted future performance. If you’re growing the business, keeping customers happy, and leading a satsified team, find the numbers (profit, customer retention and staff engagement, for example) to back that up.
- Remain open to ideas
Remember that you’re negotiating here. If you’re knocked back initially, don’t despair.
Keep the dialogue open and ask if there are other ways that you can improve your terms, either by deferring your raise (but getting it set out in writing now), or by getting an agreement to improved terms which are non-monetary.
For example, something like working from home could be of high value to you (giving you back time, reducing commuting and lunch costs, etc), but might be low impact to your boss.
- Avoid moaning or comparison
When you’re asking for a raise, how you ask is every bit as important as what you’re asking for. Consider your timing well, and when you do make your pitch, keep your tone positive. You don’t want to give the impression of making an ultimatum, or moaning about your lot in life.
It’s also unhelpful to draw comparisons, such as, “I do much more than others on the team and should be paid more.”
Just stick to the facts of what you have delivered and will continue to achieve, and have confidence in your argument.
Take a different angle
If you’re agreeing to a salary as part of the interview process to join a new company, then the hiring manager will fully expect a negotiation. But if you’re asking for more money once you’re already in a company, the path might not be so straightforward.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t succeed on the first attempt. In that case, it’s worth tackling the subject from a different angle. Try one of these approaches:
- Deferred or conditional raises
If you’ve been denied a raise and it’s because there simply isn’t enough money in the budget, then consider asking for a deferred or conditional raise.
A deferred raise, in which you agree on a package to come into effect at a later stage, can be a good solution if the business doesn’t have the cash flow right now (but perhaps will in a new financial period).
A conditional raise is based on your achievement of a certain goal, such as winning a new customer or contract, or getting a professional qualification. If you link the raise to the profitability of your team, you’re giving your boss a way to recoup the costs.
- Flexibility and time
Sometimes, even with the best will in the world, there just isn’t the slack in the budget to agree on a raise. In this case, a non-financial boost can still put money in your pocket. Getting permission to work from home reduces your daily costs and buys you time that you can use to set up a side hustle if you wish (or spend more time with your kids, which can even save on childcare).
Alternatively, you can make a pitch for your pay to stay the same but with a reduction in your weekly hours. Effectively, this raises your hourly rate at no extra cost to your boss.
Consider increased benefits
How much leeway you have with this depends on the type of business you work for. If you have a grading system which allocates benefits according to your level of seniority, then it might be possible to negotiate an increase here instead of a base salary raise. This is because the financial structure of many companies means that these benefits are drawn from a different budget than salaries.
Boost your qualifications
A final option is to ask for help to boost your personal development, by taking professional training relevant to your field. If your company is willing to support you by paying for the training and time off for studying, then you get a great addition to your resume — and an extra bargaining chip to use to pitch for a higher salary further down the line.
Even the most successful business people struggle to ask for a pay raise, but if you want to progress, it’s going to be necessary at some point.
Instead of feeling frustrated about your compensation package — which can quickly turn a working relationship sour — put together a plan and start talking to your boss. Be professional and positive, and show how you are contributing to the business now and for the long term.
If you’re still not convinced, PayScale.com found that 75% of respondents who had asked for a raise in the past year got it, and more than half of those were granted the amount they requested. Not bad odds.
A well-worded raise request isn’t a whine or a demand — it is a sign of your drive and commitment to the business, which is precisely what a good manager is looking for in their team.
How often do you believe one should ask for a raise, and what has your personal experience been?