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How to ask for a raise

7 January 2019

I made up my mind a few weeks ago that I wanted to write a blog on “How to Ask For A Raise”, as it was a topic of conversation and to be blunt – I hadn’t a notion.
In this merry season of pay rises, performance reviews and bonuses, the motivation of seeing other people progressing around us can give us the confidence to strive for more for ourselves. We often expect our managers and our bosses to see that “extra” work we have been doing and to jump at the chance to reward us – but when they don’t?

When someone asked me for advice on the topic, I was stumped. I have worked in environments where raises, performances reviews and structured pathways to progression have been relatively clearly defined so I have never found myself in a situation where I need to have that awkward conversation. And to me, that’s exactly what it sounds like – awkward.

So, I decided to try my best to pull together some advice for other people who’ve never had to consider it, or for people who find themselves in that situation but don’t know where to start.

Disclaimer – I haven’t had this conversation with my Bosses, and I can’t promise that this advice is the “be all and end all”, but here’s what the internet, common sense and some of my colleagues have to say on the matter.

“I’ve had a few salary increases throughout my career, but they have all come about through me consistently hitting and overachieving targets.”

A performance and merit-based review are the easiest one to negotiate. When you approach your boss in this situation (if it’s not brought up to you first), ensure that you catch them at a good time when work isn’t piling up around everyone. Ensure all the tasks that have been asked of you are done to the highest standard before walking into their office with quantitative facts and figures on how your performance has improved beyond what was expected.

Remember – there may be other people doing the same job as you who are being paid the same as you. You’ll need to back up why you deserve more than others, or if you’re making a case for all, why you all deserve more.

“In the past, I’ve handed in my notice to trigger a pay rise – it was worth the risk as I wasn’t entirely happy there.”

Working in recruitment, this can be frustrating. More often than you would like, a candidate will go through an interview process for the simple fact of lording an offer over their bosses’ heads in order to secure a raise, a bonus or a promotion. It is frustrating on our end – but at the same time, if it takes the threat of losing a great employee due to lack of recognition, then maybe that is the route for some. However, it goes without saying, if you’re anything less than stellar – they might just send you on your merry way. I can’t stress this enough, in this situation – always, always, always evaluate the risk.

This method can be a double-edged sword, as even if it goes your way, you may find yourself wondering “but if they can offer it to me now, why didn’t they before?” It may also make your superiors think you are not a team player and will leave at the first sign of trouble (despite the fact that this may not be the case). It definitely wouldn’t be my Option 1, but each to their own.

It can be a bad sign if you find yourself having to chase a reward in your job – it can either mean you are undervalued by the business or overvalued by yourself.
The easiest tactic by a country mile is to approach your direct manager if you are thinking about leaving or want a pay increase or bonus and ask them, “what do I need to do to improve my salary”? Creating an open dialogue about “how can I get there” rather than “I deserve this” may make the conversation easier to approach on your end, but can also be easier to handle as a manager as they are able to give constructive feedback.

The answer you get will either be a flat, “that’s not going to happen” so you can concentrate on looking elsewhere if needs be, or specific metrics will be put in place for you to achieve a pay increase (which brings us back to scenario 1 – quantify!) You will want to know their roadmap and plan for not only you and your development but the business itself. Asking for a huge pay raise in a declining business is like asking for water in a drought.

Top tips to take away for the conversation:

  • Know exactly what you want to say in the meeting – but don’t learn-off a script
  • Be clear about what you want. Don’t expect them to read between the lines
  • Do your research and don’t ask for something out of the ordinary for your field
  • Take on more responsibility
  • Don’t reference another colleague’s salary
  • Talk about the future. You are an investment to the company, after all
  • These conversations are better in person
  • The term “Emotional Intelligence” is thrown about a lot today, but it’s important. Know your timing
  • Feedback, feedback, feedback
  • Be gracious and grateful regardless of the outcome. Alan Sugar fires all but one Apprentice candidate – if they can be gracious, so can you.

If you’re an employer reading this – take on board that your staff are going to want to progress and save them this difficult conversation and approach the topic before they have to ask.

If it all goes wrong and they say no – well, you know where I am 😊


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