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How to Ask for a Pay Rise

MCS Group Apr 18, 2023

As recruitment specialists, clients and candidates often ask about the best strategy to ask for a pay rise. We all want to be rewarded fairly for our hard work, so it is crucial to be able to approach the subject when we feel we are being underpaid. So, today we are asking, how can we ask for a pay rise and increase our chances of success? 

In periods 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. But, unfortunately, we often expect our managers and bosses to see the "extra" work we have been doing and jump at the chance to reward us. If this isn't the case, we must confidently approach the subject ourselves. 

Many people have previously worked in environments where raises, performance reviews and structured pathways to progression have been relatively clearly defined. So, if you find yourself in a role where this isn't as clear-cut, it can mean that you have to approach the conversation yourself, and for many people, it can feel very awkward. 

So, we've put together a guide for people who've never had to consider it or those who find themselves in that situation but don't know how to approach it. You may have experience asking for a raise but are looking for tips on approaching it when the opportunity comes up again. 

Here are our five steps on how to ask for a pay rise. After reading the guide, if you need further support from our dedicated recruitment specialists, visit our candidates' page for more information. 

1. Asking for a Pay Rise is Normal 

Asking for a pay rise can be a nerve-wracking thought that makes us doubt whether it is the right thing to do. However, for most business leaders, it is not a big deal; dealing with salaries is a normal part of their jobs. 

Any reasonable manager with experience managing people will understand that it is normal for people to want to discuss their salary. They will not think it is an outrageous request, and pay is a crucial factor in why people go to work. 

Even if the conversation doesn't ultimately lead to your manager saying yes, it is doubtful it will damage your relationship with them. This is as long as you are not asking for an unrealistic amount and have a strong track record of positive performance. 

2. Timing is Everything

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

3. Risk Assessing your Strategy

"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."

Through our experiences of working in recruitment, we have found that employees have gone through an interview process with another company as a strategy to force their employer to acknowledge their hard work and give them a pay rise, bonus, or promotion. The logic of this tactic is that if you are an exceptional employee, the business won’t want to lose you and will be open to negotiation. 

However, the downside to this tactic is that if you are overplaying your performance and, in reality, it doesn’t meet the standards for a pay rise, then the company may be willing to let you go. In addition, this strategy is risky, so ensure to continuously evaluate the risks and be realistic about your performance.

This method can be a double-edged sword, as even if it goes your way, you may wonder, "but if they can offer it to me now, why didn't they before?" perhaps highlighting a lack of reward and recognition in the company. In addition, it may also make your superiors think you are not a team player and will leave at the first sign of trouble, despite this not being the case.

4. Have an Open and Honest Conversation with your Manager 

It can be a bad sign if you have to chase a reward in your job – it can either mean you are undervalued by the business or overvalued by yourself.

The most straightforward tactic 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. It can also be easier to handle as a manager as they can give constructive feedback.

The result of this conversation will be that your answer will either be a flat "that's not going to happen" so you can concentrate on looking elsewhere, or your manager will put specific metrics and learning and development strategies in place for you to achieve a pay increase.

As well as seeking a career roadmap for yourself, it is worth asking for an update on the performance and future of the business. For example, if the business is not performing strongly, asking for a raise may not be sensible. On the other hand, the manager may be more open to this conversation in times of strong business growth. 

5. Bring Evidence 

To increase your chances of being successful in asking for a pay rise, it is a good idea to bring evidence of why you deserve one. 
Ideas to showcase in your pay review meeting: 

  • Successful projects you worked on
  • Positive customer feedback
  • Excellent people management
  • Achievement of targets 
  • Generating business for the company

As workplace psychologist Stephanie Davies says, 'The brain needs a 'why' - why should I pay you this amount.'

In addition, as well as listing your past achievements go prepared to talk about your career aspirations with the company and what you hope to achieve in the future. This gives your manager the peace of mind that you are a committed and dedicated employee who sees their future with the business. 

Key Takeaways on How to Ask for a Raise 

  • Asking for a raise is daunting for most people, but remember that it is normal, and a strong manager will expect these conversations. 
  • You can combat the nerves by coming prepared with evidence to portray your hard work and commitment to the company long-term. 
  • Timing is vital, you want to avoid catching your manager or the business at a bad time, or the answer is more likely to be no; they may also question your awareness skills.
  • Be open and honest with your manager, find out how to develop yourself to achieve a pay rise, and implement a plan. Also, be aware of the state of the performance of the business, as this may significantly influence whether or not you receive a pay rise. 

If you are an employer reading this, be open and approachable with staff about discussing their future and salaries, as this is vitally important to workplace satisfaction and staff retention. 

If you want further support from our passionate recruitment specialists, please visit our dedicated candidates and clients pages for more information.