When we start to feel that our salary does not reflect what we deserve, it becomes harder to focus on our work. There’s a lingering feeling that you’re not being treated fairly which takes any enjoyment or satisfaction out of the job. At his point, it’s time to consider whether to ask for a pay increase or is fair enough to request for a raise.
It’s not always comfortable to raise the issue of money with your boss, but it has to be done if you are to feel that you’re not being rewarded correctly, taking into consideration your contribution to the success of the team.
It may be that, over time, your salary hasn’t grown as it should have, while you have taken on ever more responsibilities, regardless of whether they are in the scope of your job title.
You certainly have the right to request a raise. This guide will help you consider the factors involved, help you prepare, and offer negotiation tips to optimize your chances of a positive response.
Know how much you’re worth
The first step to take is to do some salary research before you request a raise. Gather some facts about how your salary compares with others in the same industry, as well as in other industries.
There are plenty of online resources you can access free of charge: major job boards such as Totaljobs, Glassdoor, and many others provide detailed surveys with up-to-date data based on job postings and candidate feedback.
Where does your salary sit in terms of the overall salary range for your job? If local data is available, that’s even more valuable. There’s no use in benchmarking your remuneration against the expected salary in a capital city, where living costs are higher if you’re not based in that capital.
Government employment surveys also provide national statistics that can prove valuable.
If you’ve been in your role for several years, compare the salary increments you’ve received annually (assuming that you have), with the annual rate of inflation. Have your increments exceeded or been less than that rate?
If the answer is less, it means that your salary is worthless now, in real terms than in earlier years. This is unlikely to be a deciding factor for your boss, but it can be important in strengthening your conviction that you deserve a raise.
Also, consider the overall performance of your company. Is it growing and making profits? Or is it in a phase of cut-backs and lay-offs? If it’s the latter, it’s important to be realistic about whether your employer is in a position to grant an increase at this time.
However, if you can make a good case about how you add value, you should still consider asking for a salary increase.
In-person or email?
Once you’re armed with some data, it’s time to start thinking about how to make your request for a raise.
Few people look forward to a salary negotiation with relish. The temptation is to lay everything out in an email and wait for the response. However, for a number of reasons, this is rarely an effective approach:
- It suggests a lack of confidence: you’re hiding behind your computer rather than opening a conversation.
- You’re likely to receive the response by email, and it’s easier for your manager to refuse your request.
- After the exchange, your relationship won’t have been strengthened.
No matter how awkward you may feel, a face to face meeting is far more likely to be effective in obtaining the outcome you want.
Set the agenda
It’s never a good idea to spring your request for a salary increase on your manager without giving him or her the opportunity to think it over and prepare a response.
Any constructive conversation requires time, so it’s also a good idea to ensure that your meeting is held at a moment when your manager is not stressed or running between other meetings. Better to wait a few extra days than to try and insert your request into an overcrowded schedule.
Whether you request the meeting in person or via email / calendar invite, outline the topic in a considered, neutral way. However, don’t avoid the issue.
- Don’t claim that you want to discuss: ‘My performance’ or ‘Personal issue’
- Be direct: ‘Request for a raise’
‘Can we discuss…….’
When is the best time to request a raise?
In your appraisal?
It may seem that the most appropriate time to bring up your request for a raise is during your annual performance review. After all, you’ll be discussing your performance over the past year, and the contribution you’ve made to the overall success of the company. But there are a few reasons why this may not be the ideal moment:
- Your manager may be flooded with similar requests from other team members, so you could find yourself competing with colleagues for a share of a limited pot of money.
- The annual appraisal cycle may not coincide with the budgeting cycle. For example, budgets may be set in Q3 or 4, while performance reviews take place in Q1 of the following year. In this case, your manager may be constrained by pre-set limits on the payroll budget.
- In many companies, the outcome of your appraisal will affect the level of your bonus. Your bonus is considered to be the company’s recognition of your contribution. Therefore, a salary increase is not typically granted at the same time.
On the other hand, if you prepare well for your performance review, that information will be helpful when you do come to discuss your salary increase.
Time your request
A more appropriate moment to request a raise is when you’ve agreed to take on new responsibilities, or after you’ve wrapped up an important project. At both these points, your contribution is easy to demonstrate.
When you’re taking on additional responsibilities, regardless of your job title, it’s clear that you’re adding value by solving a problem for the company. It could be that you’re assuming the duties of an absent colleague, in addition to your own. In this case, you’ll be supporting your manager in controlling costs as they won’t have to hire and train extra help.
Alternatively, you could be taking on new responsibilities due to the introduction of new equipment, systems, or standards. Again, you’ll be able to make your case in terms of, for example, increased customer satisfaction, or greater efficiency, leading to a reduction in costs.
When taking on extra responsibilities, or new tasks, it’s also important to consider the impact on your workload.
- Are you likely to be working more hours?
- Will the pattern of your work change so that you’ll be working weekends or evenings?
- Will you have to move between locations and spend more time traveling to and from home?
- Will the change incur extra costs for you e.g. childcare?
Any of these factors can help you build your case when you make your request for a raise.
A good time for your boss
It goes without saying that for this important meeting, it’s essential for both you and your boss to be in the right state of mind. There are a few factors that can help you to focus on.
- It’s a good idea to time your request for a raise while annual budgets are being prepared. If your manager believes that you deserve a raise, this can be factored into the departmental payroll for the coming period. The money will have been allocated and so your pay raise will be considered ‘pre-approved’, even if it’s not granted immediately.
- To avoid a constant stream of ad hoc requests for pay increases, many companies have an annual pay review, when salaries are set for the next twelve months. Try to time your request just before this review, so your manager is aware of your expectations, and can try to meet them.
- Make sure there’s enough time planned for the meeting. If you think you’ll need 30 minutes, request 45 minutes
- If the department is in a state of turmoil, and your boss is involved in major fire-fighting, he or she is unlikely to be able to give proper focus to your request for a pay raise. Offer to reschedule for a less hectic time.
Plan for the meeting
For such an important meeting, planning is vital. Asking a pro who is an expert at giving career advice will help you a lot. As with any plan, go through the steps in a logical order.
Set your objective
With any meeting, the first thing you need to define is your objective. Know what you’re asking for: have a target figure in mind. This will be the starting point for your salary negotiation. Also, consider whether you would accept less or possibly accept payment in kind. For example a company car, additional leave days, etc.
Build your case
This is nothing to do with your job title or description. Make a list of how you’ve added value. Summarize your successes and gather the data.
- Projects successfully finished: what was your contribution? Did you lead? Did you support it? Did you solve problems creatively? Put a value on the project and your contribution.
- Costs reduced: by how much? Was this due to your productivity? Or your creativity?
- Customer feedback: prepare examples. How has this impacted your department and contributed to profitability and reputation?
- Training/coaching of colleagues: how has this helped the team and contributed to departmental results? How has this contributed to efficiency?
Focus on the future
Talking about the past probably won’t be enough to get the salary increase you’re looking for. You’ll need to build a convincing case about how the contribution you’ll make in the future:
- What are your manager’s priorities and objectives for the coming year? What is your role in achieving them?
- What are the changes planned for your department and the company? How will you be championing them?
- What new systems and equipment will be introduced? Will you play a key role in the implementation?
- What additional responsibilities will you be given? What value will they add to the team?
- What additional responsibilities would you like to take on to expand your skills and prepare for your next role? Prepare a few suggestions.
Look at your request for a raise from the perspective of your manager
Just as you have goals to achieve each year, so does your manager. He or she can only achieve these and earn any bonus, with support from the team. And this includes you.
Ensure you know your manager’s goals, and assess how much you contribute to their achievement. Don’t be afraid to include these, in a constructive way, in your discussion.
“You need to think yourself about it, why your manager should approve your request for pay raise, says Kathleen McGinn, a renowned professor at Harvard Business School”
It’s also a useful exercise to think about the external factors which could be roadblocks to your salary increase being granted. If the company is struggling to make a profit, if the team isn’t reaching its goals, if the economy is tanking… all these could make a dent in your case.
A collaborative decision
In today’s organizations, very few decisions, especially financial ones, rest in the hands of a single individual. It’s unlikely that your manager will have the freedom to award pay increases to everyone who they think deserves one.
Even if they control their departmental payroll, that will have been set in line with the company’s overall payroll budget. They will probably have to consult an HR Manager / Business Partner, or Compensation & Benefits Manager, whose role may be to limit rising salary costs.
Your request for a pay increase will be considered in terms of the impact on the overall team and benchmarked against salaries in other departments, or in the same job grades.
So, keep in mind that your manager, assuming that you’ve made a good case, will have to justify your request to someone else in order to get it approved. The bad news is that, for a variety of reasons unconnected with you as an individual, that approval may be withheld.
Prepare for the Meeting
You wouldn’t dream of giving an important presentation without practicing first especially when you request a raise. That’s why it’s important to do a rehearsal before the meeting to check that you’re making the strongest case you can, in the calmest and most open way possible.
Ideally, rehearse your argument in front of a friend, so that you can benefit from their feedback. If that’s not possible, practice in front of a mirror. The aim here is just to get familiar with the points you’re going to make: you’re not trying to memorize a speech word for word.
Deliver your message
When the time comes for your meeting, and you’re ready to request a raise, you should be feeling fully prepared.
As the aim is to have an open and constructive discussion, ensure that the tone is calm and conversational. You’re more likely to achieve a positive outcome if you are both relaxed and ready to listen.
As you layout your case, be aware of a couple of approaches you should avoid:
- No ultimatums: ‘If I don’t get a salary increase, I’ll resign’. Not many managers will respond positively to this kind of threat, and won’t be backed into a corner. They’ll assume you’re already making other plans, and probably start to think about how they’ll find you’re replacement
- No accusations: ‘You always favor my colleague over me’, ‘You never recognize what I do for this department’. You’ll end up sparring over irrelevant issues, instead of focusing on your goal of a pay increase.
- Bring up the competition: ‘I’ve got a better offer, but I’ll stay if you increase my salary’. As far as your manager is concerned, this signals that you are already half-way outside the door. You’ve already been attending interviews, possibly with competitors. Why reward someone who’s not planning to be around for long?
- Involve colleagues: ‘She earns more than me, and I do a better job’. Well, you’re entitled to your opinion. Your colleague may have more years of service and have benefited from annual increments. There may be other reasons why they’re paid more. However, your manager is highly unlikely to discuss another employee’s salary with you. Far better to focus on making the case for your own value.
If you get the salary increase
Congratulations! Your preparation has paid off! And hopefully, the work you did in evaluating your past contributions and plans about how you will continue to add value to your team and your company in the future, will have helped to refocus your efforts.
If you don’t get the salary increase
Of course, it’s natural to be disappointed. But take a step back and ask yourself:
- Was my case strong, and did I make it well?
- Were there external factors that prevented it from being granted?
- Where do I go from here? This is a moment to seriously consider your situation. Before making any decisions, think about your long-term career objectives. What is your company offering you apart from financial rewards? Projects that stretch you? Don’t let this setback throw you off track.
If at first, you don’t succeed…
If your request for a pay increase is rejected, is it a good idea to keep trying? While you shouldn’t take a ‘no’ as something that’s never going to change, it’s probably not a good idea to make your request for a review more than once per year.
By asking more frequently, or repeated requests for a raise, you may give the impression that you are more focused on what you can take, rather than on what you can give.
Better to stay focused on adding value, ensuring that your manager is aware of your contribution, and you must continue to develop your career. Ask for career advice.
If, in the end, you don’t feel fairly rewarded by your employer and decide to look elsewhere, you’ll have used your time wisely and added to your experience and skill set.
What would I have to do to…….?
When your request for a raise is rejected, one useful way to address it is by asking your manager: ‘What would I have to do for you to reconsider?’ This provides a constructive opening for a discussion about how you can better contribute or what skills you need to develop.
It confirms that you remain committed to the success of your employer and to the development of your career.
Other forms of remuneration
It may be that your manager’s hands are tied by budget restraints or another reason, and he or she simply is not able to grant your request for a raise. In this case consider accepting other forms of recognition: more flexible working, less supervision, use of a company car, etc.
A final caveat
If you know that your boss is being transferred or leaving the company, it’s not the right time to ask. They’re more likely to agree, in order to leave on the best terms and to thank you for your support. But once they’re gone…they’re gone. And so is your raise.
Of course, a new manager will take over. But they’ll need time to understand their new team’s performance. New managers can be inundated with requests from their team to process the promises of previous incumbents.
No new manager will gain credibility by increasing the salary of their whole team. It would rarely be seen as appropriate to grant such requests and it’s far more probable that you’ll be told: ‘Show me what you can do first’. In other words, your hopes will be dashed and you’ll be back to square one.
While you request a raise and you think that you deserve it as well but it isn’t always easy to make it happen.
However, it is your right to be remunerated fairly, and as long as you address the situation in a constructive manner, you have the opportunity to enhance your professional reputation and strengthen your relationship with your manager. Good luck and remember- you deserve the best!