Show Me The Money: Top-5 Tips On Asking For A Pay Rise

by Mark Ellwood

Show me the money

Most of us have been there. You’ve been working in your role for some time; business has picked up, you’ve been performing well and your reviews have all been very positive. It certainly feels like the value of your contribution has increased - it’s about time you had a pay increase, right? And yet there are no signs of this happening. Have they overlooked you?  You decide it’s time to act…but how to approach the subject without upsetting the apple cart?


Asking for more money is never easy, but it’s also not unexpected, nor uncommon.  However, you need a plan. So here are out top-5 tips on asking for a pay rise:


1. Be clear on your business case

Creating a compelling argument for why you should have an increase is essential. After all, if the reasons are not clear in your mind, you’ll never be able to convince management. Make a list of the reasons, which might include:

  • Fulfilling every aspect of your original job description

  • Taking on extra work and/or responsibilities

  • Coming up with new ideas or ways of working that have improved things for your team or the business in general

  • Exceeding targets you’ve been set

It may also be helpful to write this down on paper, as your manager may need to plead your case to senior management, so this is making their job easier if they have a quick-reference to hand. If you can’t make a strong case, work on the areas of weakness first, instead of asking for more money. Don’t go in with a half-baked argument.


2. Understand your market rate

While it may be obvious to you that you deserve more money, you must also consider the wider market rate for your skills, experience and qualifications; it’s unlikely that any employers will want to pay anything much more than this ballpark figure. You’ll need to do some research, which could include:

  • Job sites that carry salary bandings

  • Salary surveys in trade magazines

  • Consultation with a recruiter

  • Trusted friends or contacts in comparable roles in other firms.

But don’t start asking around at work. Often discussions of salary can be grounds for dismissal, as stated in many contract terms.


3. Choose time and place

As we’ve mentioned above, if you know the business is doing well, that’s a good time to negotiate. Obviously, if the firm is going through a rough patch, that is not the right time to be asking for more money.

Don’t launch into a request to your manager out of the blue and catch them off-guard.  Make sure you book in a review and make it clear that you want to discuss salary. This will allow them to prepare and investigate your case beforehand, which may even do half the job for you. Make sure your meeting is focussed on performance and salary – don’t try to bring it up with something else.

It is best not to try and book in these meetings at the extreme ends of the week, when your manager is getting to grips with Monday morning or winding down for the weekend on a Friday afternoon. The middle of the week is ideal, but also keep in mind the way your firm works and the rhythm of the workplace. Think about the financial year as well; just after budgets have been announced would be a terrible time. Make sure it’s well before any new budgeting period.

Finally, don’t try again if you just tried two weeks ago.  Let there be a good breathing space between attempts at a pay rise that allows you to develop further and improve your business case.


4. Zen and the art of negotiation

You’ll need to be prepared to negotiate. So, think about terms that are going to lead to a positive outcome. You’ll need to be:

  • Realistic. Your research into markets rates will help here, as well as just being rational.  Have a figure in mind in case you’re put on the spot, so you won’t falter.  But also remember to pitch slightly high initially to start at a high negotiation point

  • Be clear of your arguments. As long as this is a calm, well-reasoned adult negotiation, then even if you come away with little or nothing extra, you won’t have harmed your position by asking

  • Open to compromise. There may be alternatives to a basic pay increase – such as extra holiday or increased benefits (which may be a simpler solution for the business at that time).  Be prepared to consider these options, or even offer them as alternatives if your basic pay request is a non-starter

It can be helpful to practice the negotiation with someone you can trust. Not only does this make the arguments clearer in your mind and make you better at verbalising them, your friend may also come up with objections you hadn’t thought of.


5. Take it on the chin

If you’re successful, well done. Mission accomplished.  If not, make sure you understand the reasons why. Maybe there are areas of development or targets that you’ve not reached yet – so you can work on addressing those before going back to the negotiation down the line.  Stay positive and maintain your good relations. If you ultimately decide to move jobs to earn more, you’ll need references - and it always pays to keep bridges to an old employer.

For further tips on negotiating salary at the interview stage, click here check out our advice on the website.