Some people have no trouble walking into their boss’s office and demanding a bigger pay packet, but for others, talking salaries can be a nerve-racking, awkward experience.
Even if your expectations are not high, it’s worth knowing the dos and don’ts when it comes to asking for a pay rise to ensure you get the salary you want and deserve.
So, where do you start?
1. Time it well
The first step is to determine the right time to start the pay rise conversation.
While the beginning of the financial year is a typical time for companies to hand out pay increases and bonuses, it’s a good idea to start off by working out your organisation’s pay review process and how it manages its budgets.
“It makes sense to ask [for a pay review] either at the start of the financial year or at the start of the calendar year,” Hays director Jane McNeill explains.
“It also depends on how long the employee has been with the organisation. It’s not commonplace to ask for a pay review if you’ve been with the organisation for less than 12 months, so it may be more appropriate to wait for the 12-month anniversary.”
If you have been with your organisation for over a year and you feel you deserve a pay rise, McNeill says it’s best to wait for your company’s annual or bi-annual review period, unless you’ve got a very good reason to initiate the conversation earlier.
“If the company has a structure in place of review meetings, it’s more commonplace to wait for them, unless you feel you’re being underpaid in relation to the job that you’re doing or if, perhaps, you’ve taken on extra responsibility and feel that the conversation is justified,” she says.
But for Sally-Anne Blanshard, director of Nourish Coaching, there’s no better time than when it comes to mind.
“The best time is when you’ve plucked up the courage to ask. Although, a week before Christmas is probably not a good idea, especially after a few vinos!” she says.
“One of the biggest career skills is courage: the courage to speak up, the courage to ask for more money, the courage to ask for more flexibility – the courage to put together a proposal on how you’re worth more in the market.
“It’s also about making a sensible call as to when it might be best for the business.”
2. Initiate the conversation
Once you’ve established that it’s an appropriate time to ask for a pay rise, the next step is to email your employer and set up a meeting to discuss your salary expectations (if it’s outside your annual pay review period).
To avoid putting your boss on the spot, your email should make it clear that you want to discuss your salary and should suggest a time that’s convenient for them. And make sure it’s well before when budgets are due so you’re giving your manager plenty of time to consider your proposal.
Also, while it might seem obvious, Blanshard says to make sure you set up the meeting with a decision-maker. There’s no point meeting with your immediate manager if they don’t have the power to increase your salary. If that’s the case, organise a meeting with your immediate manager and their superior – the decision-maker.
“This shows you mean business and there’s something you’re going to pitch,” says Blanshard.
3. Arm yourself with evidence
Once you’ve set up a meeting with your boss, it’s time to establish your argument as to why you deserve more money.
This should involve gathering as much supporting information as possible and putting your proposal in writing.
Supporting evidence could include details such as your last pay rise, how long you’ve been with the organisation and how many pay rises you’ve had to date, emails from colleagues or clients in praise of your work, as well as above average performance reviews. And, if you feel that you’re being underpaid in relation to the market, you should also have information on hand to back up your argument, including salary surveys or the latest jobs board figures.
“If you were going to do a pitch [for work], you’d prepare and document your business case,” says Blanshard. “It should be a bit like an interim performance review where you provide justification for new role and/or increased revenue.”
While bringing your written proposal to the meeting will demonstrate you’re serious, it will also give your manager a chance to review your proposal again after the meeting.
“Say to them, ‘I’m happy to leave this with you to think about for the next week or so. If you could come back to me, that would be great’,” Blanshard suggests. “This shows you’re being fair and giving them time to think about it.”
What you shouldn’t do
The worst thing you can do when it comes to asking for a pay rise is to look for another job and use that job offer as leverage.
“That is probably the worst thing anyone can do,” says McNeill. “You’re much better off having an upfront conversation with your current employer and get a lay of the land as to whether you’re going to get an increase or not.
“It’s not a very professional way to act and nine times out of 10, those employees end up moving on anyway.”
According to Blanshard, another big mistake would be to use resigning or what other people within the company are earning as a bargaining tool.
“Some companies are quite happy to say goodbye. Some people have a false sense of security,” says Blanshard. “Remember that you can be reinterviewed for your position, so make sure you’re being professional. It’s a small world so make sure your brand is always intact.”
Ready to ask for that pay rise? We’ve got tips on how to negotiate for the salary you want and deserve.