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Salary negotiation tips: how to ask for a pay rise

You’ve been in your job for a while now and you want more money, fair enough right? But knowing how to ask your boss for a pay rise in a way that isn’t awkward isn’t so easy.

Should you send an email, bring it up in your next one to one or casually mention it over a pint at the next work doo? And then there’s the wondering how much of a raise to ask for…

Asking for a pay rise can feel like an awkward turtle marathon – slow and confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. We’re here with some top salary negotiation tips to help you out. So you can be less turtle and be more lion – give us a roar!

See also: New job? Negotiating your job contract dos and don’ts

Review your worthiness: If you were the boss would you say yes?

Before you even consider asking for a raise it’s important to review where you are at, honestly. If you often swig a pint at your desk and tell the boss he’s a [insert chosen profanity here], a pay rise is not very likely. If you’re always hitting deadlines, exceeding expectations and have been taking on more responsibility – whether that’s managing staff, fitting in that extra sales report for the last three months, or even getting your boss’s dry cleaning – then asking for a pay rise could be justified.

Try asking yourself these questions and answer them honestly:

  • Do you fulfill the job role exactly as it is or often go above and beyond?
  • Have you been taking on more and more work over the years/months?
  • Are you punctual and focused on the job?
  • Are you always positive and helpful? Or are you often complacent?
  • Does your company have a strict pay rise process and do you fit the criteria?
  • Have other people in your department successfully got a pay rise? Why? How?
  • Would a pay rise make you happier in your job? Would it solve anything?
  • Are there any routes for promotion that could bring you more money?
  • Do you have the skills and experience to take on more responsibility?

Now pretend you’re the boss. If it helps and you want to have a bit of fun then you could even garner a costume and wig and rope your friends in for some role play. 

Would you give you a pay rise? The answers will either help you to feel more worthy and confident about asking for a pay rise, or help give you some perspective on whether a pay rise is the solution you need. It may be that you are unhappy in your current role and the best route to a pay rise is a promotion in your current job, or even a career change. If you don’t yet have the skills and experience for a promotion, then you could speak to HR about more training or do some online learning in your spare time.

See also: the Learning People online training courses

2. Think like Benedict Cumberbatch and gather evidence

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If you feel confident about your performance at work and you know that you deserve a pay rise then get your Sherlock Holmes on and start gathering evidence. By this we don’t mean crawling on your knees around the office with a magnifying glass, taking fingerprints and interrogating your colleagues – as fun as that sounds. 

We mean pulling together a case, or pitch if you like, that helps validate your request for a salary increase. Even if you think your efforts to go above and beyond should be noticed, the boss is often busy and unlikely to have noticed every little thing. It’s up to you to lean in and make it happen. 

You could start by writing a list of key achievements and ways you’ve helped the business. Whether that’s exceeding your sales targets, working overtime to meet deadlines, gaining great client testimonials or implementing new processes and templates for the team. 

If you feel comfortable, it’s also a good idea to speak to colleagues who have successfully received a pay rise before. Find out what they did and get some tips or ask for their perspective on your performance. Often an outsider will see a lot more good than we see in ourselves. Unless you’re Cristiano Ronaldo of course…

3. Timing is everything: when to ask for a raise

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Just like that time when you asked your Mum to buy you a new pair of shoes, or told your girlfriend/boyfriend that you accidentally broke their laptop – timing is everything. When you want something from your friends or family you wait until they are in a good mood. By the same token, if you hear the murmur of disgruntled sounds echoing from the conference room, then your company may be facing hard times and asking for a pay rise is likely to go down like a beef burger at a vegan restaurant. 

Or, if you hear the rumble of applause and your company have just casually splashed out on some fancy new equipment for the office, then your request could be received like a beer keg at a house party – with open arms and eager hand stands. 

You also need to consider the time of day and any looming deadlines that may be putting your boss under pressure. Asking for a raise first thing on a Monday morning or on the day of an important deadline is a no go. You also don’t want to spring this on your boss at 5pm on a Friday either.

For the best results wait for any big deadlines to pass and prove your value bringing that project to a close. You can then arrange an informal midweek meeting when the storm has passed. Assuming you don’t screw up and it all goes well, your role in making that project a success will still be fresh in their mind and they will be more receptive to your request. That is how it’s done – boom!

4. How much is enough? How much of a raise to ask for

This is where you need to do your research. If your colleagues are open about their salaries then you can do some recon over a pint – get them tipsy enough and they’ll soon be over sharing. Hopefully not too much – you may not be able to erase that visual of Tracy from Finance with her new Ann Summers party purchase. 

You could also do some Googling for similar job postings to see how much you could get in your role elsewhere. Whatever you discover though try not to get over ambitious. A job ad for a global brand could be double the salary of the same role at a small business or startup. Take note of location too. 

And yeah, more money is nice, but there are other factors to consider in the mix. A corporate environment may pay better, but there could be higher expectations on your time and a lot more responsibility. A smaller business may pay less, but offer more flexibility on hours and more social benefits. Whatever you decide is the right salary increase for you, don’t go in demanding a specific amount. Just do your research so you are prepared for salary negotiation and can go into that meeting with confidence and a figure in mind. 

5. Avoid cold emails or letters: best way to ask for a raise

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Unless there’s a strict HR process to follow – sigh – the best way to ask for a raise is in an informal meeting – outside of the office if this is viable. By this we don’t mean mid way through the night after 10 shots and suddenly screaming ‘can I have a pay rise?’ from the table you’re dancing on while spilling your double Rum and Coke. 

As epic and potentially quite effective as that would be, they are unlikely to remember it the next day. Instead invite them for lunch or a coffee at a nice cafe or restaurant closeby. If you are not on social terms with your boss just request an offsite catch up. The neutral environment and distance from the business will help them listen, reduce interruptions and encourage them to take you a little more seriously. 

It’s also important to know what to say when asking for a pay rise and present your request in a way that inspires a conversation and leads to a salary negotiation. Avoid any temptation to demand more money or threaten to leave. Any attempts at emotional manipulation are unlikely to get you anywhere, so just don’t do it.

For example saying:

‘I have had enough of being taking advantage of and know I can get more money somewhere else. I think I deserve a pay rise.’

Will not go down well. However, saying:

‘I love working here and I really see myself progressing with the company. I feel that I am ready for the next step and as I have been taking on increased responsibility, I wondered if it were possible to consider me for a pay rise?’ 

Is far more likely to be received warmly. 

If you’ve reviewed whether you are worthy of a pay rise and feel justified, gathered your evidence and feel confident, managed to find the right time outside of pressing deadlines and done your research on how much to ask for – then you are now in a good position to go for it. 

All that’s left to do is ask and perhaps pick a theme tune to run through your mind so you don’t lose your nerve. We recommend ‘Boom Boom Pow’ by The Black Eyed Peas, working it like Snoop Dog with some ‘Drop it Like It’s Hot’ or going in for the kill with Survivors ‘Eye of the Tiger’. Just try and resist whacking out the dance moves in the process. 

Negotiating salary doesn’t have to be awkward

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“You may feel intimidated about the prospect of approaching your boss about a pay rise, but remember that it’s part of their job to consider your request fairly. But as any boss will tell you, there are some key things you can do to boost your chances of getting a raise.”

Sally Percy, business author and managing director of financial content agency, Love Letters Publishing

It really is okay to want more money and ask for a pay rise, especially if you have worked for the business for a long time and proven your worth. Whatever happens, if it’s a no, then there are plenty of other ways to make your own raise. You could go part time and take on some freelance work or build your skills and apply for job with better pay at the same company or elsewhere.

Of course, if you really are hyper focused on money and don’t love your job, then that is another story. Asking for a raise at a job that makes you miserable isn’t really going to solve anything for you and for them.

If you’ve realised you need to add some more skills to your armoury to justify a pay rise, why not take on an online training course? Just signing up for elearning may be enough to convince your boss you are worthy of a raise and serious about progressing in the company.

See also: 4 important reasons to invest in professional development training

If reading this has helped you realise that a raise isn’t the solution for you, then maybe it’s time to consider a career change? Our tips on knowing if you’re ready for a career change could help you decide. And you can always look at our advice on writing a killer career plan to get inspired and excited for your next position.

See also: Are you ready for a career change?
See also: How to write a killer career plan