Asking your boss for a pay increase can be one of the most intimidating experiences of your working life.
To avoid awkward moments, unfair criticism or emotional breakdowns, you need to be sufficiently prepared for all outcomes.
Heidi Holmes, managing director of job search website Adage.com.au, warns workers that the jobs market is relatively soft at the moment.
If you’ve only been at an organisation for six months it’s probably not a good time to ask
“Don’t think your boss won’t turn around and say, ‘Fine, go out and see if you can get something somewhere else.’”
Before you start
Timing is crucial: It pays to plan your approach in a way that maximises your chances of a positive response.
“If you’ve only been at an organisation for six months, it’s probably not a good time to ask,” says Ms Holmes, who suggests having a minimum of 12 months’ work with your employer under your belt before raising the issue.
Be aware of your company’s schedule, as well as your own. A lot of job movement occurs around the end of the financial year or the calendar year, so ensure that your meeting falls a couple of months beforehand.
In addition, make sure you’re across your company’s performance review process. If you’ve recently received formal feedback on your progress, it may not be the best time to enquire about a salary increase.
Finally, prepare a list of concrete reasons as to why you deserve a better wage.
“You need to be able to articulate that you’re not only meeting expectations, but exceeding them,” Ms Holmes says.
Preparation is key
Do your research before you have the all-important conversation.
Many recruitment companies offer market trend reviews that can provide you with a general idea of what’s happening in your industry.
Alternatively, seek out a trusted advisor, such as a former colleague or a recruiter, who can give you a realistic ballpark figure.
Sally-Anne Blanshard, director of Nourish Coaching, advises employees to have a back-up plan, just in case things don’t work out as expected.
“If you’re at the point in your career where it’s a pay rise or else, you want to know if there’s other jobs out there for you,” she says.
Finally, prepare your pitch to your employer. To earn more money, you must learn to sell yourself.
“Show you’re performing your required abilities, but also demonstrate that you have gone above and beyond,” Ms Holmes says.
“Maybe a team member has left and you’ve taken on more responsibility, you’ve received exceptional client feedback or you’ve improved internal procedure.”
The low-down on asking for a pay rise:
• Prepare alternatives
If your boss shoots back a flat “No”, you don’t want to be left sitting open-mouthed.
“Offer alternatives like a training course you want to participate in, or propose that you put in some additional key performance indicators (KPIs) and then review in a few months,” Ms Holmes says.
• Give your boss time to think
Politely let your employer consider your proposal and talk with their superior; don’t expect an immediate response.
• Remain committed and passionate
No matter what happens, prove your worth by staying positive. Next time you approach your boss, they will remember your attitude.
• Be flexible
Understand the market, but don’t go in with a set figure.
“Be prepared to listen to some of your boss’ feedback,” Ms Holmes says.
“This is a two-way conversation.”
Don’t put your boss on the back foot from the get-go. Instead, be honest and open about what you want and provide them with sufficient warning.
“Ahead of your meeting, give your boss preparatory documentation so they can review your achievements in advance,” Ms Holmes says.
• Get emotional
Getting het up is a big no-no. Instead, aim to maintain a mature, methodical and business-like approach.
“People can get too emotionally charged and say things like, ‘I’m worth more!’” Ms Blanshard says.
• Make it personal
Don’t use your personal circumstances as justification for a pay rise.
“If you’ve just bought a house – your employer does not care and it’s not their problem,” says Ms Holmes.
In addition, never let on that you know a colleague’s salary, as your motivation could be misinterpreted.
• Focus on the money
Often, a renumeration package can include more than just money – like a company car or a phone plan. Keep your mind open to that.
Ms Blanshard suggests using phrases like “salary package” or “remuneration benefits”.
• Look at your big picture
Your reason for organising a meeting with your boss shouldn’t be purely financial.
“It’s not all about the money, but it is about the role,” Ms Blanshard says.
“If you feel like you’re flatlining and it’s about more than your salary, you might want to look for other jobs.”