How to negotiate a pay increase

Published: 22 Sep 2015 By Georgina Bloomfield

Think back to when you were a child and you wanted something from your parents; whether it was a new toy, money for a school trip or permission to stay out late. Asking for a pay rise can actually be quite a similar situation. You have to get your timing just right, know your audience and be prepared to negotiate.

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Usually, you should mention wanting a ‘review of your salary’ around the same time your appraisal occurs. That’s usually the right time to approach the subject because your manager will expect it to be discussed at this time. Either way, make sure you approach the subject at the right time, such as the appraisal, one to one or performance review meeting. The best way of scuppering your chances at getting a pay rise is to bring up the issue when others are around in the office or in an irrelevant meeting.  

Although it’s tempting to be direct with your manager about a pay rise and face it head on, you need to do some research so you show that you know what you’re talking about. How much are competing similar companies offering for a role that mostly fits yours? Take location into account when you do this, as salaries in places like London will be very different from further up north. When you do this, be honest with yourself. Don’t automatically search for the next job up from yours – you need to have a like for like estimation of what your role is worth in your industry.

You also need to research closer to home. What’s your company’s history with offering pay rises? Is there a set process in place? Do people get randomly head-hunted? Is it all down to you to prepare the meeting for it? Is there any extra budgets floating around? Ask any trusted colleagues. Who makes the final decision? What’s your relationship with them?

The third (and probably most important) lot of research you need to think about is yourself. You need to start building a case around why you deserve a pay rise. Reasons like ‘I work really hard’ won’t work. Instead, try to explore the facts. Did you increase sales by an extra 10% in the last few months? Have you been doing work that’s beyond your job description? Did or do you provide extra support and training for other colleagues? Can you show examples of when you’ve gone above and beyond what’s expected of you at the company? Pay rises need a lot of justification, so you won’t have a very good case if you had a good month. If you can show that your extra work isn’t a one-off favour for the department or a lucky sale, you’ll stand a better chance of making your argument successfully.

Is there someone you work with who has an important influence on who makes the final decision? If you’ve helped them out in the past, it could be worth having them as an ally for your manager to speak to so they can back you up.

When you get into negotiating a final figure, don’t resort to blackmailing. It can be tempting to try and get an offer from another company and threaten to leave unless your current employer can match the salary (or pay more), but unless you’re truly prepared to leave, don’t go down this road. You’ll only appear as disloyal to management and if they refuse your ultimatum and you stay on, you’re showing that you can’t stay true to your word.

If you get offered a figure after a lot of negotiation, don’t be tempted to accept it right away. Think about it and get back to your employer in a day or two. At the end of the day it’s your decision, if you have a figure in mind and they have offered this – then don’t wait for them to change their mind – accept it!

Sometimes the meeting won’t always work out and you’ll be denied the pay rise. It might not be because of your performance, it could be down to company budget cuts, or a bad time of year. If it’s something that out of your control, then it’s very difficult to get things to go your way. However, if you feel you can – then don’t take no for an answer. Try to (gently) sway your manager’s decision. Show your passion for the company and why they should be lucky to have you around. Thank your manager for taking the time to think the issue through with you, and end the conversation on a positive note. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help your case or when you can get a pay review in a few months. If you end the discussion on a good note, then future conversations regarding your salary are more likely to happen. More often than not, your manager should understand your desire for a pay rise – they’re probably thinking about asking for one themselves! Show that you’re eager for more opportunities and responsibilities within the company that can warrant a pay rise in the future. Sometimes this can be more fruitful, as you’ll get more ammo for your CV if you decide to move on from your company.

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