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Negotiating salary during a cost-of-living crisis

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 19 Jun 2023

Negotiating salary increase

Asking for a pay rise can sometimes feel impossible, especially when you don’t know how to go about it. Whether you have an annual pay review or you haven’t had a raise in a while, being paid what you deserve and what you require to live on are very important. The cost-of-living crisis has had everyone spending less and trying to stretch their budget just a little further and the strain can be huge. It may even have a potential impact on your work. So if this is a topic that’s playing on your mind, you should be discussing this with your line manager. If you’re not sure where to start, we have just the advice for you. 

Why would you ask for a salary adjustment?

As you probably already know, the cost-of-living crisis is affecting everyone in different ways. Your salary is there to not only compensate you for your time, but to allow you to live comfortably. That means being able to afford the necessities, which a lot of people are currently struggling with. It’s not only basics but it’s home payments, car payments, bills and everything in between! It’s not likely that every single employer will be able to provide pay increases to help tackle the effects of inflation, but why wouldn’t you try?

Take your time

Even though it can be stressful and difficult to refrain from having this discussion, it’s important that you take the time to do so. We all deserve to be paid fairly for the work we do, but if you schedule a meeting without doing research, taking the time to think about it and preparing what you’re going to say, then it would backfire. Asking for a salary increase at work can be daunting but it’s key that you do it right, to avoid being let down. I’m not saying all of the above will 100% secure you a pay rise but being planning in advance and being prepared for questions can really help your cause. 

The research

This part of the process can be very important. It’s really easy to think about what your job is worth and considering all the work you do day-to-day. But what is the industry average for your role? It’s only natural to feel like your time is worth more and despite this often being correct, the industry average can display different figures to what you’re already considering appropriate. Having these numbers written and ready can be really useful to mention in salary meetings. It shows you’re taking this situation seriously and presenting yourself in a professional manner. 

What are their competitors paying? It’s not good to make threats or suggestions about moving to another company or competitor, but nevertheless, good information to have on hand. 

It’s good practice to research more than just salaries. But what is the actual rate of inflation? How does this compare your salary now to a year or two ago? This isn’t likely to come up as these meetings should be about your performance and worth, but, if necessary, are important numbers to know. 

Try not to dive right in

We all like to get to the point. Salary conversations can feel awkward and more than anything we want to get to the point and find a conclusion. However, salary increases can be a sensitive topic for both the employee and employer. Be patient, have a chat, share your feelings, and then get to numbers. It can be just as important to share why you’re feeling this way. It can also make the employer more inclined to resonate with you on a deeper level. It shows you’re not just looking for more money for no reason. You’ve done your research and you’re conducting yourself in a good manner. 

Establish yourself as a valuable employee

It’s ideal to keep the subject of salary meetings about you and your achievements. Although it can be good practice to know numbers and inflation percentages, these meetings are there to showcase the work you do and really persuade your line manager, HR representative or whoever it may be, to give you a pay increase. Now is the time to re-sell yourself. Much like during an interview, this time is here to point out your day-to-day responsibilities, your achievements throughout your time working there and anything else that may be of interest. Some employees take on more responsibility throughout their time with a company and often do so with no salary change. If this sounds like you, why not mention this?

You don’t want to come across as rude and pushy, so make sure you’re remaining positive. You want to share why you think you’re worthy of a pay increase. Tell them what you do for the company and ensure that your passion for the role is shining through during this conversation. Don’t sell yourself short at any point during this process. 

Plan in advance

You want to make sure you have enough time to do your research, think about this topic and be able to schedule a meeting with the appropriate person. These things can take time and finding a good time for all involved can sometimes be one of the biggest hurdles. Make sure you’re being patient and not being forceful. For some, pay increases can feel pressured and like conversations need to be had ASAP but keep calm and keep planning. 

Ask with confidence

It’s often easy to see when someone is nervous. You want to share your case with conviction. To be successful in anything, you really have to believe in yourself. It can be easy for imposter syndrome to make an appearance and really drag you down. The process included in a salary increase can be a long one, so prepare to talk highly of yourself for a while. You never know, it may become easier over time. Make sure you have facts behind what you’re saying and you understand why you are asking for an increase. If you feel you deserve it, you probably do. Stick by your instincts. 

The same thing goes for new jobs 

When interviewing for a new job, it can be just as easy to accept the salary they offer you and move on. However, if you feel like this isn’t good enough, then it’s time to say something before you make any rash decisions. When job seeking, it can be easy to accept jobs, whatever the salary. This can be because job searching is a long process and it can feel fabulous to reach your goals. But when it comes to salary, if it hasn’t already been discussed, make sure you’re accepting something you’re comfortable with. 

Take your time to process the employer's offer and if you don’t feel like it’s appropriate, follow the steps mentioned above. It can work in both situations. It’s so important to not be selling yourself short. Especially during a time like this. Cost-of-living is something that’s affecting all of us, so it’s likely that your line manager / interviewer is aware of this and ready to tackle it in their workplace. 

Follow up

Make sure you are taking more time after these meetings. When all is done it can feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. However, when the initial conversations have been had, it’s likely there will be follow up sessions, feedback shared and if you’ve been successful, forms to fill out. Be certain of everything that is happening. Keep notes on the steps you’ve taken, what has been said and the next steps. If you document every part of this process, it can avoid anything being lost or forgotten about. 

Next steps

There are really only two ways this could go. Your pay rise could be accepted, and you carry on as you are. Or it could be declined. This could mean you need to think of different avenues if it’s something you feel strongly about. As we always say, you need to be paid fairly and if you feel like your employer isn’t taking the current situation into consideration, it may be time to think of other ventures. As difficult as that could be, a new job search may feel like your only option. 

It can feel like a really tough situation right now and we’re all in similar situations. In some companies, there is an annual pay review that may take this sort of thing into consideration but others may not have this. Regardless, if you ever feel like you deserve something more, don’t sit on that feeling. It’s important to be honest with your employer and sometimes if they know how you feel, they will be able to help. Don’t wait any longer, start preparing now.