Money & Career

How To Ask Your Boss For A Pay Rise In Uncertain Times

Make this sometimes scary conversation a good one.
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There’s no denying that the cost-of-living crisis, or as Gen Z are calling it, the ‘cozzie livs’ is taking its toll on us as wages stagnate and our weekly expenses grow. It’s a time where hiring freezes, and companies start to tighten their belts, so the question is, how can you achieve a pay rise in these conditions?

We need money more than ever, but getting an employer to part with it can seem like a Herculean task. The good news is that, according to career experts, pay rises are not necessarily out of the question, but it is important that you know how to ask for it.

According to Sally McKibbin, career coach at Indeed, there are many reasons you should ask for the pay rise anyway.

“While many would rather delay the difficult and sometimes awkward conversation, if your organisation is growing, you’re performing beyond your job description, and you believe you could (and should) be earning more, approaching your employer about a salary increase could quite literally pay off,” she says.

“How you approach the conversation with your employer can have a significant impact on your chances of achieving your desired outcome, so in order to give yourself the best shot at securing the pay rise you deserve, preparation is key.”

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So, here are her six top tips to successfully ask for a pay rise when uncertain financial times come around.

1. Timing Matters

It’s important to show your employer that you’re in tune with their steps as a business. Asking for a pay review following the announcements of layoffs, at the conclusion of a difficult project or when your company is in high-octane stress may not be the best port of call.

“Instead, aim to raise the topic during your next performance review when your manager is likely to be open to the conversation – in fact, they may already be planning to discuss your salary with you,” McKibbin explains.

“If you don’t have a performance review coming up, request a meeting by sending an email or meeting invite, telling you employer you’d like to review your salary and outlining the details of what you’d like to discuss.”

2. Show Your Value

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You may be tempted to lament how expensive the world has become, or how you think you should be on more money by the age you are now, but showing your worth is a lot more worthwhile in clinching that salary raise.

“The key to landing a pay rise is being able to demonstrate the value you bring to the company. Be ready to outline the strides you’ve made since your last pay rise or performance review.  Offer examples of your accomplishments and targets met, your increased workload, and any extra projects and initiatives you’ve driven,” McKibbin suggests.

“If you can, quantify the benefits your achievements have brought to the organisation whether through revenue increases, cost savings, or new clients. The goal here is to show your employer how much you bring to the table. By showcasing your growth and the increased value you offer, you’re positioning yourself as a valuable asset.

3. Back It Up With Data

There’s no denying that knowing your place in the wider job market will help you with bargaining power.

McKibbin says, “Benchmark your salary against similar roles in both your workplace and industry and set a realistic expectation of what you’d like to be paid. Wage transparency is on the rise, and workers are no longer shying away from discussing what they earn both in person and on social media.”

It may be worth checking online salary guides and job ads when doing your background research on industry standards.

“Keep in mind that a three percent increase is considered an average (or even generous) raise, but don’t let this deter you from asking for more if your current pay is significantly out of line with what you believe you should be earning.”

4. Think Beyond Salary

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It’s easy to have your eyes on the prize (A.K.A. those dollar bills) but that’s not all that’s important.

If your employer rebuffs your initial request for a raise, there are other options open to you.

“Before you approach your employer, consider what else you might be able to negotiate if a salary increase is out of the question. For example, you may be able to negotiate additional annual leave, reduced or flexible work hours, or increased car or travel allowances if a raise isn’t possible,” says McKibbin.

“Go into the meeting with a clear idea of your desired outcome, but also give thought to your second and third preference in the event that a pay rise isn’t an option. This way, you won’t be caught off guard by an unexpected response, and can remain focused on finishing the meeting on a positive note.”

5. Plan The Conversation 

Asking for a raise can be a difficult and sometimes nerve-wracking conversation, so it may be worth running a bit of rehearsal in your head before you get in there.

“Plan the conversation in advance, especially if you’ve never raised the topic of salary before. Whether it’s with a friend or spouse, or even speaking to yourself in the mirror, practice how you might speak during the meeting and the language you’ll use,” says McKibbin.

“Aim to speak confidently and positively and avoid words that could undermine your position, such as: feel, think, just, only, or might. If you convey uncertainty, there’s a chance your manager may become uncertain too.”

6. Have A Back-up Plan

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Knowing your next steps if the conversation doesn’t go to plan is crucial in making sure you have a roadmap to your goals, even if they can’t materialise yet.

“Ask to schedule another review in six months or after a specific project or operational milestone is met,” suggests McKibbin. “Now you know what you’re worth, you may also decide to search for a new job with better pay. Switching companies often results in a pay increase or a promotion, especially if you can demonstrate the outstanding work you’ve been doing or if you’ve been in a role for a number of years.”

She has one shining piece of advice to remember for those who may doubt themselves in the face of a pay refusal.

“Advocating for yourself is not a sign of arrogance or entitlement – it’s an essential step in  building a fulfilling career. And while being passed over for a pay rise is almost always disappointing, remember you don’t need to settle for a role where you’re not being adequately paid to perform,” she says.

So, guess it’s time to get practicing on your salary chat.

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