How to ask for a pay rise

If you feel that your hard work and efforts over the years should result in a pay increase, there is only one way to get one – ask your boss. But it isn’t that simple, and asking for a pay rise can be awkward and embarrassing.

Asking for a pay rise is a little bit like asking someone out on a date – the fear of rejection often puts us off asking. But as long as you’re polite and professional, the worst thing that can happen is that you get a ‘no’. So with nothing to lose, here are 8 tips on how to ask for a pay rise.

1. Work out how much

It’s important to consider what a fair pay rise would be. You need to have a figure in mind before you meet your boss so there’s no confusion. Of course, what you propose and the response you get could be two very different things. But you should still have a figure that you can walk in to the meeting with.

Know your worth – work out how your salary relates to the wider market. There’s a myriad of salary surveys out there that can help you benchmark what you should be paid – simply do a bit of Googling. ~ Pip Jamieson, founder of The Dots

2. Arrange a meeting

Email your manager to ask them for a meeting. Don’t go into too much detail and just let them know you’d like to discuss your salary. Keep the email short and try to agree a day and time that suits you both.

No employer is going to take kindly to being put on the spot, so make sure your boss has plenty of warning of your intentions. Request a performance review and make it clear you would like to talk about pay. ~ Jenny Ungless, Career Coach at Monster

3. Do it face to face

You should arrange to meet face to face and not discuss this through email or phone. You will have a much better chance of getting a pay rise if you ask in person. It will give you a chance to state your case and negotiate if there is any resistance.

Don’t hide behind a screen — a pay discussion should be face-to-face, never over email. Arrange a time to see your boss — and then cast aside any bashfulness. Don’t be shy — even if you feel that way. I encourage women to see it less about money (which feels embarrassing) and more about valuing their worth. ~ Helena Morrissey, Chief executive of Newton

4. Ask at the right time

Don't wait for your appraisal

Don’t wait for your annual appraisal – it’s not the right time, and you’ll find it far easier to raise the matter during a less formal coffee and chat. 

Consider when would be the best time to ask. You may be aware of certain times when your manager will be at his/her busiest and stress levels may be high. If they have a month end report to complete then it would make sense to wait until the start of the next month.

So don’t just go steaming in and hoping that a bold and confident approach will work – pick your time wisely. If they are very busy and stressed you are likely to get a bad outcome. You may never get another chance to ask again. Well, not for a long time anyway!

The most obvious time to ask for more money if you work for a small company would be after you have completed something of note, such as landing a big client contract for your employer. ~ Matt Keating

Asking for a pay rise during downswings or busy business periods, such as budget cuts or layoffs, year-end reporting or tax season is not the ideal time. When thinking about asking for a pay rise, time it for when the economic outlook is positive and stable, and management is less preoccupied with how the company is faring. ~ CIMA Global

5. Don’t ask for too much

You should never ask for an unreasonable amount. If you aim too high on purpose and expect a counter offer, it could drastically backfire. Your boss may not take you seriously and it could affect any future chances you had of promotion or a pay rise.

Respect your boss and the company by proposing a sensible amount. You would rather walk out of the meeting with a higher wage, no matter how small. Even if your manager agrees to an increase but it doesn’t quite match you initial suggestion, you have still had a positive result.

Asking for a pay-rise should not be an impulsive act, but should follow a period of intelligence gathering and preparation of your case. It’s helpful to know what kind of compensation program, if any, your company has, so you don’t ask for the impossible. To buttress your arguments you’ll need to know what others in your job earn, both at your company and at competitors. ~ Harpers

However, whilst knowing others’ salaries can help you pitch at the right amount, it’s not always advisable to use the comparison as your main argument.

It’s dangerous to get into direct comparisons with colleagues. You don’t want to go storming in with, ‘Why does Bob get £500 more than me?!!’ You may not know the whole context, and that sort of approach is likely to put an employer’s back up. Plus, of course, the whole issue is implicit in the conversation anyway. ~ Louise Campbell, Robert Walters

6. Prepare your arguments

Prepare a little script in advance of how you’re going to ask. Make sure you are friendly, positive and thankful for their time. Planning ahead will help the conversation flow well and ensure you are not nervous.

It can be very difficult asking for a pay rise, so a few practices and a good idea of what you will say can go a long way. It will help you to be more confident and hopefully get a good result.

Use clear examples to demonstrate how you’ve delivered beyond what is expected of you. Highlight particular instances where you’ve taken initiative, helped a team member or tangibly contributed to business results. If you can show you’re delivering more value than what’s expected of you, it’s easier to make a strong case. To feel adequately prepared, take a list of your examples into the meeting to refer to when the time comes to speak. ~ Seek

7. State your case

The manager will want you to justify why you deserve a pay rise, so be prepared to state your case. Plan ahead and write down a few reasons why you feel you deserve a pay rise. You need to be fairly specific if you want your boss to take you seriously.

It could be that you’ve worked there for many years and feel that a pay rise is due, so you would like your loyal service to be rewarded. Or, you have maybe taken on additional responsibility recently but haven’t received a pay increase to match.

No matter what your reasons are for wanting more money, you need to ensure you stick to the facts and don’t just make demands. You need to justify the increase in salary so your boss has a hard time arguing with it. Don’t just request one for the sake of it!

Don’t overstate your case, name your terms, and avoid repeating yourself too much. Listen carefully to their side and be willing to compromise, and you’ll be much more likely to succeed. ~ Hudson

8. Be prepared for a ‘no’

It’s possible that no matter how well you prepare, the answer will simply be no.  There may be good reasons why a pay rise at this time isn’t possible. In this case, ask your boss when they expect whatever the situation is that’s preventing the pay rise to change. Alternatively, if their reasons relate to your performance, ask them for feedback. What can you do to improve performance and earn a pay rise going forward? If the answer is that they’ll think about it or need to consult with someone else, try to get them to commit to a timescale for a definite response.

Before you leave their office, try to pin them down: when exactly will you get your raise? When exactly will they have a definite answer for you? What exactly must you do to earn more money? Then follow up, though not the very next day. Be persistent but don’t badger. – Harpers

Here are some tips from Psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson on obtaining a raise in salary, particularly for people who tend to be more agreeable:

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