​Many of us are brought up with the belief that money is a taboo subject, not something to be discussed openly. As a result, it means we are often uncomfortable bringing it up in a work setting. It’s important to overcome this social conditioning however, as it can directly impact - usually negatively - our earning capabilities if we don’t.

You may feel you justifiably deserve a pay rise but feel considerable reticence doing so. Or you may feel ready to ask but lack the tools and knowledge to go about it in the right way and therefore risk the request being rejected.

While there are no guarantees when it comes to requesting a pay rise, there are ways to do so that increases your chances of a ‘yes’. In addition to how we ask, it’s important to also consider contextual factors that make it more likely, as timing is key.

3 reasons to ask for a pay rise

When asking for a pay rise employers will understandably want to ask ‘why?’ (beyond, of course, simply wanting it!), you will need to justify the reasons you think it is a reasonable request. For example, have you:

1. Taken on more responsibility

This might be through your own endeavours, or perhaps through covering gaps of recently left colleagues or redundancies. If you can demonstrate you have taken on more responsibilities than are in your original job description, you can use this as leverage.

2. Been promoted

This should be a relatively easy ask, considering you have been offered a promotion. It’s not always a given however, as employers do generally seek the most cost-effective solutions when it comes to staffing.

3. You have delivered measurable ROI to the business

If you have been delivering measurable ROI to the business and can evidence your financial impact, then this is a great reason to ask for more reward as a result of your success!

How to get a pay rise in a review of your performance

Understanding why you feel a pay rise is justified is one thing, how to present it to your employer is another. Preparation is key to making a positive impression and improving your chances of a successful outcome and asking for a pay rise in a performance review is a great time to do this, by:

  • Clearly detailing your case

Be prepared to go into detail to support your case and where appropriate provide relevant examples. This could be a list of additional duties you’ve taken on, financial and operational successes you have brought for the business and so on.

  • Showing your value

It will help your case if you can highlight key deliverables you’ve achieved, or where you have gone over and above the expectations of your role, highlighting the positive impact this had to your team or organisation. If you can say, for example, I have won/saved £x in the last 12 months, you are demonstrating your financial worth to the business.

  • Choosing your words carefully

Tact and diplomacy are needed for this conversation – if you go in guns blazing with demands you’re likely to ruffle feathers. Phrase your words carefully and in a way that shows respect to your line managers and the organisation, while remaining clear about what you are also bringing to the table – you want to remain assertive while avoiding any aggression or confrontation.

  • Timing is everything!

Request a meeting with your line manager at a time (of the week, day, month) that’s minimally stressful for them, e.g. avoid Monday morning, month end etc. On the other hand, Friday afternoons when people are winding down might not be the best time either. Make sure those involved in the conversation have ample time to receive and process it.

  • Having a figure in mind

Knowing your position from the outset will help steer negotiations – what you want to ask for, and what level you would accept if they offer an alternative figure. Asking for a pay rise while being vague about amounts puts the negotiating power in their hands.

  • Prepare for some hard questions!

Brace yourself for being challenged; if management haven’t suggested a pay rise to you themselves, chances are they won’t be expecting the conversation and, as organisations are concerned with bottom line and profitability, there’s a fair chance they will try and push back. Be prepared to be challenged and to handle rejection professionally.

  • Be prepared to walk away

Before entering the conversation have a clear idea of your response if your request is declined. Is it a deal breaker if they say no? If they increase it a little, will you be happy with this? It will be hard if there’s no movement from them at all, at this point consider if you would prefer to look for a new role in the face of rejection (you don’t need to communicate this with them at the time, although it will cross their minds as a possible outcome of their decision to say no).

What is a reasonable pay rise?

As part of your preparation for the conversation you will have considered market rates for your skills and experience and should therefore have a good idea of your ‘worth’ - if this is a huge jump from your current earnings (although, if it is, you may question why you are with the organisation at all) consider tempering it a little.

​Requesting a 10% increase is perfectly acceptable (while annual, inflation-related rises are often 2-3%, performance, duty or promotion-related rises are usually higher).

If 10% is the rise you are hoping for (and 5%, for example, your undisclosed minimum), requesting 15% isn’t entirely outrageous, as it might make the 10% more likely. Going in high means the negotiating space for them to push it downwards a little, as they will likely do. Of course, if they don’t that’s even better!

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