Asking for a pay rise: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Asking for a raise - Thinkstock

If you're taking on additional responsibilities, working longer hours and not seeing any increases to you remuneration, then it's time to request a salary increase. In an improving jobs market, where employers are competing for talent - and willing to pay a premium for the best people - you shouldn't be working for less than you're worth. If your employer wants to keep you on the books, then it's up to them to pay the going rate.

But it isn't always easy going to your boss and asking for a raise. Approaching negotiations can be like an outlaw entering a Wild West saloon bar - you don't know whether you'll make it out in one piece. More money in your pocket means less in your employer's budget, so they won't always welcome your request.

To stand a chance of success, you need to know how to ask for a rise. This means making a compelling case for earning more, choose your timing carefully and being as flexible as possible. If you learn how to negotiate a pay rise effectively, you can ride out of town happy, with your life intact and a little extra on your wage slip at the end of the month.

  • Negotiation tips: 'The Good'

So what can you do to make the strongest possible case for a pay rise? If you get this right, there's every chance your employer will meet your demands. Here are our four top tips on how to negotiate a pay rise:

1. Do your research - before you approach your boss for additional pay, you need to do your homework. Know how much someone with your level of skill and experience is worth on the open market, by checking comparable roles on online job boards and benchmarking pay.

Consulting the Robert Half Salary Guide will tell you how much the average professional working in your role earns, and inform you whether you are a low, mid or high-earner at present.

Talking with industry specialists, such as recruitment agencies, can also help determine which pay band you should fall within. Recruitment consultants know how much employers are willing to pay in the current jobs market, and should be able to indicate your chances of success in negotiations.

2. Track your successes - when you enter pay negotiations, you should do so armed with information about your achievements and contributions to your team, department and organisation. Being able to provide qualitative and quantitative evidence of the value you offer will strengthen your case.

You need to convince your employer that you offer a strong return on investment, and are worth making an improved pay offer to. Create a list of your successes - including efficiencies you have brought about and income you have generated - and cite specific accomplishments which have a bottom-line benefit. Have this list to hand when you speak to your employer about a pay rise, and consult it if you need to.

3. Be flexible - You should know exactly what you want from negotiations, in terms of pay, and set a realistic target for your new salary. But you also need to be flexible, in the event your employer turns round and says 'no'. It might be that there simply is no room to manoeuvre in the budget, and your request for more money cannot be accepted. However, this doesn't mean you can't secure additional benefits - for instance, an additional week of annual leave or flexible hours. If all else fails, ask your employer to commit to a pay review six months along the line, when your organisation may be in better financial shape.

4. Get your timing right - timing is everything in salary negotiations. You've got to choose an appropriate time to request improved pay, based on external factors such as the performance of your company, its current staffing needs and wider industry trends. If your organisation has slashed its budget and recently made redundancies, the chances are you aren't going to be successful. In fact, your employer may be happy to see you leave due to wage bill pressures.

But if your organisation is growing, and new employees are being taken on, there may be scope to offer increased remuneration. Similarly, if key people have recently left, and voluntary turnover is hurting your employer, they may be willing to meet your demands. In this instance, pay would be used as a retention tool.

  • Negotiation tips: 'The Bad, and the Ugly'

If you're attempting to negotiate a pay rise, you can't afford to be a cowboy. There's a number of tactics you want to avoid in order to stand a good chance of success. Adopting the wrong approach won't just leave you stuck on the same salary, it could have a negative impact on your overall relationship with your employer. So here's our rundown of what not to do when asking for a raise:

1. Demand a raise - it's important to remain polite, courteous and respectful at all times, even if you know you're in a strong bargaining position. You have to allow your employer to make their own decision, in their own time, without putting them under duress with threats. If you tell them you will leave unless your salary goes up, they might just call your bluff.

2. Go in underprepared - if you ask for more money, the first question your employer is going to ask is 'why?'. If you don't have a strong answer lined up, supported by evidence, you might just miss your opportunity.

3. Rely upon a single source of information - when you do your research into salaries and staffing demand, it can be dangerous to rely upon a single source. In order to build up as full a picture as possible, it makes sense to consult salary guides, check jobs boards, speak to your contacts, and connect with recruitment agencies. This will help prepare a watertight case.

4. Discuss your personal finances - the state of your personal finances is irrelevant in pay negotiations. It is none of your employer's business how much money you've got in the bank; the focus of your discussions should be your contribution to the organisation and what you feel you are worth.

5. Play games - ideally, you want your employer to name a figure, rather than tell them exactly what you are looking for. But if your employer insists on hearing your financial demands, you need to make the first move. If you repeatedly dodge the question 'what salary are you after', this can backfire.

6. Be too rigid - it's important to know when to shake hands and agree a deal. If additional pay isn't forthcoming, or at least not to the extent you had hoped, you must consider the alternatives. Employers may offer attractive employment perks in lieu of additional salary.

7. Deliberate too long - if you receive an offer for a raise, it is courteous to provide a timely response. There is nothing wrong with asking for time to consider what is on the table, but this shouldn't be longer than a couple of days.

In summary

Don't be afraid of asking for a pay rise. If you can make an effective case for a higher salary, and think there's a chance your employer may accept your request, it is definitely worth asking the question. Just make sure you do your preparation in advance, and approach negotiations in the right way.

With the economy and jobs market improving, employers are worried about the departure of highly-valued employees. In many cases, they will be willing to increase salaries to keep staff members happy, motivated and loyal to their organisation. But if you want to get in on this 'gold rush', you've got to be prepared to ask. The chances are your employer will not offer a pay rise out of the goodness of their heart - you have to make the first move.

For more information, check out Robert Half's video on how to negotiate a pay rise.