Don’t go in ‘all guns blazing’: How to ask for a pay rise

If you want a pay rise, it's essential you do your homework on yourself, the job market, and your company.

If you want a pay rise, it's essential you do your homework on yourself, the job market, and your company. Photo: Getty

As salaries continue to chase inflation this year, it might be time to have the much-dreaded talk with your boss about the state of your pay.

Wages experienced strong growth over 2022, but still failed to catch up with the rising cost of living – and the situation is unlikely to change this year.

With that in mind, employees might have more motivation than ever to go to their boss with the big ask: ‘Can I get a pay rise?’

But it’s not usually an easy topic to bring up.

If you’re considering asking for a pay rise but don’t feel prepared to take the leap, read on to find top tips from experts about how to go about changing the figures on your payslip.

Choosing the right time

Many workplaces have performance appraisals at least once a year – and this can be a prime time to broach the topic, knowing you will be discussing your performance and what you bring to the business.

But before broaching the subject, career coach Jackie Marsterson said you should recognise where the business is at financially.

If the business is struggling, something employees often know about, then it may not be a suitable time.

If it’s doing well, then it could be time to have the tough chat.

How to start the conversation

Ask for a confidential discussion ahead of time with whoever you need to have the pay discussion with, whether it is your boss, manager or human resources staffer.

It’s best to talk face to face, either in person or over video chat, Ms Marsterson said.

“I think it’s good if you’re able to have that face-to-face [meeting], because then you can see body language … actually eyeball the person, and likewise,” she said.

You also need a good reason for a pay rise.

“It’s also not: ‘This is happening to me, my bills are going up’ – that’s not a responsibility [of] the employer,” Ms Marsterson said.

“The employer is also in the same situation. In terms of businesses, business costs are increasing, so it’s happening to everyone.

“So it’s not necessarily about ‘I’m doing this, because this is happening to me’.

“It is more about, ‘This is the money that I’m bringing in and I feel justified that what I’ve added to the company is worth an increase in my renumeration’.”

Know your value

Ms Marsterson said while some people get quite nervous about broaching the issue, the more they prepare in advance, the better off they will be.

Although keeping your attitude non-confrontational – don’t go in “all guns blazing” – make sure you’ve done research into both what you bring to the company and what you could be earning, according to the current state of the job market.

Career coach Heidi Winney said you should go into the meeting with notes and “armed with evidence” of what you’ve contributed to the business over the past one or two years.

This can come in the form of what the market is willing to pay for people in your role, which is information you can glean from recruiters’ websites and job search sites such as Seek and LinkedIn.

“You really have to build a case; you have to be able to demonstrate what you have done to make improvements, whether it’s process improvement, whether it’s efficiency gains, or something that really makes you stand out,” Ms Winney said.

“Without having that evidence, and basically the conversation around what you’ve contributed, it’s very hard for a boss to say, ‘Well, yes, we’ll give you a rise’.”

Leave room to negotiate

Based on your market research, go into the conversation with a goal figure in your head – but when asked, keep your cards close to your chest.

“Have a look at comparable positions in comparable size companies [to] see what the market rates are,” Ms Winney said.

“You can always negotiate downwards, but you can’t go up once you nominate a figure.

“Be prepared to go in a bit above what you really want, you can always come down, and then you’ve got a win-win situation.”

Overall, you should walk into pay negotiations with confidence, having done your research.

The worst they can say is no.

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