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Why we struggle to ask for a pay rise
And what you can do about it
It’s annual review time and you’ve sat down with your boss and gone over the HR form that looks at how competent you are, and your boss says “Is there anything else you want to discuss?” and in your head, you’re screaming “What about a pay raise?”, but you’re too scared to let that phrase come out, so you simply say ‘No, nothing’ and the meeting ends.
You’re then left to stew on the fact that:
You didn’t say what you wanted to say
You aren’t going to get any more money, even though inflation is running at 2% and what you have needs to stretch further
You know that person X in the other team is earning more than you when they don’t do as much work as you.
You then decide “That’s it, and start looking through for new jobs” because your company doesn’t see the value you can give, so stuff them. You can work for someone who can spot a good thing when they see it.
Does this sound familiar?
If so, you’re not alone. A salary.com survey found that 18% of employees never negotiate their salaries, and only 12% of people make a point of bringing up pay reviews in their annual review.
Why don’t people ask for more money?
There are typically four reasons:
“I don’t deserve it”
We’re all worried that other people might see through us and realise that we’re not as good as it seems we are, and this imposter syndrome is quite powerful. We see everyone around us doing good work, yet when we stand up and present, submit a report, or come up with a new idea, we immediately see all of the negatives of what we’ve done. It’s this imbalance of perception that means we put ourselves down and build everyone else up, to the point where we don’t think we deserve things.
“I might be rejected”
Nobody likes to hear the word ’no’ and we take it personally when it happens. We picture the scene of our boss saying “no” and it is the boss telling us that we’re not worthy, so we avoid that situation happening. We’d rather live in ignorance than get rejected.
“I’m scared to negotiate”
The salary.com survey found that 22% of people felt they didn’t have the necessary skills to negotiate, which is why there’s an opportunity if you have annual reviews to roll pay conversations into these, as it seems more natural and a less explicit negotiation.
“I might lose my job”
You might think you’re better off keeping your head down and not rocking the boat because an underpaid job might be better than not having a job at all, but the reality is that it is often more difficult for a company to replace you than you think. For many roles the cost of finding and training a replacement runs at one to three times the person’s salary, so a pay rise is often the cheaper option.
How do you go about asking for a raise?
Determine why you deserve one
Have you taken on more responsibility? Have you gone over and above what’s expected of you? How does your pay compare to the others around you, both in your company and in the wider job market (use a service like Glassdoor to check)? When was your last pay rise and how does this compare with general inflation rates?
Make a note of the specifics of your answers to the above questions
What extra responsibility? Which projects? Which roles? What was over and above? Stayed late? Worked weekends? How does it compare?
Turn these specifics into your “sales pitch”
You’re going to try and persuade someone that they need to give you more money, and potentially that you’re more deserving than other things that money could be spent on.
Practice how you’re going to say it to your boss so that you feel like you know how the conversation will go.
Pick the right time to ask
Choose your moment for optimum convenience for your boss and for the likelihood of a yes. For your boss, then not at the end of a busy day, or just before an important meeting, because you need time and a positive vibe. For your company, you need to be ahead of any budgetary conversations, as there’s no point asking for more money the day after next year’s budgets have been agreed.
By taking these steps you start to overcome the fears you had about asking for the raise.
You start to feel more deserving as you understand the value you’re providing the company.
You reduce the opportunities for your boss to say no by providing a compelling argument as to why you deserve a raise.
You go into the negotiation knowing your worth and your reasoning behind it, so that you can counter any arguments your boss might have against it.
You understand your place in the organisation and how crazy your boss would be to fire you just because you wanted to get paid what you were worth.
Yes, you’ll feel emotional about it. Yes, it won’t be as easy as it is when it’s written down on paper like this, but you’ll feel much better about yourself when you’ve done it, and if all goes to plan, then you’ll walk out of your meetings with your boss, not frustrated and stewing on your lack of nerve to ask the question, but knowing that next month your bank balance might have a little more in it than usual.
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