Negotiating a pay rise

When negotiating a pay rise there are no shortcuts to effective negotiations and no amount of expert careers advice will guarantee you a raise. The most productive route is to simply construct the most solid case possible effectively reasoning why you should get a pay rise. The case is important because it is not only how you will convince your manager but it is the information they will use to convince the people above them. One surprising statistic is that 45% of bosses actually admire workers who fight for more money, and various managers explained that compared to employee unhappiness or bullying, pay is actually an easy problem to solve; so be brave, be prepared and make your case.

What are these?

Stick to your company’s policies

Most companies address negotiating a pay rise as part of their appraisal procedures, with any pay rises linked to an annual performance review. Mastering your company’s assessment process is vital to your chances of getting a pay rise. If you are set various objectives throughout the year, then make sure you not only meet and exceed these but that you get all the evidence required to prove it as well. If your company does have a set process for addressing pay then asking for a pay rise at another time can often be met with the response that you should wait until the dedicated time.

Benchmark your position

It is essential when negotiating a pay rise that you have evidence. One of the best ways of getting this information is by benchmarking your salary against others. This means that you should get information from a range of sources about what level of salary is paid for your type of job in other companies and other industries - general sites such as can be useful for this but you can also talk to trade associations and recruitment agencies, or even just look for adverts for similar jobs. The other aspect of benchmarking is to compare your salary to others within your company. If you’re paid less then you might have a case.

Reasons for a raise

One of the main reasons that people start negotiating a pay rise is that they feel that they are currently underpaid - perhaps your benchmarking exercise found that you get a lot less than other people in your company for no perceivable reason. Another reason is being able to prove that you are working to a very high standard - in this instance, start with your job description or objectives and show how you are going above and beyond these. It might be that you feel that your role has changed and that you are now doing the job of colleagues who have left, or that you now need and have a different set of skills to do your job. Don’t approach the meeting simply with a list of the things you do - the key is to show how you go beyond that which is expected of you.

An issue of equality

Although there has been much done in recent years to combat inequality with legislation such as the Equal Pay Act, there is no doubt that wage inequality still exists based on factors such as ethnicity, disability and gender. As an example, women currently earn 17% less than male counterparts (42% less based on part-time work). If you feel that you are being discriminated against then you need to collect evidence through benchmarking and then in the first instance informally approach HR - take a colleague or union representative if it makes you feel better. Don’t forget that although the law forbids inequality, employers are still allowed to pay different rates based on a range of criteria, so establish the facts before contacting your lawyer.

A question of timing

Timing in which to start negotiating a pay rise is a political hot potato. If you pick the wrong time (when a company is experiencing financial difficulties, when you are in the middle of a big project, when your line manager is in a bad mood) then you can ruin your chances of a successful negotiation. Good times to start negotiating a pay rise are when there are significant changes in your work - perhaps a colleague has just left (meaning you will have to take on a greater responsibility for their workload), you are embarking on a big new project, or if your job is changing in any way.

Making your pitch

When negotiating a pay rise your approach should be undertaken as a formal process. Arrange a meeting with your line manager or someone from HR and give them an idea of what you want to talk about. If you knock on your boss’ door on a Friday afternoon then your request might be received with less enthusiasm. Your negotiation should proceed with you presenting your case and backing it up with as much evidence as you have gained during your research. Although this is an important subject, don’t let it become emotional or it may seem as if you’re trying to use guilt to make your case. Equally, don’t get angry: you might just have to go through with any threats you make.

Basic strategy for negotiating

Don’t forget that, when negotiating a pay rise you should start with a figure higher than you would actually be happy to settle for - with the expectation that a company might meet you halfway. You should also give yourself time to consider any offers that are made regarding your salary. Taking a night to consider your response shows you are thinking things through and acting professionally.

Tie your negotiation to future actions

A strong method to use when negotiating a pay rise is to explain that you would like to earn more and that you want to take on a greater range, or amount, of work. You might be able to offer to take on another project or the responsibility for looking after other staff members. If you are saving your manager a headache then this technique is even more effective. Explain how if the extra role goes well then it would be reasonable to increase your salary.

Dealing with a no

Not all negotiations are successful and it could be that you end up faced with a no, rather than the few extra noughts on the pay cheque you were hoping for. If you find yourself in this situation all is not lost. If when negotiating a pay rise you make your negotiation in a formal and professional manner then the company should give you reasons as to why they’re saying no. If they don’t, ask for them. This gives you the reasons that you can work to overcome when you negotiate again in the future. You might also have found that with your benchmarking information, you know that there are better companies to work for. It’s important that in all of your negotiations you keep careful notes and copies of emails and letters sent because if you are still unsatisfied with the answers, you can turn your negotiation into a grievance which you would raise formally with HR.

Don’t forget other benefits

Even if a company refuses you a pay rise you might still be able to improve your overall employment package without increasing your actual salary. Employers are often less protective about benefits and if they refuse to increase your salary then you still have company cars, travel loans, sabbaticals, pensions, health benefits and club memberships that you could negotiate for. These can be a useful loophole if an employer is worried about setting a precedent and having to increase other employees’ salaries.