Asking for a pay rise? Use these 6 steps to get it

It's not always an easy discussion, but asking for a pay rise is an important career milestone.  Jenny Darmody advises on the best way to do it


Asking for a pay rise is always a difficult thing to do. The meeting feels awkward, having to ask for money and then enter the dreaded negotiation with your boss can be uncomfortable but, in most cases, if we want our pay to go up, it’s a conversation we need to have. 

Asking pay increases can be even trickier for women, but not for the reason people often like to think. It’s widely believed that women ask for raises less than men, which is why they don’t get them as often.

However, Harvard Business Review research actually shows that they do ask as often, but they’re less likely to get them. While this may seem grim, the best thing anyone can do is make sure they fight for their pay rise in the best way they can, taking the right steps and formulating the strongest argument.

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Ready to ask for a pay increase? Here’s how to do it. 

Build a business case

The first thing you have to do is know why you’re asking for a raise. The first question your manager will have is ‘why do you believe you deserve a pay rise?’ 

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It’s not enough to say you’ve been there X number of years and have been doing a fine job. Before even requesting a meeting, make sure you write a mature business case on your contribution to the company and your team, what you’ve learned, the skills you’ve developed and the value you’ve added. This is possible even if you are not a direct monetary contributor. 

You don’t have to be a direct sales person to add value to your company. Think about your KPIs, your targets, and any other solid statistics you might be able to use in your favour. Stats appeal to our logical side and are much more difficult to argue against. Have these prepared before booking your meeting. 

Highlight future plans

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Your pay increase should not just be about what you’ve done so far, but what you hope to do going forward. Tread carefully here, though. You should not consider yourself deserving of a pay increase because you plan to work so much harder in the future if you get this money.

"You also don’t want to limit future pay increases by tying future deliverables to this pay increase." 

This implies that you’re not putting in as much as you should be in your current role. 

You also don’t want to limit future pay increases by tying future deliverables to this pay increase. So, why highlight future plans at all? Writing up a futuristic value?add simply highlights how you have considered ways you can continue to contribute to the company as well as showcasing your ability to think ahead. 

For example, you don’t have to say you will double your KPIs if you get this pay increase, but what you can say is that you’ve already exceeded your current targets and you have some new ideas and projects that could further improve your stats.

Be vague enough about the potential results to use them in future but specific enough about your ideas to show that you have given them some thought. 

Research market value

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Along with asking why you think you deserve a pay increase, your boss will naturally want to know how much you’re looking for. Be sure to research your market value on sites such as Glassdoor and PayScale to get an idea of where your salary should be or what salary you could reasonably ask for if you were to walk into another job. 

If possible, find out how pay increases are generally calculated in your organisation and what a realistic increase looks like. High?performing employees can sometimes command an increase of 5?10% if their business case is strong enough and depending on the money they’re already on, although companies are forecasting an average of 3% increase. 

"Have a range in mind. What’s your ideal number? What are you willing to accept if you enter a negotiation?"

Bear in mind though that 10% of €25,000 is a lot less than 10% of €40,000, so combine your research of realistic pay increases, market value and knowledge of your own company to figure out what you can reasonably ask for.

Have a range in mind as well. What’s your ideal number? What are you willing to accept if you enter a negotiation? Think about all of this before your meeting. 

Prepare for the meeting

Try to choose your timing well. Each person will know what time is a good time to book a meeting with their manager, but as a rule of thumb, Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are usually not good times.

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"Book a formal meeting with your manager and let them know when you’re booking it what you want to discuss."

If you have an upcoming milestone, such as two years since you started, you can add this into your argument. Again, time served is not enough of a reason to ask for a pay increase, but it’s good to accompany your business case. 

Book a formal meeting with your manager and let them know when you’re booking it what you want to discuss. Blindsiding them doesn’t give you any advantage and if they go in knowing that you’re going to ask for a pay increase, they may even have done their own calculations in advance and worked out what they may be willing to give you if you make a compelling enough case.

In the meeting, prevent your case a calm, professional, organised way. Ask nicely for what you want and explain how you’ve arrived at that particular figure and summarise why you deserve it. Keep strong emotions out of the room as best you can. 

Don’t compare yourself to others during the meeting. It will come across as unprofessional and remember, the meeting is meant to be about you, not them. 

If it doesn’t go your way...

Even the best negotiations are sometimes unsuccessful. In a perfect world, employees would be recognised for their efforts and offered pay increases to compensate that. But the reality is, most managers don’t want to give money away if they can help it and if they turn you down regardless of your best business case, you need to think about what to do next. 

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"If they acknowledge your work but claim that the issue is budgetary, ask for alternative rewards."

First, you should ask what you need to do and what needs to happen in order for them to grant you your requested increase. Try to extrapolate measures you can take and situations you can control, such as getting a particular project over the line. 

If they acknowledge your work but claim that the issue is budgetary, ask for alternative rewards in the interim such as more flexible working options, additional annual leave or personal development opportunities that will help you progress your career. 

After the meeting

The most important thing to do after your meeting is to follow up with an email and ask for any agreed terms to be formalised in writing and added as an addendum to your contract.

Again, while an ideal world would mean that what was agreed in the meeting will come to fruition. Employers can sometimes try and renege on a verbal agreement due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’.

Whether it’s a successful pay rise, extra annual leave or simply an agreement to review your pay again in six months, make sure you get it all in writing, including when your new pay or perks will kick in.

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If nothing else, this will give you peace of mind. 

Jenny Darmody is the growth editor at RECRUITERS.ie, Ireland’s most trusted recruitment partner. Jenny is also a journalist, specialising in all things career?related and work?life balance. 


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