Ask Liz - How do I negotiate a pay rise?

Wednesday 16 August 2023

 2 women talking

Author: Liz Codd

Dear Liz,
I’m really bad at negotiating pay rises, and as a result I haven’t had one in over five years. The problem is that internally, jobs are being cut, and I don’t want to put myself on anyone’s radar. However, I also know I’ve taken on lots of additional responsibilities as a result of those job cuts. Should I approach my boss about a pay rise, and if so, what is the best way of going about it?
Dear Reader,

Thank you for this great question.  I'm going to give you some hints and tips for requesting a pay rise; however I'm not going to tell you whether you should approach your boss.  That's a decision for you to make for yourself and I hope that my hints and tips will help you to make it.

Generally speaking I think managers respond better to a rational and well-reasoned request for a review of compensation so the first thing you will need to do is put together your case using facts and data.  Asking for a pay rise can be emotive, for you and potentially for your boss, so doing what you can to take the emotion out of it and make it a rational conversation is probably a good approach.

What are the facts/data?  Some are about your internal environment and some are facts about the external environment.

Here is a list of the kinds of facts and information to research and be clear on as you prepare for the conversation with your boss, if you decide to have it:

1. The internal environment (i.e. your organisation and its policies and practices on compensation)

What is the process for reviewing compensation in your organisation, are there any policies currently in place (such as a pay freeze) that you need to take into account?

What is the timing for changes in compensation and therefore when to make your request? (You don't want to ask for a pay rise in September if pay rises were implemented in August, for example.)

The decision-makers - who are they, is your boss able to make the decision or will they need to seek approval from others, how does that impact on your boss?

The structure in which compensation is determined, this might be a grading system related to the size of your job and salary ranges for jobs. (Some organisations have broad ranges for job grades and their associated salaries and are fairly flexible, others use more narrow ranges and are deliberately constrained.)

The additional responsibilities that you have taken on, your performance record and an assessment of the importance to the organisation of retaining you for your skills and experience.

2. The external environment (market practices and pay levels)

What is your job and how does it compare with jobs in the market - use information such as tasks, responsibilities, function, position in organisation, required qualifications or professional memberships - factors that determine the size and nature of your job.

What is your job level compared to similar jobs in the market (comparing apples with apples if possible), this includes your technical/professional level, years of experience, qualifications, expertise, management experience, etc.  Words such as assistant, manager, analyst, junior/senior, director, executive director can denote the job level.

Official market data for your job and for your level - this might be available from a relevant institute or from a specialist recruitment company - gather what you can.

Current supply and demand levels for your skills and experience in the market - this may be a little more anecdotal but some jobs are in high demand with few candidates available, others not so much.

Having researched the above areas you are ready to bring it all together to make your case.  Alternatively you may decide that there isn't sufficient justification, the timing isn't right, or the possible consequences are unacceptable.  Unfortunately the fact that you haven't had a pay rise for 5 years isn't a strong justification for requesting one but if you can show that you have facts and data that the market rate for your job and your level is sufficiently higher than your current compensation then you have a stronger case, and the further your compensation is from the market median the stronger the case you have, in theory.

If you feel you have a strong case and it's the right time, and you decide to go ahead and speak to your boss, I'd suggest that you draft a script and practice what you want to say, perhaps with a trusted colleague, so that you approach the conversation in a professional and rational way that gives you the best chance for a reasoned response.
Good luck!

Got a question? Write to me, and I’ll give you some advice, on an entirely anonymous basis.  

Queries may be posted in anonymous, general terms, with Liz’s response, on our website. Liz may not be able to reply to all queries but will do her best to get back to you. 

Liz Codd, Director, Leadenhall Consulting and Chief Coaching Officer, Coaching on Demand.

Liz Codd - PI

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