For the past five years, the cost of living has been growing faster than pay - which means that we've all essentially been taking a pay cut for half a decade. The Bank of England is predicting that this year we should finally get some relief, and see our pay increase in real terms, but these are just forecasts and there are no guarantees.
So if you want to be sure you'll earn more this year, you need to secure yourself a pay rise. It's easier said than done, but there are seven ways to put you in the best position possible to persuade your boss you deserve more money.
1. Do your background research
It's not appropriate to ask around in the office about what everyone else is making, but you can check online to see the published data of what other people in a similar position are earning. You can also use salaries from job adverts, and even call recruitment agencies, so you know that what you are asking for is reasonable. It also helps if you are able to name a specific figure that you know your counterparts are earning elsewhere.
2. Check company policy
You need to know how things work within the company. Is there an annual pay review process? Is there an established salary range for your position? Is there any flexibility? This sort of thing may well be within your company handbook, or you can check with the HR department.
3. Build your case
Don't just ask for more money: prove you deserve it. Think about your achievements, the ways in which you have acted beyond your job title, and the ways you have made money for the business. If you can demonstrate that you are giving more value than was originally expected of you, you can argue that this value deserves to be recognised financially. Putting together your argument will also clarify in your mind whether you have done enough to deserve a pay rise.
4. Build your profile
Make an effort to stand out (for the right reasons) in the run-up to any pay review. You need to be on your boss's radar before you start asking for more money, so it doesn't feel like you're casting about, trying to take the credit for other people's achievements. Of course, there is a balance to be struck: if you spend half the day telling your boss how valuable your contribution is, they are soon gong to tire of it.
5. Do it face-to-face
It's tempting to send an email and save yourself the embarrassment of actually having to ask, but it's essential to do this in person.
Don't try to corner your boss at a quiet moment; schedule time for a 'performance review meeting', where you can talk about how you are getting on, and bring up the discussion of pay within that context. You'll find it easier to talk about pay if you are already deep into a conversation about how well you are working and how much you are appreciated.
By setting up a meeting, it will also enable them to prepare for the conversation: if you ambush them, there's a chance you will be rejected out of hand.
6. Keep it professional
Unless you actually want to leave the organisation, it's a very dangerous idea to threaten to leave if you don't get a pay rise. Even if you are given the money, your boss will look on you as someone who already has one foot out of the door.
Likewise, it's really not their problem if you're short of cash and the cost of living has gone up. Arguments which centre on the fact you need the money will weaken your overall case: focus on the fact that the quality of your work means you deserve the cash.
7. Work with 'no'
If the answer is a flat 'no', then ask a few questions, such as why, or how you can improve in your role in order to be considered for a pay rise. Ideally you can set up some key, measurable goals that you can work towards in order to be considered for a pay rise. If the answer is that they'd love to give you a pay rise, but the company isn't in a position to at the moment, then you can ask for another pay review in three months.
However, if you don't get anything positive from asking further questions, then you have nothing to gain by trying to wring blood from a stone. Simply say thank you and leave the meeting. That way you can make a decision as to whether a pay rise is likely in the near future, whether you will stay with the organisation and live with the level of pay, or whether you should start looking for work elsewhere.
If you continue to push in the face of rejection, there's a good chance that you'll end up begging, arguing, sulking or threatening - and none of these are sensible ways to ensure a solid ongoing relationship with your boss.
Sadly, even with the best-prepared - most impressively argued - case, there's a chance that your pay rise will not be forthcoming. However, given the fact that around 80% of bosses expect people to ask for a pay rise, and only 40% of them ever do, the simple act of asking will boost your chances of better pay in the next round of rises.
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