Careers Masterclass: Pay rises in a recession.
Whatever Jessie J might tell you, it really is about the money. For most of us remuneration is recognition, the tangible evidence that our employers value our endeavours. Our salary is also our passport to pursuing the lives we want beyond the working walls. But getting more money out of your employers, particularly at the moment, is easier said than done. It's hard but not impossible - this quick guide should help you.
1. Take stock of your situation
Just how likely is it that you're going to be able to negotiate a pay rise? Think about any factors that might be standing in your way, such as:
• Economic strife: if your business has been suffering in the recent economic difficulties, pay rises might not be a business priority for them!
• Salary banding: large organisations very often use specific bandings for specific roles, allowing no scope for individual negotiation.
• Length of tenure: pay rises are typically awarded to those able to demonstrate consistent, prolonged high performance over a period of time. If you've only been there a few months you'll most likely have to exercise some patience.
• Personal performance issues: if you've got issues with discipline, time-keeping or attendance, don't even bother to knock on your manager's door.
If one or more of the first three factors cited here applies to you, that's no reason to abandon your pursuit of higher pay. You might need to work harder at the negotiation, certainly, or reframe the conversation. If your business uses strict salary banding then potentially what you need to be talking about is achieving a promotion to a new role; you'll use the same justifications, but with a slightly different end goal.
2. Be bold, be prepared
Once you've decided that you deserve a pay rise, don't hang about hoping your boss will eventually come to the same conclusion: it's not going to happen. You need to bring it to their attention, so be brave and, as awkward as it might feel, ask your boss to set aside some time for a brief meeting/chat. They will want to know why and/or what it's about so have a brief summary prepared - don't umm and err in an embarrassed tone, you've nothing to be embarrassed about, just give it to them straight.
3. Constructing your argument
The key to getting a pay rise is communicating why in purely business terms your performance warrants greater remuneration. It's not about why you want a pay rise; it's about why you deserve a pay rise. You need to provide your boss with solid facts and figures about your contribution to the team, that taken together, weave a narrative, the undeniable conclusion of which is that you're being underpaid. The type of factors to include might be:
• Key responsibilities: what do you do that brings the most benefit to the business?
• The numbers: have you or your team outperformed others in any quantifiable way (sales targets, mystery diner/shopper, stock loss, etc.)?
• Initiatives/policies implemented: have you helped the business introduce new policies or train new staff?
• Recognised successes: have you or your team received official accolades for your work?
• Going above and beyond: what is it that you do that goes beyond your remit, showing your commitment to the role?
• Evolution of the role: this is the big one; how does the job you're now doing exceed the parameters of the role for which you were originally hired? If you can communicate this point successfully, you'll be well on your way to a pay rise.
4. Control the conversation
The meeting with your boss is bound to feel a little difficult or tense at times but again, it doesn't need to, just take your time, be positive and don't expect an answer then and there. To maximise your chances of a good outcome, make sure you:
• Have your arguments written down: make a list of the business arguments you've constructed and take it into the meeting with you.
• Be polite, be positive: it's very important that at no point the meeting feels like the build up to an ultimatum - it shouldn't feel like "more money or I'm off". To defend against this it's a good idea to repeat your commitment to the company.
• Talk through your business case: it can be quite disarming to acknowledge the awkwardness of the situation and then ask if it's alright if you go through the list of points you've written down - this way you not only appear prepared but you're also demonstrating empathy. Again, talk through the points positively and in terms that reflect your enjoyment of the role and the company culture.
• Be reasonable but seek resolution: make sure your boss knows that you're not expecting an answer then and there but at the same time ask for a time/timescale in which you might get an answer to your pay rise request.
5. After the meeting
After the adrenaline rush of asking for more money, you now need to manage the outcome just as carefully. You need to:
• Stick to the timescale: after your meeting don't revisit the topic with your boss unless they bring it up. Wait until the agreed time.
• Managing disappointment: irrespective of how well you made your case, there's always the chance that in these hard times a pay rise isn't possible. Should this happen to you, asking politely about the factors that stood against you is fine. It's also okay to ask what if anything you can do to be more successful next time and a possible timeframe in which it might be discussed.
After that just make sure your attitude and performance in the workplace remain positive, there's no place for sulking - particularly if you intend to try again another time!
• Managing success: hopefully you will get the pay rise you deserve. If you do, it's great to be upbeat but don't rub other peoples' noses in it or go around shouting about it! Your boss won't thank you for it and you could engender a lot of resentment from your colleagues.