Want a pay rise? Here’s how to ask for it

Soaring inflation and rising bills have the question of pay rises on everyone’s minds right now. While the Bank of England has pleaded for pay restraint to avoid fuelling inflation further, anyone seeing their salary rise by less than around 10% is likely to see their spending power decrease this year.

But many of us find it a nerve-wracking challenge to ask for more money: according to a survey by investment company Fidelity International, only half of men and 37% of women have ever asked for a raise. So, we sought out some expert advice to show you how.

Get the timing right

“The greatest advantage you can give yourself is correct timing,” says Hayley Cross, who is an HR director at health and wellness brand Improb. Some companies are still coming out of the pandemic in a difficult financial state, and may have been making redundancies – a scenario which is likely to mean you should postpone your pay rise request.

“Ultimately, you want to ensure that you are in good stead and do not set yourself up for failure,” Cross says. That means having a good sense of how the business is doing and when budgets are set or when raises are normally granted.

Do your research 

“Anchoring” is a cognitive bias that leads a lot of people to be underpaid, says Grace Lordan, associate professor of behavioural psychology at the London School of Economics. We make our decisions according to reference points, like your current salary, which can act as an anchor weighing down efforts to get an increase.

She suggests resetting your boss’s anchor points by researching the distribution of pay across your company or your industry. The knowledge that other people are out there earning salaries 15% or 20% greater than yours for similar work will make your request for a raise seem much more reasonable.

Write a script

As well as researching the market for salaries in your job, you’ll also want to prepare some key points about your work performance to demonstrate that you’re a high achiever who deserves to be in the upper salary range. It’s easy to get nervous, so write out your pitch in advance – and practice on a friend if you can.

“It’s important to set out your case clearly, with compelling evidence as to why this is the right moment for a pay rise, but don’t feel that you need to go in all-guns-blazing – it should be a conversation after all,” says Charlotte Davies, Careers Expert at LinkedIn

Be confident

Executive coach Carol Hagh recommends that her clients see pay talks as a negotiation between equals rather than making a request from a superior. “I’ve found that taking a step back and approaching these interactions strategically can help calm nerves and increase confidence,” she says.

Start by demonstrating the commitment on your side by discussing a recent success or how you’re helping the manager reach his goals before making your pitch. “Go into the meeting with an egalitarian ‘we are both adults’ attitude rather than that of a subordinate asking for a favour,” Hagh says.

Be ready to compromise

Once you’ve made your case, you’ll be told the good news or the not-so-good news. Be prepared to hear that you might not get the pay rise you were looking for this time. If that’s the decision, there may still be room to negotiate.

You could ask for improvements to your conditions, like a shorter working week, more flexible hours or extra holiday. You could get an improved job title and the promise of another pay review in a few months. “Keep those ideas in your back pocket as a way of reaching a compromise that you’ll be happy with,” says Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopCV.