Layoffs and bonus cuts may be what's making the headlines, but if you are employed, you can look forward to a meeting to review pay with your employer. Here are ten things to consider and do to boost your salary:
Before meeting your manager, look at industry-wide salary tables to better understand what your counterparts are getting. If you’ve been with the same company for several years, there could be a “huge discrepancy” between your pay and the market average, says Andrew Hanson, director, financial services, Robert Walters Sydney.
It’s a common complaint: “He gets way more than me for doing the same job!” Avoid using this as a reason for a pay increase, says Hanson. “It sounds childish and unprofessional. Instead ask your boss to tell you the average salary at your company for your job category or work level.” In other words, keep your comparisons anonymous.
A long tenure and strong performance in your regular role aren’t enough for an above-inflation raise. You should instead point out additional tasks, projects and leadership responsibilities that aren’t in your job description, says Hega Schultz, director of HS Coaching and Consulting in Singapore. Showing that you’ve saved the company money is another great bargaining chip, adds Tim Carroll, director and co-founder of search firm 325 Consulting in Sydney.
Don’t be vague: tell your manager the specific percentage raise you want, advises Schultz. But while requesting slightly more than your target salary leaves room for negotiation, don’t go too high. “You run the risk of being viewed as greedy and unrealistic,” says Carroll. “You also need to consider the broader economic environment and the company performance before asking for a bullish increase.”
Talk numbers only after you’ve argued your case. “It is advisable to give reasons first, salary position second,” says Neville Wharton, head of the Neville Wharton Business Psychology Group in the UK. “When you state your position first, people tend not to listen to the reasons.”
Think about why your manager might reject you request, says Hanson from Robert Walters. “You could even mention a potential objection yourself during the discussion to show that you understand their position, but offer equally good arguments why a raise is well deserved.”
“Give me a raise or I’ll go” and “Either I'm worth it or I'm not” are both terrible tactics, warns Jane Lowder, general manager of Max Coaching in Sydney. “Holding a company to ransom leaves no room for negotiation, learning or development. Instead, if the initial response is ‘no’, ask your manager what you should do to achieve your salary goal in the future: skills you can develop and responsibilities you can take on.”
It’s a mistake to take salary conversations too personally, says Lowder, especially during a downturn when managers’ hands may be tied by tight budgets. “For you, an extra few hundred dollars in your monthly pay might be something personal, but for your employer, it’s purely a business decision,” adds Hanson. “Approach it professionally and always keep your cool. Avoid cornering your boss; make an appointment at a time that is suitable for them.”
When meeting your manager, make sure your body posture signals confidence, says Schultz from HS Coaching. “Shoulders back, look your boss in the eyes, and speak in a relaxed but firm manner. Don’t be aggressive – it won’t do you any favours as your boss may feel pressured or even threatened.”
If an immediate pay increase is turned down, book another review with your manager in six months. “Stay positive and remember that even the toughest boss will have problems rejecting a deserved demand more than once,” says Schultz.
Finally, if a raise isn’t possible even in the near future, consider negotiating better benefits. “They may be able to give you paid time off to study, an extra week of holidays, or contribute to your education costs: options that translate as a benefit or saving to you but don't hit the organisation's salaries budget,” says Lowder from Max Coaching.