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How to ask for a pay rise when your bank has frozen hiring and is sacking your colleagues

business begging man to woman

With not as many external vacancies around as last year, you could be stuck in your current job and have to negotiate with your boss if you want a pay rise. Here’s a guide to handling those awkward internal salary discussions.


Paul Heng, founder and managing director of NeXT Career Consulting Group Asia, says pay revisions are possible if your role has been enhanced to a “fairly major extent”. Or perhaps you started on a low salary and have since done a great job. “How much you should ask for depends on how much more you feel the job is now valued.”

Setting up “the talk”

Being direct and upfront is best. Schedule a meeting and tell your boss the agenda, advises Heng. Performance appraisals are also an opportunity to discuss compensation.

Timing is crucial

There’s a time and place for everything, and money talks are best done before a firm announces its annual round of promotions and increments. David Ang, executive director of Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI), says: “Be aware of these dates and have the chat with your direct boss before everything is finalised – because once you miss the boat it may be tougher to negotiate an increase.”

Plan of action

State your justifications for the raise, then propose a salary range. Of course this means doing your research prior to the actual talk – for instance finding out what your peers in similar roles are getting.

Heng says: “Prepare yourself to counter objections to the increase. Objections are not rejections, they are barriers that you are expected to overcome and convince your boss. If you are not well prepared, you have only yourself to blame if you don’t get what you want.”

The manner in which the conversation is conducted is also important. Ang advises candidates to be professional and unemotional at all times. “Always be prepared for the unexpected and think on your feet. Employees should also provide work-performance ideas. Whether the talk is over a beer or lunch, the discussion has to be taken very seriously.”

You’re a banker, not a diva

Heng advises speaking about the pay hike as a request for consideration and approval. “One should never demand, or worse still, threaten the boss with possible consequences if your needs are not met.”

What to do with a “no”

Keep in mind that a “no” now doesn’t rule out an increase forever. Heng suggests negotiating for a review three months down the road. Besides, as Ang points out, the boss may have a good reason for the rejection – it could be purely due to administrative grounds or that the company has frozen salaries.

And if you get a disappointing increase?

Keep things in perspective, especially in this downbeat economy where firms are trying to keep a lid on costs. Heng says: “Consider other pertinent factors like how hard your boss has tried to get the approval, how the business was doing, and decide what you want to do henceforth.”

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