How to ask for a pay rise

Woman and money
Image caption We'd all like more money but simply asking for a pay rise is not enough - you'll have to demonstrate why you deserve it

Asking for a pay rise can be one of those awkward conversations that many people would rather avoid.

But if you feel you're not being paid as much as you deserve, then there's really no other way for it.

So once you've summoned up the courage to talk to your boss, what's the best way to approach the subject?

Preparation is key.

"Before you ask, really think through your case very carefully. You'll have to justify it," says Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management, which specialises in career coaching.

Do your market research and find out what the market rates are, she says.

Within your organisation, finding out how much your colleagues are earning can be difficult, as people can be very private about their finances.

But you can easily find out how much equivalent jobs at other organisations pay by looking at job adverts or online salary surveys, which provide data within industries.

Right timing

Part of your preparation should include thinking about the language you're going to use, says business psychologist and author of Life-Changing Conversations, Sarah Rozenthuler.

"Find your opening, think through the words to begin the conversation," she says.

Even something as simple as: "I'd like to talk to you about something that really matters to me. Is now a good time?" can let your boss know that you're serious and give you the confidence to go ahead with the conversation, she says.

Once you've done your preparation, it's important to get your timing right.

Catching your boss at the end of a meeting, when he or she may be about to rush off to somewhere else, is not ideal.

"There may be a natural time of year to have these discussions," says Corinne Mills. "Sometimes it's linked to appraisals or performance reviews."

No ultimatums

Just because you think you are due a pay rise, you'll still have to convince your boss that you're worth it.

"Talk about all the good things you've done this year, how you've helped your organisation make money, save money or improve quality," says Ms Mills.

If you've got a figure in mind of what you think you should be earning, base it on some kind of evidence compared with your competitors.

"What you mustn't do though is show any kind of brinkmanship," she says. "Don't say: 'If you don't pay me this I'm going to leave' because then if they turn you down you would have to go."

You may also be shooting yourself in the foot if any promotional opportunities come up in the future, she adds, as your commitment to your employer might then be questioned.

It would be better to emphasise how you really enjoy working for the organisation, and how you want your future to be there.


Asking for a rise can be difficult at the best of times, but when the economy is "bumping along the bottom", as experts put it, it can mean that you have less of a chance of success, particularly if the organisation you work for is having to make savings.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's 2011 survey on Employee Attitudes to Pay, the proportion of employees receiving a pay rise has fallen from 67% in 2008 to 45% in 2011.

By sector, 51% of workers in the private sector had a pay rise in 2011, compared with 45% in the voluntary sector and 24% in the public sector. Hardly surprising, given the wage freezes in the public sector.

Nevertheless, more than half of the 3,000 working adults surveyed still expected their pay to go up this year.

But if your request for a pay rise is turned down, what should you do?

'Nothing to lose'

Don't give up altogether, says Sarah Rozenthuler. She suggests that you attempt to keep the door open for one in the future.

Ask about what you can do in order to get a raise, and ask when you can talk about it again. Keep a record of the conversation, and then follow it up after the appropriate time.

Corinne Mills adds that there may be other things you can ask for instead to help develop your career - such as training or a secondment to a different department.

"Look for other opportunities in which you can enhance your employability," she advises.

At the end of the day, says Ms Rozenthuler, when you ask for a pay rise you have to weigh up the potential benefits against the risks of staying silent - if you carry on not getting what you think you're worth, you can start feeling resentful and that can affect your health and well-being.

"It might make you feel a bit awkward or a bit uncomfortable, but if you really think you deserve a pay rise and you've carefully thought about how to approach your boss, you've got nothing to lose," she says.

"Even if you don't get it, you'll feel better for at least having a go. You might even gain some self respect."

And after all, if you don't ask you don't get.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites