Women at Work

How to ask for a pay rise – the ladies edition

How women should ask for a pay rise.

It is probably fair to say that generally we women are not great at negotiating our pay.  If you are in the exception, then I salute you, and, will you add your thoughts to the bottom of this post?   This post is going to focus on the skills that you need to negotiate your next pay rise.

I have been terrible at negotiating my pay in the past and have typically preferred to wait for my good deeds to be noticed and remunerated accordingly.  There are some big problems with this approach to getting a pay rise, including (but not limited to):

  • Why would anyone give me more when I seem happy to do what I do for what I get?
  • Managers change, financial circumstances change, and
  • Hope is not a basis for any type of fiscal management.

So I have had to have a good think about my approach and I have become a little more structured.  Here are some of the tips that have helped me negotiate a pay rise:


It’s in the preparation phase that many of us fail.  We either over prepare (list every task that we have done in the last year), or under prepare.  Either way, it makes it easy to say no, or not now or a variant of which.  So here we go:

Know your numbers

Before you go anywhere near a discussion on pay you need to understand:

  • The general financial position of the organisation
  • Are there any other Economic factors you should be aware of?
  • Understand your KPIs and how you are delivering against them

If you make money for an organisation, know how much.  If you don’t, what value do you deliver to the bottom line of your organisation?  Are you meeting your KPIs?  Is your organisation financially healthy?  Do you know what your role is worth in industry?

Your employer knows that you want more money, your job in this process is to demonstrate to them why it makes good business sense to give it to you.

If you company is showing signs of financial distress, then it may not matter what type of performer you are, they may not be able to afford to give you a pay rise.  Try negotiating additional holidays or shorter working hours for the same income as an alternative in this situation. This may also show good faith that you support the organisation in times of difficulty.

When you get to the negotiating table have your information ready.  I once turned down a staff member for a pay rise who was hitting 2/6 of their KPI’s.  It was a no brainer, and the employee wasted everyone’s time in the process.

Asking for remuneration that is way out of step with industry norms or regional benchmarks might make you look under prepared.  Be aware of the economic factors.

Make the pay rise about them, not you

Just demonstrating that you have been very busy (or work hard) is not enough.  If you are trying to get recognition for your hard work through a pay rise, you might be disappointed if you can’t show how it contributed to the organisation.  Let me give you an example:

HR Person example 1.  I worked really hard on the performance management project and got it completed on time.  I had to work some weekends and long hours to get it done, but I was able to implement it successfully for the operations staff in the end.

HR Person example 2.  I completed the performance management project on time and was able to deliver it to the operations.  Since implementation, 2 underperforming staff have been taken through the process and are now hitting their targets.

The second example shows what you have done and how the organisation is seeing benefit from it.  Most organisations are not going to give you a pay rise just because they like the cut of your jib.  They want to know that you are giving them something of value, so be ready and show them.

Let others do the talking for you

You may not know this, but your boss does not live in a vacuum.  They talk to others and during salary negotiation time will seek out others opinions of you.  Know your stakeholders and ensure that they understand your value to them.  That way, when Ms Boss goes and has a chat, they will be able to state categorically that you are the bee’s knees.

Now is not the time to ambush, get your timing right

Give your boss the time to prepare.  Let them know that you would like to make a time to talk about your pay, when would be convenient for them?

If your boss is feeling ambushed, chances are you won’t get the quality of conversation you need, and, that might put you at a disadvantage.  Chances are you won’t get a quality conversation if your Manager is delivering a big piece of work that day/week, so give them the chance to set the timing.

Likewise, if the organisation has a pre-ordained period for salary negotiation, know it – get your timing right.

What not to say/do

Any version of the following will undermine your campaign, avoid at all costs:

  • Samantha is getting more salary that me and I work harder/get better outcomes than her so should get more.
  • I have been here for 12 months.
  • I work long hours.
  • If I went to the competitor or another industry, I could get paid more to do the same job .
  • The kids school fees have gone up and I can’t afford them.
  • I turn up every day and do my job.

I hope I don’t have to explain why any of these are a bad idea.  If you take away any points know that:

  • This process is about you, not about any of your colleagues.
  • This process is about what value you bring to your organisation, not what choices you make in regards to who you work for, your working hours or your personal life.
  • Tenure does not guarantee more money unless it is expressly stated in a contract.
  • Doing your job is not enough to justify a pay increase (beyond mandated increases).

At the table

Explain that you are seeking a pay rise, and the reasons why (through the value you have contributed).

Typical reasons may include:

  • Broader responsibility
  • Demonstrated higher performance
  • Effective change/project completion or implementation
  • Sponsorship or mentoring others in the workplace
  • Significant improvement to workplace effectiveness

It is important to be able to demonstrate what has changed – what is better for your organisation?  How has your contribution helped?

  • Allow pauses in the conversation and say what you have to say. Don’t rush in to fill the silence.  Ask your question, state your reasons and stop.
  • Be prepared to justify your position and do not assume that your boss knows every contribution you have made. This is not a great test of wills, however there may be a requirement to answer a few questions.   Don’t take offense if your Manager doesn’t automatically agree with what you are saying.  Your boss is a busy person who probably doesn’t spend the day watching everything you do.  You may have to explain things.
  • Understand that you might not get the answer you want. Be prepared for this.  If you are told no, ask them what you need to do to make it a yes.  Avoid petulance, anger or tears in the meeting (its fine once you get home).  An angry outburst after a “no” just solidifies that your Manager made the right decision.

What happens if you get a no to your pay rise request

A no will also give you pause for thought.  Please pause.  A pay negotiation meeting is not the time to tell your boss that you are looking elsewhere or that if you don’t get more pay you will have to leave.  Both of these are legitimate, but threats (even if they are effective in the short term) burn professional bridges and will not help you see long term success.

I hope that this has given you enough food for thought when it comes to how to ask for a pay rise.  Here are some excellent articles that also have a few ideas on the topic.  How to ask for a pay rise or How to ask for a Pay Raise or 9 Things you should never say when asking for a pay raise.

Best of luck, I hope that you will be popping the bubbles in celebration of a pay increase soon.  If you are looking for more interesting content on work and work dilemmas, have a look at Careerability’s Tricky Workplace Dilemmas series, click here and here.

champagner toasting new year s eve drink - How to ask for a pay rise - the ladies edition

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