I am pretty certain that there have been far fewer conversations about pay rises over the past year than would usually take place, in a given appraisal year. However, as offices start to re-open after Covid lockdowns and the opportunities for face-to-face meetings increase, those who have been putting off their request may now be positioning themselves to ask the question.
So, after putting in the hours, managing the extra workload since your department lost a few staff and keeping projects on track during a period of major change, you are now ready to knock on your boss’s door and ask for the pay rise you so rightly deserve.
What happens next will depend both on how you view yourself and how successfully you have managed to communicate your value to your manager.
Paving the way for a pay rise
By the time someone has summoned the courage to ask for a pay rise, the likelihood is that there is already some feeling of being overworked, undervalued and that some other team members do not work as hard..
For a senior manager, it is important to recognise that as well as a general “sales job” from the relevant employee on the line manager, to ask for more money, the prospect of degrees of resentment and exhaustion may be bubbling just beneath the surface.
For employees, it is always worth doing some preparation before raising the subject of money with your boss. There is a correlation between low confidence and low pay and this is generally because those who toil silently go unnoticed. Those who are overtly proud of their achievements and draw attention to them, on the other hand, tend to mop up any promotions and/or higher bonus awards that are handed out.
Bragging doesn’t come naturally to most of us and nor should it be required, in terms of reward for effort and achievement. Pointing out relevant achievements, however, is perfectly acceptable and indeed desirable. Refer to these successes on a regular basis so that others recognise your part in those processes that have moved the business forward. It may be as simple as telling people you were proud to be part of the team that managed a particular project and it never does any harm to talk to colleagues about things that ‘we’ achieved together.
Sometimes, no matter how well you have prepared, your request will be denied. It may simply be due to bad timing or external factors such as cost-cutting. However, you will also have to face the possibility that your boss simply does not see you as a star, or otherwise that what you did was no more than was expected of you.
If you are absolutely certain that you have assessed your own value honestly, the failure to consider your request for more pay seriously could be a signal to move on. Sometimes you will never change the perceptions of those you have worked with for some time. Perhaps they do not value the skills that you bring or maybe they instinctively favour more assertive members of the team.
Rejection may herald an opportunity to maximise your career potential elsewhere However, before you do that, be prepared to update your CV and identify any areas that might need improving; study job adverts to see what skills and specifications are in demand; and find ways to fill any skill gaps in areas of expertise whilst you are working in your current role, that could help you in the future, for example think about volunteering for tasks and projects that will give you the relevant experience to apply for something better suited to your career aspirations and better paid.
Who knows, this creativity and productivity, by being seen to push herself forward, actually be recognised by your boss when you hand over your resignation letter, and may be met by an offer to stay on better pay .
A final note for employers
If an employee approaches you for a pay rise and you are unable to meet their request, for whatever reason, ask yourself whether you are prepared to lose this person. It takes a lot of courage to ask for more money and the embarrassment of rejection can make their role untenable. If you value them but do not think they are quite ready for a promotion or rise, explained that and consider adopting a creative approach. Perhaps set meaningful and relevant targets to work towards for future rewards or offer an exciting new role within the business or greater autonomy. Dig a little deeper to find out whether they are unhappy about anything else and consider whether or not there is anything you can do to make things easier, for example by offering flexible working or slightly reduced hours for the same salary. Sometimes a request for more pay is not actually about the money at all, or at least it is not the main driver!.