You’ve done your research and discovered you’re underpaid.
What now? If you’re waiting for your boss to spontaneously address this oversight, you may as well pull up a chair and get comfy.
The reality is, the only person who really cares about your pay, is you. If you want more money, you’re going to have to put on your big boy/girl undies and ask for it.
Don’t worry though, it’s not as scary as all that.
You don’t need any fancy Jedi mind tricks. And you don’t need to go in, guns blazing, looking to pick a fight.
You do need to be positive and objective, and take into account your boss’s perspective.
In a nutshell, this is how the conversation should go (maybe with less exclamation points, depending on where your boss sits on the fun-o-meter):
“I love this company and I love my job! See all the great work I’ve been doing! Let me show you how it’s improved the company’s bottom line. But – alas! – I’ve discovered I’m being underpaid compared to the market. I’ve done some research and here are the facts. How can we fix this? Thank you for my pay rise! I’m really excited to keep doing great work for you!”
Honestly, it’s that simple.
But, as with all seemingly-simple things, there are ways this conversation could go wrong.
Here are 5 things NOT to do when negotiating your pay rise:
1. Ask at the wrong time
The company’s just announced budget cuts. You’ve ballsed up a project. Your boss has a tonne on their plate and is in really a foul mood. These are times it would just be plain silly to ask for a raise. Timing is everything!
Note though, if the timing never seems right, and you know you’re well overdue a raise, you’re going to have to bring it up at some point. If you put forward a really strong case, and the answer is still no, ask your boss what you need to do to earn a pay rise. If they can’t give you a clear answer, then it’s probably time to look elsewhere.
2. Neglect to do your research
Ultimately, the only thing that should influence your salary level is how much your boss would have to pay if they were to go out tomorrow and recruit someone with the same skills and experience as you.
You can’t just spitball this. If you don’t have solid, objective research to show exactly how much you’re worth in the labour market, forget about it.
If you’re in finance and accounting, here’s the best place to get objective, real-time salary data.
3. Be too scared to blow your own trumpet
You’ve added a lot of value to the company since your last pay rise (or else you wouldn’t even be having this discussion, right?!).
Maybe you’ve developed some new skills that are helping the company grow, pulled off some important projects that have resulted in cost savings, or mentored new staff to help them achieve more for the company.
Don’t expect that your boss already knows all this. If you’re a high performer, they probably won’t be across everything you’re doing – it’s your job to point it out. Bring concrete evidence of your achievements to your meeting and be prepared to paint them a picture.
4. Make it personal
Your salary has nothing to do with what’s going on your personal life, and everything to do with what you’re worth in the market (see Point #2). Imagine if your dentist asked you to pay her 20% more for your filling because she just bought a new house and needs more for the mortgage repayments! That’s just not how the world works.
Leave discussions about your plans to start a family or upgrade your car out of it, and focus on the value you bring to the company.
5. Threaten to leave
No-one likes to feel like they’ve got a gun to their head. A good boss doesn’t need the threat of your resignation to pay you more – they’ll do everything in their power to get you a pay rise so long as you make a rock solid case for it.
On the flip side, a bad bass will only pay you more if you they know they’re about to lose you. If they can keep you without having to pay more, they will. And nobody wants to work for a boss like that anyway (more on this on the blog next week).
As with anything worth shooting for, preparation is everything! Do your research, prepare what you're going to say, pick the right time and go for it. Good luck!