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How to ask for a pay rise

Ask any salary or wage earner, and negotiating a pay rise is probably up there on their list of most nerve-wracking tasks. But it needn't be this way. With a bit of careful planning and communication nous, you can pocket a bigger pay packet without rocking the corporate boat. 

According to Adam Kolokotsas, manager of banking and finance at executive recruitment specialist Tanner Menzies, the most important thing to remember when asking for a pay rise is that it’s a business conversation about facts and figures.

“Rather than relying on emotion, concentrate on justifying why you deserve a pay rise,” he says. “This means demonstrating your professional value by providing concrete examples of your achievements.”

This is especially relevant when selling yourself on the back of your performance, with the documentation you choose to emphasise your success requiring careful consideration.

“Positive business contributions can strengthen your hand, so if you managed a project that increased your employer’s business revenue, make sure you highlight by exactly how much,” Kolokotsas says. “Likewise, glowing reports, performance appraisals and testimonials can all add weight to your request - especially if they demonstrate you’ve exceeded the expectations of your role.”

Also remember that preparation is key so where possible, find out how much you, your position and your level of experience are worth before you ask for that pay rise. Or better still; demonstrate your star style with information backed by reputable industry associations.

“Pitch at a realistic level by exploring salary data that shows the range for your position and years of experience,” says Kolokotsas. “Also speak with your ex-colleagues, friends and family, particularly those who work in your field, to avoid making an unreasonable request.”

There will, of course, come that dreaded moment when you step into your manager’s office hoping to fatten your wallet. Yes, there'll be sweaty palms and ‘butterflies’, but you can make the negotiation a lot less traumatic by ensuring that you’ve requested a private word at the right time. 

“Timing is critical,” says Kolokotsas. “For example, you can increase your chances of success by asking for a pay rise on or before your anniversary of employment, at the end of a financial or calendar year, or before your company’s next budget sign-off.”

Similarly, asking for a pay rise when you’re able to prove that your productivity, duties, or responsibilities have expanded, or when company goals have been achieved, can mean the difference between increasing your hip pocket or not.

Once in the meeting, remember not to talk too much – you could end up talking yourself right out of a pay rise. Instead, stick confidently to the facts, use active language, and have a salary figure in mind just in case you're asked what you think you're worth.

Finally, a word on ultimatums. According to Kolokotsas, issuing your manager with a non-negotiable salary demand is the most common blunder you can make when asking for a pay rise. In 99 per cent of cases, threatening to quit unless your manger lines your pockets is guaranteed to backfire.

“A two-way conversation is always going to be more valuable than an aggressive ultimatum," says Kolokotsas. "And much more likely to get you the pay rise you deserve.”

Published: 04 September 2007

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