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How to ask your boss for a pay rise

People walking to work and money.
If a pay rise isn't an option right now, you may be able to ask for extra leave instead. (Source: Getty)

When it comes to negotiating the salary increase you want, timing is key.

If you work for a large organisation, Aaron McEwan, vice president in the Gartner HR practice, said it was important to be aware of formal salary review cycles.

Often, your pay rise hinges on your boss putting forward a compelling business case to management, so you’ll want to give them ample time to argue your case.

Smaller companies are often different. Because these organisations don’t always have formal HR processes, McEwan said employees would be wise to consider the financial position of the business when making their request.

“Perhaps don’t ask for a raise when the economy is crashing, that's usually not going to lead you very far,” he said.

Depending on the industry, McEwan said now was a good time to be asking for a pay rise given the shortage of talent.

However, some industries were going to be more vulnerable to incoming economic headwinds than others, he said, with sectors such as technology already starting to downsize.

We’ve just started a new financial year - have I missed my chance?

McEwan said if you work for a bigger company, it's likely you’ve missed your window of opportunity to get your salary boost into the budget for this financial year.

Ideally, he recommended starting the conversation as early as May to give your manager enough time to start arguing on your behalf.

While getting a salary increase out of cycle can be tricky, McEwan said there could be other things you could ask for that come out of different budgets.

For example, you might be able to request extra leave, new equipment or training courses.

“If you're asking for something that falls into a budget that your direct manager has discretion over, you're more likely to get it because it sits in a different line on the profit and loss statement,” he explained.

What to say to your boss when asking for higher pay

McEwan said the first step was to equip yourself with the information you’d need to plead your case.

You’ll need to know the going rate for workers at your level so you can benchmark your own salary expectations accordingly.

You’ll also want to come to the conversation with evidence to prove your performance over the past 12-24 months, such as above-target sales numbers.

He also said to make sure you were in the right frame of mind when asking for a pay rise.

Even if you do have grievances about how the company has compensated you in the past, McEwan recommended focusing on the positives rather than the negatives.

Striking the right tone was also important. He recommended adopting a positive business posture that’s “working towards action”.

“You want a posture that is confident, but not arrogant, and assertive, but not aggressive.”

He suggested starting the conversation with an overview of what you enjoyed about the role, before moving onto your achievements and how you had contributed to the business.

“And don't beat around the bush. This isn't a chat over lunch, this is a very specific request,” he said.

What not to do in a salary negotiation

McEwan warned against ultimatums during salary negotiations unless you are prepared to follow through if your demands aren’t met.

For example, if you’re sitting on several job offers, you’re probably in a solid position to be more demanding.

While you can do yourself a disservice by coming in too hot, you can also come unstuck by being too meek.

“If it seems like you don't really care that much or you're a bit of a pushover, be prepared to get pushed over,” he said.

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