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DIY pay rise: How to ask for what you deserve (even in a pandemic)

·6-min read
(Source: Getty, Meggie Palmer)
(Source: Getty, Meggie Palmer)

Meggie Palmer is like the best friend who is always aggressively in your corner that believes you deserve nothing but the best.

But her goals – for herself, for you, and for all women – are way higher than what you’ve dared to hope.

“Every year, you have to ask for a raise,” she says. When your performance review rolls around every year, you have to talk up your achievements, and ask the big question, she instructs.

“You can’t expect it will be offered. Sometimes they will say no – but you still have to ask the question.”

Palmer is the founder of PepTalkHer, which started out as an app that helped women track their achievements at work so they would have data to back up their request for a pay rise.

Now, PepTalkHer is a corporate coaching program that helps companies like JP Morgan, Revlon, Salesforce, LinkedIn and SBS retain high-performing staff, improve negotiation skills, and make the workplace more inclusive. They also run online courses that help women successfully negotiate raises and sharpen their career direction and purpose.

PepTalkHer’s ultimate vision is to close the gender pay gap, currently at 13.4 per cent in Australia. And according to Palmer, every time a woman asks for a pay rise, we come a little bit closer to that goal.

And there is a need to help women achieve the pay rises they ask for: research published in the Harvard Business Review found that women actually ask for pay rises as often as men do, but are less successful in getting them.

“You are not just negotiating just for you,” Palmer said. “It’s not about you … it’s about your family, your friends, your charitable donations, your retirement future, it’s about your dog, it’s about the next generation of women that come through.

“Actually, by asking the question, you are helping the next employee.”

How to actually ask for a raise

1. Talk

Asking for a raise can be daunting – but isn’t necessarily complicated. But for women, who might be prone to downplaying their achievements or don’t believe they’re deserving of a pay rise, there are three things that are crucial: talking, tracking, and asking.

For some, talking about money might be the hardest part, but you have to start. “Demystifying is really important,” Palmer said.

“Start with your brother, your sister, your best mate … Until you have those conversations, you don’t know where you sit on those spectrums.”

It can also be a good idea to talk to someone at work whom you trust, such as a sponsor, mentor, or even someone that used to work at the company who has left.

And it’s not an impossible task to speak to colleagues about it, either, Palmer says.

“Rather than saying: ‘Hey John, how much do you earn?’, it’s a lot easier to say: ‘Hey John, I’m going in for my performance review. I was thinking that I should be bumped up to a Level 3, and that a $70-78,000 pay range would be about right for that role,” she said.

When you give people a range, it gives people the opportunity to say: ‘hell no,’ or ‘that’s about where I was at at that stage’. “That gives people latitude to start a conversation.”

Also, do your research and find out what the industry average is. Job ad sites and recruitment firms like Seek, Hays, Robert Half, Michael Page, Adecco and Payscale also put out guides for average pay rates in each industry.

Employees also may not know that they can pick up the phone to a recruiter and have a conversation – which should be free – about how you’re being paid.

The idea is to be as informed as possible about how much you should be paid. “Get a finger on the pulse,” she said.

2. Track

Tracking all your successes and wins at work will be the driving force behind your request for a pay rise – and it’s also the reason why Palmer created PepTalkHer in the first place.

“If you have hard data, if you have statistics, if you have dollar signs that prove the impact you’re making, it is much easier to get a raise,” Palmer said.

It’s the difference between saying ‘can I have a raise’, and saying: ‘can I have a raise, because I’ve increased web traffic by 30 per cent, I’ve added an additional three advertisers to the company which has added $250,000 in revenue, can I please have a pay raise commensurate to 5 per cent of the revenue I’ve brought in,’ she added.

“That is a much stronger case, and it’s much easier for your boss to say yes.”

The other thing employees need to keep in mind is that the decision isn’t always up to your direct manager, either; they will likely have to get approval from higher up in the corporate food chain, or make the case to their own boss.

3. Ask

Finally, it’s about having the conversation itself, and putting the question to your boss. Palmer believes this conversation should be a yearly question.

Recalling an anecdote, Palmer said: “A client of mine once said, ‘I couldn't possibly ask for a raise – I asked six years ago, and they said no’.”

But in this time frame, your pay may have actually inched backwards because inflation has risen over that period.

How to ask for a pay rise… during COVID

Palmer acknowledges that it may be difficult for the employees of businesses affected by the pandemic to ask for a pay rise. (Sometimes, it might be used as an excuse, she adds, but other times it’s legitimate.)

If that’s the case, simply pivot the conversation; there are other benefits you can ask for, such as keeping a flexible work schedule, a paid parking space, extra annual leave, or even being able to bring your dog into work, she said.

You want to make it easy for your boss to say yes, Palmer adds. “You’ve gotta get creative. But you’ve got to come to the table with those ideas,” she said.

“It’s important for employees to remember that bosses have a lot of direct reports. The responsibility is on you to come to the table with clear options on how to compensate you.”

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