You would be surprised about how many people shy away from asking for a raise, some haven’t had one for five or more years. They feel awkward about initiating the conversation or they are worried they might sound greedy and possibly even risk their position. Instead, they rely on their employer to notice their good work and offer them a pay rise - a strategy that can leave people earning far less than they would if they would just ask.
You must know that asking for a raise is absolutely normal. As long as you follow some guidelines, you will not look greedy or ungrateful (assuming you work for a reasonable employer). A simple conversation that could be as short as five minutes, can see you much happier and more motivated in your job.
Here are some guidance points on how to do it.
Timing: When to ask for a pay rise
1. There is nothing to be nervous about.
Your boss has probably had similar conversations with other employees, it’s absolutely normal to ask for a raise. Unless you work somewhere quite peculiar, it’s widely understood that a big reason you work is for money. This is okay, everyone does, your boss does, otherwise, we would simply be focusing on unpaid hobbies we enjoy.
Remember that even if your manager doesn’t say yes, you’re unlikely to damage your relationship by making the request as long as (a) you’re not asking for an amount way above industry standard for your work, and (b) you have a track record of excellent performance. You’re unlikely to fall out of favour just because you asked to revisit your compensation.
Think of it this way, a raise isn’t a favour or a gift, it’s a way for employers to pay fair market value for your work and to retain you. It is recognition that you are now contributing to a higher level than when your salary was last set. In fact, it’s in your manager’s best interest to know that you’ve begun to think your work is worth more - they don’t want you leaving particularly if you are doing well.
2. Timing is important
If your boss is especially busy, had a bad day, has lost a number of projects or is nervous about budget costs, you might want to delay the conversation. However, if you’re just delivered a high-profile project, your client has returned to you for more work, you’ve secured a fantastic planning win or your boss has seemed very pleased with your performance lately, now might be the time to have that conversation.
3. If you’ve made significant improvements and taken on more responsibility for a year since your salary was last set, now might be the time to ask.
Some companies will revisit your salary each year on their own volition, often tied to a performance review. Plenty on the other hand, won’t. This is when it’s up to you to broach the subject.
In most cases, if it’s been one year since your salary was last set, and your role and performance has evolved a good amount since then, this is certainly a reasonable time-frame in which to revisit your compensation. If on the other hand, your salary was increased only six or nine months ago, it might be a little too soon to ask. This is also true if you only started your job less than a year ago. There are of course exceptions to this, for example, the role turned out to be wildly different than what was discussed when you were hired, you got a promotion but not a salary to match. But, in most situations, expect to wait a year before bringing up the subject.
Whenever you ask, remember that the ‘excellent work’ part of this is essential. If you haven’t been performing well, made a lot or any major mistakes, your boss doesn’t seem pleased with your work, it’s probably not a good time to ask for a raise, it won’t go down well.It doesn’t mean you need to wait another year, all you need to do is work hard over the next 3 to 6 months to set things straight, make real improvements consistently and exceed expectations, and then, broach the subject.
4. Know your company’s pay review cycles
If you know that your company often plans pay rises during annual reviews, plan to initiate the conversation with your boss at least a month or so in advance. If you wait until a decision has already been made, it might be too late to make changes or perhaps your pay rise might be delayed.
Preparing before the meeting.
5. Research the market and what your work is worth
Look at various reports from industry specialists and even recruiter websites, to get an idea of the salary landscape for your position, level of experience and geographic area. You will usually find 3 bands, low, medium and high - work out how your current salary compares.
If you are underpaid, that could be a compelling point to use when you ask for a raise. On the other hand, if you are generously paid, you would want to consider what kind of raise would be reasonable, perhaps even consider some other benefit i.e. additional holiday. Note that these salaries are not set in stone, you will see that RIBA salaries and those of recruiters will vary considerably, they are just a helpful starting point but don’t treat them as the final word.
The same role in a company can be very different to another company, perhaps your role involves taking on other business duties too, not just the role of an ‘Architect’. You can also try talking to a friend in a similar role or recruiters and ask for their honest opinion. I would however suggest you talk with a recruiter you trust or someone that has been recommended to you.
6. Keep in mind your company’s salary structure
Once you have a good idea of the going rate for your work, take into consideration your own employer’s salary structure too. Some employers adhere to rigid policies for example, rarely giving anyone more than a 5% raise or having salary bands for each position. This helps to manage budgets and keep salaries within a company fair across the board. Again, there are always exceptions, perhaps it might be time to ask for a promotion along with your pay rise if you’re moving up to a different salary band.
During the meeting
7. What to say
Note that your request can be fairly brief, it doesn’t need to be a detailed presentation. You want to mention why you believe you have earned a raise and then invite a discussion.
‘I really appreciate the opportunities you have given me to take on more responsibilities for example, leading X project and managing a small team with Y and Z. I’m really pleased with the results, we successfully delivered X on time and to budget with a happy client and Y and Z have improved significantly since we started working together. I am looking forward to taking on more responsibilities and developing further with the company. I would be very grateful if we could talk about adjusting my salary to reflect how my role and level of contributions have developed since a year ago when my salary was last set?’
“I’m hoping we can talk about my salary. It’s been a year since my last raise, and I’ve taken on a number of new responsibilities since then. I’m managing X, Y and Z, and was able to save us a lot of time and money by resolving the issue with …. I think things are going really well, I would be keen to hear your thoughts too and I’d be very grateful if we can talk about increasing my salary to reflect this.”
If you have a figure in mind, it’s ok to state it, it’s perhaps better to state it now so both parties can manage expectations. If you don’t have a figure in mind, your boss might ask you during the conversation, you should have some idea and be prepared to give them a couple of bracket figures of what you would be content and happy with.
If your boss needs to get approval from someone else, another Director or HR person, you can say at the end of the conversation:
“I would be happy to summarise what we just spoke about in an email to you with a few bullet points if this would be helpful at all?”. This can make it easier for your boss to get approval for your raise but make sure, your email is well worded, polite, clearly structured and not too lengthy. Up to 5 bullet points with your key developments and achievements is plenty.
8. If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘maybe.’
Firstly, remember that any answer is better then no answer. It’s no good assuming anything until you ask, and once you ask, you should have a clear path to follow either way. If your boss says “maybe”, make sure to be clear on what the next steps are. Say something like “could I plan to check back with you during the week commencing the “20th?”. If you know your boss will get back to you or your boss has already said they will get back to you by XXX, a simple “Thanks, I appreciate it” is all that’s needed. Maybe note down when they said they would get back to you however and make sure to follow up if they haven’t.
If the answer is “no” on the other hand, then simply ask “can you give me some goals to work towards to get a raise in the future?”. A good boss will be able to tell you, if not right there and then, then they should come back to you with a few points in a week or two. Reasons can be wide ranging, it could be ‘you need to work more autonomously’, ‘you’re at the top the range for your position, you’d need to get promoted’, ‘your co-workers have complained about you and so you need to…’. Whatever the reasons are, you should know so that you can assess whether you are able and willing to work towards these (of course, if you feel they are realistic).
If you can’t get any specifics or your manager's expectations seem unreasonable, perhaps it is time to look elsewhere for that pay rise you want. Whatever the outcome, you will most certainly get something valuable from this conversation and as long as you go about it in the right way, your employer won't think any differently of you for asking, in fact, they are most likely to be relieved that you asked them before looking elsewhere.
If you’re nervous or your case is quite specific and you’re not sure how to go about it, please feel free to call us, we would be more than happy to help talk you through the process and give you some pointers!