How to ask for a payrise – without getting the sack!

It’s one of those conversations you dread, but asking for a pay rise is becoming more and more commonplace. A recent poll of 2,000 workers found that more than half had never asked their boss for more money and a fifth of those surveyed by employment law specialist Slater & Gordon said they feared that they could be handed their P45 for requesting a raise.

So, what is the best way to ask for a raise? And what should you avoid doing or saying to ensure you don’t get the sack?

In this article I, offer my ten top tips for securing that extra cash.

Like all ‘difficult’ conversations, the answer is to know what you are trying to achieve and then make sure your message lands in a clear, concise way with no mixed messages. Let me explain …

Know your bottom line

How much are you prepared to accept? In any form of negotiation, we must always know what our bottom line will be. What is acceptable and what is not. If you’ve ever bid at an auction, you’ll be aware of auction fever – where adrenalin and excitement often makes you bid more than you’d intended. Well the same can happen with pay negotiations –  but in reverse! You must always know how far you’re prepared to push. Are you prepared to resign if the offer is too small? Or, in fact will you accept anything because you’re desperate to keep the job?

Does your boss know your bottom line?

Play this one close to your chest if you can. This is like playing Poker. If your boss knows you’ll accept 5%, there is no use asking for 25%!

Your tactics

What your tactics are going to be? Are you going to negotiate or have a stand-off? For example, are you going to start by asking for a 20% rise, knowing that you’ll accept 10%? Or are you going to ask for 20% and stick to it? Again, we are playing Poker here.

Choose your timing wisely

All your hard work will have been wasted if you chose the wrong moment to ask for a rise. Chose a time when your boss is not hassled or rushed, so they have to time to listen to you. This is easier for people who are working from home, because all meetings have to be pre-arranged.

State your case

Prepare this well and have some clear arguments why you deserve a rise. For example: have all your colleagues in a similar role recently had rises? Have you not had a rise for over 2 years? Has your output, profitability or job spec significantly increased or grown?

Don’t give out mixed messages!

When we speak we give out hundreds of small body language, vocal and emotional signals that will be easily picked up by our listener. We don’t want to appear nervous or tentative. Bosses don’t have to be experts to read our subconscious signals – we all know when someone is being honest, defensive or angry. Or bluffing. So speak slowly and hold relaxed eye contact. Sound strong, yet reasonable.

Know when to stop talking

Once you’ve made your case and laid your cards in the table, stop talking. When we get anxious, we often repeat our argument to make it more forceful. But in fact it has the opposite effect! Say it once and then stop talking. Remember, you’re playing poker.

Keep calm in the face of rejection

If your boss responds with an emphatic ‘NO’, keep calm and carry on. Letting off steam can make you feel better but rarely help the situation. And, of course, the person who gets angry always loses the argument. Those of us who have ever dealt with children know that once you shout or lose your temper, you have lost your authority.

When we get upset we often speed up our speech, which can make us look out of control. We want to look and sound strong, so slow down. You can respond but don’t ‘react’.

Ask what they would do in your shoes

Would they accept the offer that they have just made to you? Ask them what might seem a more reasonable offer to them.

Always remember to listen

Remember to listen. Often when we get upset or anxious we stop listening because our mind is thinking uploads of counterarguments and justifications. Keep a clear head by remembering to listen.


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