The question of how to ask for a pay rise is one that plagues the majority of the workforce, particularly around the performance review period. Depending on your communication style and knack for self-promotion, you might find that asking for a pay rise is a total breeze.

For many of us, however, the subject of a pay rise is riddled with anxiety and endless questions like: ‘How often should you get a pay rise?"

The answer depends on a number of factors, which of course, includes your performance but also external factors that you can’t control, like your company’s financial position and tighter market conditions. The important thing to remember is that not getting the pay rise you want doesn’t always come down to poor performance on your part.

It can be demoralising to receive a firm ‘no’ when asking for a pay rise, but the good news is there are some steps you can take to turn an awkward and negative situation into a positive one.

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Examine your expectations before asking for a pay rise

When it comes to asking for a pay rise, the truth is you have to earn it. So, if you’re going to ask your boss for more money for doing the same job, taking a step back and reviewing the contribution you have made over the year is key. You have to be honest and ask yourself, “Do I deserve a pay rise?”

Have you met and exceeded all your goals and expectations? If so, then it’s understandable to be not happy with no pay rise, and you’re in a good position to make a further case for a pay rise. If you’ve slipped on some of your objectives and KPIs, then hearing ‘no pay rise’ shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Build your case for a salary increase

If you still feel like your workplace efforts are not aligned with your salary, stay calm. The most productive thing you can do is sit down with your manager and list all of the reasons why you deserve a pay rise. Compile a list before the meeting with evidence to back up your case, including things like salary benchmarks for your role, your key achievements and comparable open jobs that pay more than your current salary.

Be sure to note any targets you’ve smashed or additional business and revenue you’ve brought into the business. Your manager is more likely to respond to quantifiable contributions over an emotional plea.

Above all, it’s important to be your own biggest advocate if you aren’t happy with not receiving a pay rise. Your manager will not always know what projects you are working on, especially when you have a very hands-off manager. This is why it’s important to have a list of all the great work you have done, prior to the review period, as proof.

If you can clearly explain why you deserve a pay rise and back that up with plenty of examples and proof, then you are putting yourself in the strongest possible position to secure the salary increase you want.

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Consider negotiating for more or better benefits as a means of compensation

When faced with the situation where a pay rise is not possible due to budget limitations, it’s essential to explore alternative avenues for compensation. While a higher salary is often the desired outcome, other employee benefits can enhance your overall package and provide tangible value. Here’s how you can navigate this situation:

Evaluate your priorities: Before approaching your employer, assess your personal priorities and consider the benefits that would be most valuable to you. This could include additional vacation days, flexible working hours, professional development opportunities, health and wellness benefits, or a performance-based bonus structure.

Research industry standards: Conduct thorough research to determine what benefits are commonly offered in your industry and at similar positions. This will help you establish a benchmark for what is reasonable to request.

Propose specific benefits: Clearly articulate the benefits you are seeking and explain how they will contribute to your job satisfaction and motivation. Make sure to link these benefits to your performance and the value you bring to the organisation.

Be open to compromise: Recognise your employer’s limitations but remain open to alternative solutions. If a pay rise is not feasible, consider negotiating for a combination of benefits that will provide you with a fair compensation package.

Maintain a positive attitude: Throughout the negotiation process, maintain a professional and positive demeanour. Demonstrating your commitment to the organisation and a willingness to find mutually beneficial solutions will leave a positive impression.

Remember, negotiating for additional benefits requires effective communication, preparation, and a clear understanding of your own value. By taking a proactive approach and exploring alternative forms of compensation, you can strive for a more favourable outcome, even if a pay rise is not immediately achievable.

Your requests were rejected. What next?

You’ve presented your case, exercised your best negotiation skills and yet still you’ve been told ‘no pay rise’. It’s natural to feel rejected and angry, as most people think a ‘no’ means you’re not good enough. This is the prime time when you run the risk of becoming disinterested at work, bitter and detached.

However, it’s important not to feel so dejected that it impacts the quality of your work and hinders your chances of a pay rise in the future. The way you conduct yourself in a challenging professional situation will have a major impact on your reputation, often for the long term.

It’s, therefore, extremely important that you conduct yourself with dignity. Stay motivated, be respectful and focus on what you can control: the quality of your own work.

How to express disappointment

If you weren’t offered a specific reason during your meeting, it’s important to follow up and find out why you didn’t get a pay rise. This is the most effective way to express your disappointment in not getting a raise. Be proactive, and don’t make assumptions.

Sit down with your manager to calmly and constructively discuss the issue. Perhaps there genuinely isn’t enough budget due to economic events or business performance. Most of us have heard this excuse in the past, and, although it’s disappointing, at least you know your performance isn’t the issue.

If your performance is to blame, getting feedback from the horse’s mouth will allow you to work on improving and showing progress for your next performance review. As awkward and humbling as it is to hear that your work isn’t up to scratch, understanding why the decision was made will ultimately help you to improve and get what you want faster.

It’s also worth getting advice and a different perspective from an outside party, such as a mentor. Ideally, you should speak to someone who has been in a similar position before. It’s hard to know how to express disappointment in a raise, so it will be extremely useful to speak to someone who has been through it and can offer advice on the best ways to handle it.

Work towards the next opportunity for a pay rise

If you’re deliberating how to respond to a low salary increase or no pay rise at all, the short answer is: focus on the future.

If you’ve followed our advice from earlier on in this article, you will have thoroughly discussed all of the factors that contributed to your lack of pay rise this time around. You should therefore be armed with all the information you need to make it difficult — maybe even impossible — for your boss to say, ‘no pay rise’ at the next performance review.

Work closely with your manager to focus on the key priorities and goals for the new review period, and ensure you check in from time to time. Try to welcome criticism and use it to develop and work towards getting that pay rise.

You could also explore alternatives to benefit you in other ways. Suggest taking on some training that will add value to the business as well as your skill set. Speak to your manager about career development opportunities within the organisation and the chance to get involved in a broader range of projects to grow and strengthen your experience.

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Moving on to a new job

Before you hastily hand in your resignation and start looking for a new job, make sure you’ve thought it through and are confident it’s the best decision for your future. In some cases, financial and economic factors may mean that the company simply can’t afford to give you a pay rise at this time.

However, if you have done your research, explored other options and still feel like your achievements have gone under-appreciated, then perhaps you are working for a company that doesn’t value its employees appropriately. If that is the case, then perhaps it’s time to move on.

When you resign, don’t focus on the fact that money is driving you away, as this most likely won’t leave the best lasting impression on your ex-employer. Conduct yourself with decorum and move forward on a positive note, and you are far more likely to succeed in achieving your career and financial goals.

Know what you are worth

Knowing your market value — along with the ability to clearly outline your achievements and skills — will go a long way towards helping you to obtain the salary you deserve.

Before you begin salary discussions with potential future employers, visit our Salary Guide today to research your current market value. This guide provides detailed benchmarks for roles and functions across key industries, including Finance and Accounting, IT and Digital, Sales, Marketing, Human Resources, Procurement and Property.

Armed with this up-to-date market information, you’ll be able to approach your next salary discussion with knowledge and confidence.

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