How to Ask for a Pay Rise – Contains Examples from Real Life

Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. – Ralph Marston

By Jacqueline Schaalje

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I’m sure you sometimes think to yourself: I wish I had more money next month, or next year. Well, if you’re working, there is only one easy way to get more money: ask your boss! This article gives you some instruction about this delicate matter, which is asking for a pay rise. In case you don’t want to ask your manager for more money (but you should!), you could just read this to learn some important business vocabulary.

Ready for your Pay Rise Day

Pay rise or simply rise is also called raise. Speakers in the UK use rise, and they tend to think that the American term for the same thing, raise, is an informal word. It all means the same: an increase in salary (so more salary).

When I was younger I wasn’t aware of the difference between rise and raise. I learnt mainly British English, but also heard lots of American English, and so some words that I use are American. Anyhow, one day I complained to my boss, who was Scottish and not a friendly person, that I would like a raise.

“Raise?” He raised (ha!) his eyebrows in irritation and disdain*. “For what? What have you done that makes you think you deserve a pay rise?” he thundered.

*disdain = a feeling that you are much better than someone else

I quickly made up a not very impressive list of accomplishments.

This was one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. (There were many more.)

And so I took home with me the “correct” use of the word pay rise, but not much else.

The thing I had forgotten is that yeah, usually you need to show your employer that you are worth the extra money. This is called leverage. You can’t expect to drink cups of coffee and gossip all day and get more money than you’re already getting. Working in a job where you can drink coffee and gossip all day long doesn’t stay exciting for long anyway.

So here are some quick and dirty tips to ask your employer for a raise, pardon, a rise.

The simple way to get a raise (Am.)/ rise (Br.)

The simple way to ask for a rise is to offer something in return. It once worked for me to get a yearly pay rise when I offered to work more hours (I started in a part-time job). My employer also paid two language courses for me. This strategy will only work when there is more work for you to do, so it would help if you found ways to make your job busier. Sounds easier than it is, perhaps. Find a way to make the company more money, more clients, more business. If you make yourself more useful to make the company successful, your manager would be a fool not to reward you.

The opportunistic way to ask for a raise

Wait until the company results are in and they’re really good. Profits have risen, return on investment is impressive, the turnover is sky-high, and that new market in Asia has proved to be responsible for a 30 percent increase in global market share. Wait until the champagne has stopped flowing and you can’t see any more caviar. The time to strike is when you notice your manager running round with a blissful smile on her face. Now is the time to ask for a little extra on your pay slip. Your manager is probably smiling because she got some extra numbers in her bank account herself. In short, when the company is on the move and flush in cash, that may be the moment they feel generous enough to promote you. The other side of the coin is, when the company is in trouble, you’d better stop yourself from asking for a raise. The chances of getting a promotion then will drop to zero.

The I-am-better-than-my-colleagues way of asking for a raise

Of course you’re working in a team, but you don’t always need to be exaggeratedly modest about your own skills. If you have some special skills that are valuable to the company, you shouldn’t hesitate to bring it to your manager’s attention. Don’t really have anything special? Try to keep a diary of your accomplishments, and important ideas or changes that you introduced and that were implemented. It can sometimes help if you ask colleagues from other departments for advice. Your colleagues or co-workers can tell you details about the organization that escaped your notice, but that are important to know when you approach your manager to talk about money. Don’t give up too soon when you use this approach. It may take several times of asking before you get your rise.

A friend of mine, Dan, asks for a rise regularly. He pulls out his list of accomplishments, which he also emails to his manager every month. Just as regularly his manager tells him that he’d love to give him a raise but that unfortunately he has reached the ceiling for salaried workers at their organization. Dan has been in the highest scale for years, and the company policy forbids them to pay him more. Do you know how many times he’s been told the same thing? Tens of times. And how many times do you think Dan has got a pay rise? Oh, about five times. He now earns 70 percent more than what he earned 7 years ago. That’s a rise of 10 percent every year. Not bad eh? And his salary was already good. Of course his organization also profits from him. Dan is now an international expert in his field; it would be very hard to replace him.

The way to get a rise if your manager doesn’t appreciate you

Let’s face it, some managers are weak, lazy or not interested in wanting the best for their workers. They don’t appreciate you having leverage to ask for a rise. It seems you are stuck. No, not really. If you want to stay in your job, then you should do the following: recruit your co-workers to your cause. You can ask the HR officer(s) for advice, and co-workers in other departments. If you hear that your whole department or even the whole organization is underpaid (= not earning what they deserve), consider taking action together. You don’t need to be a member of a worker’s union to be able to join forces to negotiate with your employer. It’s worth trying anyway.

TIP: You must always be realistic. Know what you can expect in your job/company/experience level. You must know what the industry standard is, what your job description or your designation deserves and use this as a basis to ask for a raise. Without such knowledge, you would be beating around the bush (= randomly trying your luck). Your manager is certainly going to take advantage of your lack of awareness. Have some examples ready of what others in your department or in comparable jobs are making. If there is no reason you should earn less, you have a valuable point in your discussion.

TIP not to do:

Here is one more tip of what not to do:
You must never use any strategy that can backfire on you. For instance, it is very common for employees to use a new job offer while negotiating or asking for a pay rise. If you are not willing to leave the company or if you don’t really have such a job offer, then don’t use this strategy. Your manager can always turn around and ask you to take up on the new job offer, in which case your bluff will fall flat and you may be left jobless.

A good example of this mistaken strategy is Franc, an arrogant French baker. He thinks he is the best baker in the whole world, or at least in Israel. When he first immigrated to Israel from France he took a job at one of the big chains of bakeries, but he soon regretted having accepted an average salary. He got a bright idea that he could threaten his manager with another job offer where he would earn 30 percent more. This job was at a bread and pastry factory, but Franc hadn’t signed a contract yet, nor had he and his future boss discussed all the petty (=small) details. Franc’s manager at the big chain wasn’t impressed. “If you want to take this other job, go ahead,” he said. And with that, Franc was jobless. The same day he received a phone call from the factory that they were sorry, but they had decided to offer the job to another candidate. So he lost that job too. Franc then spent several weeks moping (= being sad) on the sofa and looking for different employment, and lo and behold, he found a great job at a French bakery and cafe. Today, he’s baking croissants and baguettes from the early morning, which he loves. Even better is, the cafe’s owner appreciates his pastries so much, and maybe the fact that Franc is really French, that he topped up his salary several times. A few months later, Franc is making a fat salary, much more than what bakers usually earn. Yup, he was lucky.

Hope this inspired you to ask for a pay rise yourself. You probably deserve it. I have to add one thing though, that money isn’t the only thing that can make you happy in your job. If your manager never gives you any compliments or makes you feel valuable, no amount of money will help.


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