HELP! How can I get a pay rise?

Dear Aunty,

Please help. I have been working for the same company for 3.5 years but I am yet to receive a pay rise. Although I am a graduate I took a job with a low salary because there were no other options. 

How can I get a pay rise? 

Aunty says,

Firstly, let me say that I am impressed by your mature decision to take a job with a low salary in order to secure a job. Your decision to take a job and to work hard in order to advance is to be applauded. Secondly, let me say that I understand your frustration in not being offered more pay in recognition of your hard work.

Asking for a pay rise can be awkward but if you feel that you are not being paid as much as you deserve then here are my 5 tips for approaching the issue:

  1. Research
  2. Timing
  3. Evidence
  4. Emotion
  5. Professionalism

1. Research

Have any of your colleagues asked for a pay rise? If so, how were these requests received by your employer? There is little point preparing your case for a pay rise if your employer will refuse, or worse still – take offence. If you are unsure, think hard about how your employer may react to your request and whether the benefits of making your case for a pay rise will be greater than the potential costs. Once you have done this find out what is an appropriate amount of pay for someone of your skills and experience. You may be asked to produce a figure and justify your response so make sure that you know what you want. If  you can, find out what others in your organisation are paid or what people doing a similar job in other organisations are paid.

2. Timing

Who is the right person to ask about a pay rise within your organisation? Is it your line-manager, human resource manager or the owner of the company? The procedure can vary from organisation to organisation and it is important that you select the right person to approach so that (a) your approach is received by someone able to make this decision and (b) you do not offend anyone by not asking them. Once you’ve found out who to approach it is important to get your timing right. Remember that your employer may not always have time to properly consider your request and if you get your timing wrong they may not properly consider your request. Try to avoid ambushing them in the office and demanding that they listen to your request. Instead, ask them for a meeting or, if applicable, raise the issue during your annual appraisal or review.

3. Evidence

Just because you think you are worth a pay rise it does not mean that your employer will instantly agree – you may have to convince them that you are worth the extra pay. Write down all the good things you’ve done this year, how you’ve helped your organisation make money, save money or improve quality. You can then add this information to the information you have obtained on the pay people in similar positions receive. You may need to put your request in a formal document or business case or you can just use this information in your discussions with your employer.

4. Emotion

Try to take emotion out of the issue and remember that this issue is just business. Do your research and be ready to put forward a persuasive and rational argument as this should help you to keep calm. Rehearse what you want to say and practice how you will handle your employers responses – this will help you to stay calm. Avoid arguing or upsetting your employer as this could lead to problems in the future.

5. Professionalism

What if your request for a pay rise is refused? The most important thing is to stay calm and to act professionally. There are many reasons why your request might have been refused and it is important for you to find out these reasons. Some of these reasons could include:

  • The company is struggling and insufficient funds to make pay awards at the current time
  • There are certain targets or performance indicators that you need to meet in order for them to justify the increase in pay
  • You are being considered for a promotion (!) rather than a pay rise

Whatever the reason(s) it is important for you to understand them so you know exactly what you need to demonstrate in the future to achieve your desired pay increase. Ask about what you can do in order to get a raise, and ask when you can talk about it again. Keep a record of the conversation, and then follow it up after the appropriate time. Furthermore, even though your request for a pay rise may have been denied you may be able to negotiate other improvements to your employment package such as additional training or increased holiday entitlements.

I hope that this information will be of use to you and wish you every success for the future.

Yours faithfully,



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