I'm a career strategist, here's how to ask for a pay rise

Asking for more money at work can be scary – especially during a cost of living crisis. 

Inflation is currently at 10.7%, food and fuel cost a lot more, and wages aren’t stretching as far.

This sky-high inflation means many workers actually took a real-term pay cut.

It really isn’t surprising then that three-quarters of UK workers are on the job hunt this January, known as the Great Job Divorce.

But others are looking at how to ask for a salary increase, or how flexible working might be an opportunity to cut costs.

KK Harris is a Business Psychologist & Executive Coach Director at Talking Talent, who works with big companies around the world. 

Here, she shares her dos and don’ts for asking for a pay rise or flexible working arrangements.  

How to ask for a pay rise

Research your worth

How much you ought to be paid comes back to knowing your worth, not just in a self-love kind of way, but literally know how much you should be earning.  

KK Harris says: ‘We’d all like a pay rise but does how much you’re asking for actually make sense in the market?

‘You can do research on sites like GlassDoor, or even Google the question, “How much should X years of experience in X role should pay in the UK”. This information is out there, make sure you use it.’

Have a look over those performance reviews 

‘Sit down and really look at your latest performance review (if you have one),’ KK says, and question: ‘Have I grown? Have I met KPIs? Have I done more work and taken on more responsibility with no increase?’

Knowing what you’ve achieved is all part of the negotiation. 

‘Is there a need for more money in a cost of living crisis? Yes. Should your salary be rising in line with inflation? Of course. But just because you need it, it doesn’t mean they’re going to give it to you.’ 

Be clear, be bold 

When it’s time for the big talk, KK stresses how important it is to be straight with your managers. 

‘Tell them exactly what pay rise you want. Bring up your last performance review. Prove that you’re on track and delivering. Then, ask if it’s in the budget.

‘Whatever the conversation, you’re going to have to be courageous. 

‘Conversations about money are some of the scariest conversations we have – but they’re usually only scary because most people haven’t done their research. 

‘Don’t do yourself an injustice. Especially if you’ve been in an organisation for a really long time. 

‘Things like the annually reported gender and race pay gaps – have you looked into it? Does it apply to you or your workplace?

‘Without the knowledge, you go in fearful. Come with a number supported by research and you’ll be bolder. Mental leverage comes with knowing your value.’

Nurture yourself

Help yourself build confidence in work, by working on nourishing yourself outside of work. 

‘Carve out some time each week to work on your self-improvement and fill yourself with confidence,’ KK says. ‘For example, invest time in reading books, listening to podcasts, TED Talks or webinars.

‘Information and knowledge fill you with confidence. It will also make you better at your job.

Personability will get you places

You have to work on building your performance currency and relationship currency at work, KK says. 

She continues: ‘Quite often, people get caught up in the “doing” – their performance currency. 

‘They’re just working, working, working. But they’ve not built a network, and they don’t have friends or advocates in the office, so they don’t have any relationship currency.

‘This means nobody’s talking or thinking about you when you’re not in the room. You’re playing yourself small by not making an impression.’

You don’t need to be best friends with your co-workers, but getting to know them, and simply being a friendly face, will work in your favour. It will just make your job easier, too. 

If this fills you with dread, think of it as part of the negotiation again. 

KK says: ‘If your performance currency is not high, and you haven’t formed any workplace relationships, that manager you’re asking for a pay rise is going to say no. 

‘But if your performance currency speaks for itself, and you’ve got other people advocating for you and celebrating you, you’re probably going to be one of the lucky ones.

‘Have a think about what else you bring to the business.’

Keep on pushing

If your boss shuts you down, don’t give up. There are budgets, timelines…all sorts of red tapes that will affect how likely they are to be willing to grant a pay rise. But keep pushing for it. 

KK says: ‘Keep asking, “When will you be able to do it? Do you have a date in mind? When can we review this again?”

‘Ask for an estimated timeline. Then, immediately drop a calendar invite to your manager to schedule your next review.

‘Follow up your request in writing. Keep following up via email until you have your next review. Show that you are serious, and persistent. 

‘This is your life, and your career. Be persistent. And don’t let resentment fester.’

Don’t have an attitude

It’s going to be really, really infuriating if your request is turned down. But this gives you an opportunity. 

KK says: ‘You can still make a decision. You can decide to look for another position, or try to stake a compromise. But don’t ruin your career and future references with resentment.’

So, you don’t necessarily have to jump ship right away.

Weigh up your options, consider how happy you are, how much money you have to tide you over through job hunting, and whether there’s a likelihood your boss will budge. 

KK says: ‘Look at your colleagues, are they getting what they want? If nobody is getting their needs met, it’s unlikely you will, so in that case consider leaving.’

Even if you want to leave, can you stick around while looking for a replacement job? 

‘What are your other options? Know your playing field very well before making any major decisions,’ KK concludes. 

How to ask for flexible working

Know your rights, and do your research 

Just like people in marketing will pitch a new idea to a client, you need to pitch yourself and, specifically, why you need this adjustment. 

KK says: ‘The first thing you need to do is actually know what the flexible working policy is. 

‘What are your rights? What stance does the business usually take? In a corporate space this may be found on an employee hub, but if you can’t find this information, you’re going to have to ask the question.’

It’s also essential to be prepared before talking to your employer, KK says. 

‘Write down all the things that will make a strong business case for the flexible working arrangement you want. 

‘Especially if you’re more junior and you’ve never done this before, your boss will ask you why you want to make this change, so make sure you have a good answer ready.’

Work out what you need 

If you’re stuck, ask yourself: what does flexible working look like to you?

KK says: ‘Does it mean working from home two days a week, or does it mean you need to work remotely for six months? Perhaps you want to reduce your days or hours? 

‘Have a clear idea of what you want in your mind and don’t be afraid to explain why.’

Cater to their interests 

It’s likely that your boss will come back with some reason why this would harm the business, and so they just can’t do it. 

Get around this is by thinking ahead: what will their argument be, and how can you counter it?

KK says: ‘Bosses like to know that the person making the request has thought about the impact their request could have on the business.

‘You don’t need to have the solutions (although it’s great if you do!) but show that you’ve carefully considered the wider impact of your request and share any ideas you have on how to make the transition smoother.

‘This shows that you’re working with the business, you’ve considered everyone, and you’re much more likely to get what you want.’

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