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The Salary Talk: The Guide to Discussing a Pay Rise

David Law

Tue, 30 Jul, 2019

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 5 minutes


If you’re reading this, it’s possible that you want to talk to your manager about a rise in your salary but don’t know how. Or, perhaps, that you’d rather not have the Dread Talk at all. Alas, sometimes you have to speak up to be heard— and a pay rise is one of those times. 


Don’t despair, though. In this quick guide, we’ll go through the right reasons to ask for a pay rise and create a positive approach to the salary discussion. Then, we’ll explore the 3 key steps to having an effective, win-win talk about a rise. Don’t worry— it’ll be mostly painless!


Why talk about your salary?


Studies show that pay rise negotiations are the most terrifying discussion that can happen in business. People are afraid of being either a doormat or too confrontational, too direct or too apologetic, too aggressive or not assertive enough. The research also shows that women are more likely to feel uncomfortable before the conversation and to end up dissatisfied with the results. Other experts say that Millennials are particularly averse to having this talk.


It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s reframe some beliefs about salary rises. 


When you talk to your manager or boss about  upping your pay, it doesn’t mean you’re unhappy with them or the company, nor that you want to leave. Of course, switching jobs and companies is one way to achieve a higher salary. But having “the talk”, if anything, means that you’re committed to the business relationship and you want to keep investing in it.


No relationship, business or otherwise, stays the same forever. Change happens! When you got hired, you and your company decided that you were good for each other and fixed a compensation rate for your work.


Now, your input and responsibilities have increased. You might be creating more value for the company while your compensation has stayed the same. In other words, there’s an imbalance. Nothing more dramatic than that!


Preparing for the talk.


Stressful! Tough! Potentially conflictive! If these labels float through your mind when thinking about the talk, you’re not alone. 


Let’s lay down simple, actionable principles that you can apply to make your pay rise meeting run a lot more smoothly. 


1. A positive mindset.


That’s what you have to keep in mind when preparing for a salary talk. It’s about creating value for both parties to reach a state of balance. 


How you frame the conversation in your head is everything. If you start planning to have a pay rise talk when you feel you’ve already been wronged or undervalued, that’s a problem. If you imbue the issue with your negative perceptions and emotions, you’re setting yourself up for confrontation and failure.


If you want your salary rise talk to be successful, start by thinking of it as a sales operation. If you do work in sales, this should be easy. Instead of focusing on the imbalance, you need to make your manager (the client) of the value (your work) you’re already delivering. 


How do you do that? You need to begin by compiling your milestones in the company and the benefits you’ve delivered in a document. Make sure to include targets, metrics, and stats that show how you’re exceeding the expectations of your position and salary. Your manager is most likely not keeping track of all your actions and, because of that, doesn’t know you’re doing such an amazing job. Now, with your accomplishments laid out, you can show them your true value.


Also ask yourself how you’re contributing to the company as a whole, as well as how you are working to improve areas that don’t fall under your direct responsibilities. If you’re doing good work that makes the entire operation run better but you aren’t being compensated for it, your manager will now notice.


In short: Frame the topic and the conversation in clear, data-driven terms that show your real value and leave no room for hurt feelings.


2. Know thyself.


In a negotiation, things don’t always go your way. You have to learn to compromise. And, since a salary talk is, essentially, a negotiation, you’ll have to be willing to compromise on at least part of your demands. For a pay rise talk to be successful, with neither party feeling cheated in the end, there needs to be an exchange. 


So, the first thing you need to know is, ‘What am I prepared to compromise on and what is non-negotiable?’ Perhaps, instead of a pay rise in your regular salary, you could accept a different type of compensation. This could be a larger bonus, stock options, better healthcare, or even a boost on your promotion track.


Besides knowing your boundaries, you need to know your company. Start by finding out what the policies and target accomplishments apply to your role and performance. It’s important to know how you measure up, and you don’t want your manager to take advantage of what you ignore. 


You’ll also need to research just what you’re worth out there, in the job market, taking into account your skills and experience. 


Finally (but no less important), learn or estimate how large is your company’s budget for raising salaries at the moment. You’ve got to time your request right.


3. Create a win-win scenario.


Don’t fall into the temptation of fighting to defeat the other party. That rarely works and, even when it does, it’s at the cost of the decline of the relationship. If you play to win everything for yourself, you’ll create resentment and mistrust.


Instead, make this a re-commitment, an opportunity to improve your connection with the company. That means creating a scenario in which everyone wins, even if means less profit for you. 


Here’s where the information you prepared comes in handy. Show your manager the specifics on the benefits and value you’re offering. Then, propose solutions that take into account your own job market ‘price’ and the company’s current situation. 


In the end, you’ve got to do your best to talk about both your needs and theirs and keep both perspectives in mind when proposing solutions.


Key Points: How to talk a pay rise? 


  • Gather all the information mentioned in steps 1 and 2.

  • Consider talking to the HR sector to find out more about the company’s policies and budget.

  • Don’t spring the talk on your manager— let them know what you want to talk about and arrange to meet in advance.

  • Arrange the information in a way that is easy to understand and communicate. This way, you make sure none of your value is lost to a misunderstanding.

  • Keep your mindset positive and rehearse your reel. The more you practice, the easier it will be to be clear and team-oriented.

  • Be clear on what areas you can compromise and be ready to do so to create the best outcome.


And last but not least, don’t be afraid. When you recognise your value and help others appreciate it too, you’ll feel a lot more confident. Your job performance will likely be even better, and everyone lives forever happy.


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