Careers advice

3 things that can stop you getting a pay rise

Let’s cut out these mistakes.

Last updated: 19 April 2023

What you’ll learn:

  • How to ask for a payrise
  • How imposter syndrome can prevent you from getting a pay rise
  • How to know how much to ask for

With the cost of living currently so high in Aotearoa New Zealand, it’s no surprise that we’re all looking at ways to increase the amount of money we’ve got coming in. If you’re working, one of the obvious ways to do this is to get a pay rise at work.

However, as you can imagine, pay rises don’t just tend to land in your lap, and there are a number of things that can get in the way of attaining that sweet salary increase.

What is stopping you from getting a pay rise?

1. You’re not asking

Yes, occasionally you might get a pay rise without asking for one. For example, many businesses conduct performance reviews for their employees, which can be times when you get a relatively consistent pay increase. For example, you might know in advance that, as long as you hit your key performance indicators (KPIs), you’ll be eligible for a 2% increase.

However, there are problems if you’re relying on these meetings to get a pay rise. First, they might be spaced quite far apart – it’s common for performance reviews to be once per year. So, if you have a feeling you’re being underpaid, it could be a long time before you have the chance to rectify this. Similarly, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a pay rise in your performance review, particularly if you aren’t pushing for one.

So, if you feel you deserve a pay rise – ask. We get that this is easier said than done, particularly if you suffer with imposter syndrome, which can make you feel as if you don’t deserve to be in the role you’re in, let alone that you should get an increase in your salary.

However, when it comes to pay rises, it’s often a case of if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So, a first step can be to convince yourself that you deserve a pay rise, because eventually you’ll need to convince your manager that you do.

Imposter syndrome can stand in the way of asking for a payrise.

2. You’re asking at the wrong time (or place)

When it comes to broaching the subject of a pay rise with your manager, it’s not a question of any time and any place. How you go about setting up this conversation will have a considerable bearing on its outcome.

Here are some pointers:

  • Be aware of your manager’s workload: if you know that they're absolutely slammed with work, about to go on leave or have just come back from some time away, it’s not a good time to ask. Bear in mind that it’s unlikely to be solely up to your manager if you get a pay rise, as they’ll have to liaise with the accounts team and potentially their own manager. In other words, it’s a bit of work for them, so picking your moment is key.
  • Consider the wider business: you also need to think about the wider trends with the organisation and industry. For example, if you know the company has been struggling and not hitting its financial targets, it might sound a bit tone deaf to go ahead and ask for a pay rise at this time. If your organisation holds all company meetings, these can be a good source of information on how the business is going, as can relevant industry publications that may provide financial forecasts for what to expect in the future.
  • Do it properly: by this we mean, don’t ambush your manager with this conversation out of the blue, or tack this discussion on to the end of another meeting. If you’re planning to request a pay rise from your manager, you should organise a meeting around this, in a private meeting room, and give them a heads up that this is what it’s going to be about. Not only is this polite, it will also probably improve your chances. Ultimately, there’s a good chance that this discussion will end up in a negotiation, so if your manager has the opportunity to talk to the accounts team and find out how much financial wiggle room there is, you might get an answer more quickly.
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3. You’re asking for the wrong amount

Okay, so now we’re getting into the nitty gritty of the conversation itself. Of course, one of the most important things to decide before entering into a negotiation is what your starting pitch will be, and this means doing some salary research.

The best place to start with this research is by using our free online salary guide, which shows you a breakdown of the average pay in New Zealand jobs from a wide range of industries. Not only will this give you a great point from which to start your salary negotiation, it can also be a useful argument in your case. If our salary guide shows that the average pay for your job is considerably higher than what you’re currently receiving, this is a powerful pointer that demonstrates your company isn’t paying you what you deserve.

A few other tips for talking about cash figures during salary negotiations:

  • Ask for slightly more than what you’d be happy with: of course, you don’t want to name an astronomical sum of money that makes you appear unrealistic. However, given that your employer will probably come back with a counter offer, if you start with the salary you’re hoping for, you might find yourself haggled down.
  • Give a range: it can be helpful to your manager for you to provide a range of salaries that you’d be happy with, rather than just naming a single figure. Again, make sure your starting range is slightly above the final amount you’d be happy to take home.
  • Be able to back it up: we’ve already mentioned the importance of having some salary data to back up your request, but you also need to provide some tangible reasons for why you deserve a raise, based on your performance. The best way to do this is to come equipped with some examples of how you’ve smashed your core job duties and brought extra value that deserves to be recognised.


Al Hall
Al Hall

Al Hall is a regular contributor at Trade Me Jobs and Trade Me Property. He’s dedicated to helping people succeed in their aspirations to find their dream job and place to live.