Careers advice

How to ask for a pay rise (and when)

There are three things you need to get right.

What you’ll learn:

  • What to expect when you ask for a payrise
  • When you should ask for a payrise
  • The tone you should use when asking for a payrise
  • The justifications you should use when asking for a payrise
  • Following up on a salary raise conversation (with an example)
  • How to negotiate a pay rise when you have another offer on the table
  • Common mistakes people make when asking for a payrise

Although an intimidating prospect, asking for a raise is a very standard part of working life. Being paid what you’re worth is key to feeling satisfied at work, and you shouldn’t shy away from having this conversation if you want to.

That said, discussing money is always something that should be approached carefully, and you’ll need to plan your pitch properly if you want to see success. We reckon there are three things you’ll need to get right:

  • The timing
  • The tone
  • The justification 

We’re going to dive deep into each of these factors so that you can approach this conversation on the best footing possible

What to expect when you ask for a pay rise

Understandably, you might be a bit nervous about asking for a payrise, so having an idea of what to expect when you walk into the room might be handy. Here are some questions people often have about this situation:

  • Who do you talk to about a pay rise? Generally speaking, you’ll have this conversation with your direct manager, and this should be who you organise the meeting with.
  • Will my manager be angry if I ask for a payrise? No, if your manager is professional they won’t get annoyed about you asking for a payrise. It’s a very common occurrence in organisations, and something they will almost certainly have dealt with before. The only reason they might get frustrated is if you ask at a really bad time, for example when the business isn’t doing well financially or your manager is swamped.
  • Do I need to prepare when asking for a payrise? Yes, absolutely. You don’t want to walk into this meeting and try and wing it. We’ll be giving you specific tips on the preparation you need to do.

When to ask for a pay raise

Timing is everything when it comes to asking for a payrise. Chances are, you’ll be approaching your direct manager when it comes to having this conversation, so here are some absolute do nots of picking your moment:

  • Do not shoehorn this topic into a recurring meeting, or the last 5 minutes of a separate chat. You don’t need to give your manager a heads up that this chat is coming, but it’s worthy of a meeting all of its own. Whatever system your company has for setting up meetings, use that as normal, and make sure you can book a private space.
  • Do not ask if the company is struggling financially. For obvious reasons, if the company is in fiscal strife, it’s not the time to be asking for more money. Not only are you almost certain to be turned down, you’re showing a lack of understanding of the business at large, which isn’t a good look for someone seeking to justify their value.
  • Do not ask if you know your manager is having a tough time. Similarly, you’re only reducing your chances if you know your manager is going through a rough patch, whether personally or professionally. It’s a matter of reading the room and gauging whether they’ve got the bandwidth to consider your request.

You need to time this conversation right.

How to ask for a pay rise - getting the tone right

We’ll get into exactly what you should say in a moment, but almost as important is how you’ll say it.

The most important thing is to remain calm and objective. We understand this is easier said than done, especially if you’re nervous about having the conversation in the first place, but you need to try and keep emotions out of it and stay focussed on presenting your case.

In particular, it’s important to avoid:

  • Making threats: it’s easy, if you're on edge, to say something like: “I feel I need this pay raise or else I’ll have to look for another job”. While this may well be true, it comes across like a threat, and backs your manager into a corner.
  • Saying you feel awkward about asking: as we’ve said, asking for a pay raise is nothing to be embarrassed about, so there’s no need to start the conversation with: “I feel bad for asking, but…”. This immediately takes away the strength of the justifications you’re about to make, and can make the conversation unnecessarily uncomfortable.
  • Overtalking: you want to keep your points clear, concise and centred around your justifications. Getting sidetracked, especially into personal reasons for why you need the extra money will only be a distraction, and won’t do anything to help your chances.

How to ask for a pay rise - the justifications

The best way to ask for a pay rise is to focus around what you have contributed to the company. In other words, you’re demonstrating you’re worth it. This means doing some research, winging it is not the go. 

Specifically, think about:

  • Projects you’ve delivered: how have you contributed to core business projects that have delivered tangible results for the business?
  • KPIs you’ve met: as well as group efforts, think about your personal KPIs and how you’ve met or exceeded them.
  • Skills you’ve gained: think about a timeframe (12 months is always a good bet), and the skills and experiences you’ve gained in that period. How do these make you even more of an asset to the company?

You need to have your justifications mapped out ahead of time.

With all of these, details are your friend. Vague statements like: “Well I was part of X project and I think my contribution was key,” don’t sound overly convincing. Instead get some facts and figures in there – “my suggestion to automate X process saved Y amount of time, and allowed us to reach Z extra customers as a result.” Doing so will demonstrate specifically what you as an individual bring to the table, and subconsciously, will make your manager think about what the team might lose if you did decide to take your talents elsewhere. 

While we wouldn’t recommend using this as your primary reason, a strong supplementary justification can be demonstrating how you’re living the company’s values. In many modern businesses, these values are now explicitly stated as part of the job requirements and if you’ve really bought into them this can strengthen your case. Again, don’t just claim to be living the values – provide examples.

We’ll finish with two quick no-nos when it comes to asking for a pay rise. Don’t:

  • Argue time served: while companies tend to reward tenure, this isn’t a strong argument if you’re asking for a payrise. It also sounds a little bit like you’re entitled to a pay rise which shows the wrong attitude.
  • Compare yourself to other employees: this is a cardinal sin. Even if you know what your colleagues are paid, using this information as leverage when asking for a salary increase is an awful look for all sorts of reasons.

Following up on a salary raise conversation (with example)

It might be that you came to an agreement in your conversation that suited both of you, but then you don’t hear about it for a while. If this happens, it’s likely because your manager has become swamped by other tasks, or there has been a miscommunication with the payroll team. All this takes is a simple, friendly email to your manager to get things moving again. For example:


Thank you again for meeting with me the other day to talk about my salary. I was just following up to check when I can expect the change we agreed upon to be implemented by the payroll team?

Kind regards,

How to negotiate a pay rise when you have another offer on the table

Being offered a job by another company is a great feeling, and it does indeed put you in a good position when it comes to a salary negotiation. However, it’s vital that you don’t overplay your hand and use this favourable circumstance to try and blackmail your current employer into giving you a raise. And, in some ways, it might be worth asking yourself the question – why am I considering other job offers, and why am I only prepared to stay in my current role if I get a pay rise?

However, we think it’s up to you regarding whether you think it’s appropriate to mention a job offer as part of your salary negotiation. This is about reading the room, and knowing who you’re talking to. If you think it’s only going to put peoples’ backs up, it’s probably not worth it. However, if you do decide to leave, you’ll likely end up mentioning the new role anyway, at which time the current employer might hit you with a counteroffer out of the blue

Common mistakes people make when asking for a payrise

  • Not justifying your request: simply asking for a payrise, or expecting to get one because you’ve been at the company a long time isn’t good enough. You need to come in armed with proper justifications that demonstrate why you deserve it.
  • Asking for too much: not doing your salary research and coming in with an unreasonable request not only makes you sound greedy, but also undermines any subsequent efforts to repitch your request at a more reasonable level. It’s likely that the person on the other end of the discussion will think you’re just chancing your luck, rather than believing you have reasonable grounds to ask for a raise.
  • Becoming aggressive: being confident and straightforward is good, being pushy or overly assertive isn’t. Keep your tone neutral, and be reasonable at all times.
  • Threatening to quit: offering ultimatums that you’ll leave the organisation if you don’t get your way isn’t the way to go about a negotiation. And what if they say no? Are you really going to quit?
  • Asking at the wrong moment: asking at a high stress time for the management, financially or workload wise, isn’t a good idea, and is almost certainly going to reduce your chances of getting your desired outcome. Even if things seem okay now, but there have been recent budget cuts in the business, your request might come across as tone deaf.
  • Bringing up your personal life: good companies should care about their employees, and do everything they can to look after them. However, this can’t reasonably extend to offering pay rises just because you’ve had an unexpected expense in your personal life. If they did this, they’d be setting a precedent for all employees to do the same. You’re much better off building your case around what you bring to the business, rather than making it about you.
  • Using another company’s offer you’re not seriously considering: we’ve already talked about negotiating a pay rise when you’ve had an offer from another company. However, we’d very much recommend not playing this card unless you’d seriously think about taking that other job. If, ultimately, your current employer can’t afford to match the pay from the other organisation, you’ve somewhat backed yourself into a corner, where the employer may think you weren’t being honest about the other job if you don’t then take it.
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