Even in the current climate of transparency, asking for a pay rise seems to
be a notoriously taboo subject. But if you feel you have proved your worth,
surely you are within your rights to request the appropriate compensation?
Different working environments call for different approaches, but there are a
set of customs which should make the whole process less painful and, hopefully,
Top of the list of importance is timing. The worst time to question an
‘across the board’ salary review, for example, is when it has just been dealt
out – a knee-jerk reaction really isn’t the best bet.
You should research the market – perhaps speak with colleagues, recruitment
consultancies or professional institutes. Evaluate your job over the past year
and make a note of all your achievements, especially those that may have earned
or saved the company money.
On the other hand, it can be important not to be too modest in your request.
Find out what your company’s pay policy is; if it is performance related rather
than a percentage increase across the board, find out how your performance has
been evaluated. Then you should focus on the sort of reward you feel you
deserve, rather than just what you need.
As with any work place negotiation, however, the approach you take and the
confidence you display are key to success. In her book Women don’t ask:
negotiation and the gender divide, Linda Babcock claims that there is a
particular part of the female psychology surrounding communication that can put
them behind men in the competition for a much coveted pay rise.
A survey from the book shows that only 12% of women, compared to 51.5% of
men, successfully negotiated the figure they wanted when offered a salary
But a study that Babcock carried out with the Harvard Business School
discovered that women negotiating a pay rise, performed better when acting as
agent for someone else as opposed to playing the role of principal representing
This, Babcock claims, proves that women are particularly energised when they
feel a sense of responsibility for another person’s interest, which suggests a
sense of guilt about purely personal gain – making the subject particularly
‘taboo’ for them. It would therefore appear that women are not actually less
competent in negotiation itself, but rather that their approach differs.
The point here is that the differing approach to negotiation between men and
women calls for an increase in transparency surrounding pay. In the current
climate of equality and diversity, why shouldn’t issues surrounding pay be
thrown open for debate? Companies should articulate performance expectations and
clearly state the goals that are likely to be evaluated for decisions on pay
Armed with transparent comparative information and a sense of targets, both
men and women will achieve a better outcome. The company should also codify and
publish the opportunities and benefits that it may be willing to offer; this
does not mean standardising benefits for all employees, but clarifying the range
of issues that are up for negotiation and the criteria on which they are based.
This removes any sense of taboo surrounding the issue because all the cards are
on the table. If Babcock’s theory is correct, this should assist women in
achieving pay equity with their male counterparts.
Having said that, you should always know when to give up. Male or female, if
you haven’t performed then you don’t deserve the pay rise. But if organisations
publicise these agreed upon performance indicators, then employees can no longer
feel they are being unfairly compensated when compared to a colleague, unless,
of course, there is obvious discrimination afoot.
All HR departments could overcome this issue by having a whistleblower
channel that will nip any such activity in the bud. If all else fails and you
genuinely believe that you are worth more than you are getting paid, then it is
probably time for a serious chat with those friendly recruitment consultants!
It pays to be prepared
• Getting the timing right is key. Avoid asking for a pay review at times of
obvious stress – perhaps during the final stages of a deal – it is likely that
your manager will have more pressing issues on his mind than your salary. A good
opportunity might be at the completion of a successful project in which you
played a key role – your value as an employee will be fresh in everyone’s minds.
• Research the market. Find out what you’re worth by asking people in the
know – recruitment consultants, professional institutes, colleagues and friends.
Consultants in particular will have a good grasp of what the market is willing
• Evaluate your achievements. This should be an ongoing process. Any
activities you have been involved in that have earned or saved the company
money, or solved particular problems should be brought to the meeting.
• Find out what your company’s pay policy is. Is there a percentage increase
across the board or is it performance related? If it is performance related,
find out how your performance has been evaluated and how you could improve. It
will be useful to present your boss with a clear picture of your strengths and
areas in which you intend to develop.
• Be flexible. If a pay increase isn’t up for discussion because of budgetary
constraints, think about your benefits package. Could you trade your car in for
cash, for example?
• Be confident in your approach. If you don’t ask, you don’t get! If you have
the evidence to back it up, your confidence will be respected.
• Offer to take on more responsibility. This will help you prove you’re worth
the extra money. If you live up to expectations, your next review could be even
more of a success!
Nigel Lynn is managing director of financial recruiters
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