What not to do when you want a pay rise

This article was published on the Australian Financial Review website on June 15th, 2015.  It was written as part of my internship at the Australian Financial Review.

“Remember your employers don’t actually care what you want,” says Melbourne Business School career strategist Kelly Magowan, “which means you then have to spin your wants to a business case.

Asking for a pay rise is such an uncomfortable experience that many employees avoid it altogether – and are the poorer for it. Kelly Magowan, author, career strategist and consultant for the students at the Melbourne Business School, tells The Australian Financial Review about six classic mistakes people make when seeking a fatter pay packet, and how to avoid them.

1. WAITING TO BE OFFERED MORE MONEY

“Even if you’re a top performer, employers aren’t going to open up the conversation candidly to you and they certainly aren’t going to willingly give you more money,” says Magowan. This means it’s important to use your initiative if you think you’re due for a salary negotiation.

The ideal time to ask for salary negotiation is when you’re entering a new place of work. Magowan says “you can put everything you want into your negotiation up front. It’s important to cite everything you want in this initial contract, but try not make it too excessive and complicated because your employer won’t want to negotiate with you.”

If you’re already employed and think a pay rise is due, Magowan says it’s important to “be upfront when asking your boss for time to discuss your salary package”. The best way to enter into a discussion about pay with your boss is to contact them via e-mail or phone to ask for a time when they’re available to negotiate your salary face-to-face. Magowan recommends to “use direct and positive language” in asking for time to discuss. “Remember, bosses and HR want to avoid having this conversation just as much as you’re nervous about bringing it up”, she says.

2. BEING UNPREPARED

“Don’t go into a negotiation with a massive list of demands. Pick the key things that are the most important to you and go in confidence that you will get them,” Magowan says. It’s a good idea to bring evidence in the form of performance reports to prove that you’re a valuable member of the workplace and that you deserve a pay rise. And make sure that your demands have a business angle. “Remember your employers don’t actually care what you want,” says Magowan, “which means you then have to spin your wants to a business case. Point out the value you’ve added to the workplace and the value you can continue to add to it.”

3. UNDERESTIMATING YOUR WORTH

There’s a fine line between asking for too much and not asking for enough.  “Ask for what you feel you’re worth and always ask for more than what you want”, says Magowan. “Employers always have more money to spend on wages than they’re willing to admit and you can always negotiate down from your initial asking price.”

4. BEING A PLEASER

“Make sure your needs are met first,” says Magowan. “The best way to approach a negation is to begin with pinpointing what your needs and wants are and consider what your ideal outcome is”. Before you enter into the discussion, you should know what things you are and aren’t willing to negotiate on. “If they need you and you can solve their problems, you’ve got some leeway to how much you can ask for,” she says. Contrary to what you may think, you have the upper hand in what you can ask for.

5. ASSUMING YOUR REQUESTS WILL BE GRANTED

Although it’s great to go into any negotiation with confidence, there’s a big chance that your boss will say no to your demands. Magowan asserts that you “have to go into the negotiation preparing for rejection. Although you might get a ‘no’, it may be just a ‘no for now’.” Give your boss some time to reflect on your demands and don’t be afraid to bring up the issue again. Magowan says it’s important to use a negative response to “better yourself for the negotiation next time.” In the meantime, continue to prove your worth by exceeding your employer’s expectations of you. If the response is still a definite negative, then you might be negotiating with the wrong person. “Maybe you need to go above your boss or talk to HR”, says Magowan.

6. LETTING YOUR EMPLOYER DOWN

Magowan stresses, that it’s “much cheaper for your employer to keep you employed rather than to get someone new. The preference of bosses is always to keep people who are contributing to the workplace and working well.” Employers know that the best way to improve employee performance is to keep them happy, and if that means paying them more than it’s an option for them. But it’s also up to you as an employee to keep improving your work performance and attempt to exceed expectations. This way your boss can see that they were right to give you the pay rise and may even offer another in the future.

Kelly Magowan is the author of e-book, A Busy Woman’s Guide to Salary Negotiations.

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