How Should I Ask For a Pay Rise? No Ultimatums, For a Start

Managers are overstretched and underpaid, but that is the very least of companies' problems, HR experts say

Ashley Redmond 18 October, 2023 | 9:03AM
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Throughout 2023 everyone from economists to politicians has voiced concern that wage rises could fuel inflation.

At the sharp end, employees may well have felt trapped as a result, knowing pay bumps might help them pay bills in the short term but contribute to a bigger problem. 

I spoke with two Human Resources (HR) experts, and we dug into the best ways to ask for a raise, talking points to avoid, plus 2023 trends:

How to Ask for a Raise

Be Honest

Allison Venditti, founding director of Moms at Work, suggests simply being honest. "Inflation is high. Food prices are high – the money must come from somewhere. Can we talk about an increase?"

Some employers will say "no", and that’s OK. From there consider asking for compensation that isn't monetary. If the company can't pay you more, can they adjust for a 35-hour work week? Or more vacation days? Potentially some equity in your company?

Venditti points out executive compensation is typically a mix of money, equity and various benefits and perks. Think along those lines.

Showcase Your Successes and Extra Responsibilities

"Come to the conversation with examples of your successes and how you have added value to the organisation since your last increase. If you have data to back that up, even better," says Allison Wilson, an HR professional with over 20 years of experience.

And showcase extra responsibilities you have taken on in your role and projects where you’ve made a direct impact on the business or with clients.

Things to Avoid When Asking for a Raise

Avoid Ultimatums

"Ultimatums are never a good idea. If you approach the conversation with 'I'm going to leave if I don’t get this raise…' it usually doesn't work, and you must be prepared to follow through on any ultimatum. Either way, it doesn't position you in a positive, collaborative light," says Wilson.

Plus, ultimatums come across as threatening. And in general, that approach doesn’t work well, not only at work but in interpersonal relationships as well.

Avoid Comparing Yourself to Colleagues

Both HR experts pointed out that it's not a great strategy to compare yourself to colleagues.

Don't say, "I deserve a $30,000 raise because Ahmed received a raise two months ago." It comes across as unprofessional, turns the conversation negative and leads the focus to a colleague – when the focus should be on you. Point out your successes, goals, and aspirations within the organisation instead.

2023 HR Trends

"It depends on the industry; however, most companies are still being conservative with their budgets and increases are perhaps not as lucrative as pre-pandemic, especially given how the economy is still being seen as slightly unstable. However, I do think that trend will change in the next year or so," says Wilson.

Venditti agrees. "Underpayment is absolutely an issue right now. And I feel bad for managers. They’re losing people and not replacing them. They’re also promoting people to manager and not being properly compensated."

Weigh the Pay Against the Ability to Work From Home

Both experts point to remote work. Venditti says some companies are demanding people back in the office and she is genuinely surprised. She says it doesn’t make sense. Employers must trust their employees, and by saying "You must work in the office" you’re saying "we don’t trust you."

Wilson says that, yes, employees are demanding more flexibility, work-life balance and the ability to work remotely or at the bare minimum a hybrid model. She adds: "if the job can be done efficiently from home, and the employee is just as productive, I think the days of working in an office five days a week are gone."

This article originally appeared on our Canadian sister site and has been edited and republished for UK audiences

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Ashley Redmond  Ashley Redmond is a member of the Editorial team at Morningstar Canada.

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