This post was written by a member of the Debut Student Publisher Network. Zaki spoke to a veteran journalist to get the real scoop on how to snag that pay rise:
It’s not a question you’re likely to be in a hurry to ask. Few people enjoy talking about money in the workplace, especially with their boss. But building up the confidence to ask this key question, and doing so in the right way, can increase your income considerably.
Phil Sutcliffe is a veteran music journalist who has worked for Melody Maker, Sounds, Q and Mojo. He now runs courses for the National Union of Journalists on pitching and negotiating. He spoke to Debut about how to ask for an increase in pay.
Do it at the right time and think through your choice of words
Timing is important. There may be a natural time to ask. Doing so within weeks of starting work is unlikely to be a good idea, but broaching the subject during an appraisal or performance review could work well.
Try and do it when your boss doesn’t seem too busy or stressed. Ask if they have a minute to chat and plan what you’re going to say in advance. Tell them about what you’ve brought the company. What good things have you done to show your value? Emphasise that you see your future at the company but that it would mean a lot to be paid a bit more.
“Always do it politely, non-confrontationally, so you’re starting a negotiation, not an argument. If the answer is no, no, no, you come back to their original offer”, Sutcliffe says.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get
Some companies look at giving annual pay increases across the board, particularly where there is strong trade union representation, but many don’t.
“It’s remarkably widespread to see the people who ask for more getting it and the people that decide against doing so not getting it”, Sutcliffe says.
He points out that, just as many young workers are reluctant to ask for a pay rise, lots of those who have been in work for longer are the same.
One of his mantras is “always ask for more”. He usually cites this when discussing freelance rates, but says it’s also applicable to salaried jobs: “It’s because you need to explore the situation. Don’t accept as a given that a potential client or potential employer’s first offer to you is their final offer”.
Ask in person where possible
How do you ask? It’s entirely up to you. Some might prefer an email as they may find it awkward to ask in person.
But I think asking in person might be slightly more effective. Then you’ll be able to see their reaction first-hand and, if they decline, get an idea of how close to saying yes they were. In general, I think people tend to be more negative when they have the luxury of hiding behind an email. They also then have as long as they want to reply.
Asking in person might catch someone slightly off-guard and have them suggest that you “ask again in a couple of months”. Then you’d be in a stronger position two months on, which might be a shorter period of time than what they might suggest by email once they’ve had time to look at the company’s books or ask their own manager.
Find out what might be a reasonable rate to aim for
Speak to your colleagues in the pub. Casually ask what they’re on or how long they waited to ask for a rise. Chat to your trade union rep if you have one; they’re likely to know what the company pays some of its employees. Look at what salary other companies are offering for similar jobs online. If you want to suggest a figure rather than ask what they might be willing to offer, you could mention what rival companies pay those in similar roles to help your case.
But don’t threaten to leave if they turn it down or do anything which may leave you in a difficult position.
Negative consequences are extremely rare
Sutcliffe says that a widespread fear among people considering asking for more is that their employer will react negatively and even punish them for posing the question.
“But it’s vanishingly rare. We have heard of cases where that’s happened, but it’s really, really unusual. Particularly if you keep to non-confrontational ways of doing it, both in what you say and your tone of voice. Emails have tone of voice as well.”
It’s fair to say it’s very unlikely you asking for more will get the same reply Oliver Twist did in Charles Dickens’ famous novel.
There may be a silver lining even if you don’t get it
Even if your boss says no, asking for more can have positive consequences. If they say they’ll chat about it again after a specified period of time, make a note of when and remember to ask once more then.
Putting the question to them and making them think about what your work is worth could lead them to value it more. They may also see qualities in you that they want their employees to have.
“Your employer is likely to see you as a person with a degree of confidence and self-esteem, and think that, when representing them, you’re likely to be better at striking good deals with other people the company does business with”, Sutcliffe adds.
There are some questions you never particularly want to ask, but building up the confidence to do so can be important, even if you don’t get the answer you were looking for first time round.
Feature image via Pexels