How To Ask For a Pay Increase & Promotion

 


At New Year, many of us review our lives including our jobs, finances, and career. If you are mulling over whether you deserve a pay increase or promotion, now could be the time to act.

I have worked in several roles in my career where the job has grown faster than my salary. I tend to expand my area of responsibility in any role I’m in. While I believe that it’s better to do the job first and then ask for the proper compensation and job title, I don’t believe in being underpaid or unrecognized forever.

Pre Covid, I have successfully negotiated a pay increase to match my increased responsibilities on at least three occasions. I’ve negotiated a change in job title many times too, though not always with a pay increase.

A pay increase or job title change was forthcoming when I could prove that I had increased my responsibility around:

  • Number of direct reports
  • Budgetary responsibility
  • Areas of responsibility
  • Impact on KPIs

Only you will know whether you are in a position to ask for a pay increase. In the middle of a pandemic, you may well deserve more money but might not get it. The same goes for a new job title that more accurately reflects what you do.

If you do think you have a good chance of success, it’s worth a try.

It’s a myth that your boss will notice your good work and offer a pay increase. Usually, managers are well aware of when a team member is underpaid and won’t do anything about it without a formal request.

It will take a bit of work but you only have to do it once. You may end up with a pay increase that will regularly drop into your bank account, or a new job title that will look better on your CV.

“When your self worth goes up, your net worth goes up with it.” — Mark Victor Hansen

Gather information

Initially, you will have to gather quite a bit of data. No leader is going to sign off on anything without a substantial reason.

These are the things you need to collate:

  • Your current position description
  • A list of the extra tasks you are are responsible for in addition to your position description
  • Increase indirect reports
  • Increase in budgetary responsibilities
  • Growth in the impact of your work on KPIs
  • Copies of job adverts for jobs similar to yours (what you do, not your current job title) with salaries
  • Pay scales for jobs similar to yours from as many sources as possible such as recruiters like Hays, Robert Walters, Hudson, and government or industry organizations

If you think your job title needs to change you also need the position description for the new role.

For example, suppose you are a Health & Safety Advisor and you believe your title should be Senior Health & Safety Advisor. Ask for the position description for the Senior Health & Safety Advisor role and tick off all the tasks you do.

On the occasions I’ve gone through this exercise it’s taken quite a bit of time and I’ve had to gather the information bit by bit. This isn’t something you will be able to do in the evening.

When you are collating your task list, use your diary, outlook calendar, any one-to-one notes, meeting agendas, and your soft and hard files. I’ve always been surprised at how much my role has expanded and the extra tasks I’ve taken responsibility for.

Now you’ve got the data, decide whether you are deserving of a pay rise and/or a job title change. Be realistic. You will have to make a compelling case to your manager. You must also convince the managers in Finance and HR, and your bosses boss.

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”— Milton Berle

Role title and position description

Now that you have some data, it’s time to prepare your case.

First of all, list all the extras that you do on top of your job description.

Your list might look like this:

  • Direct reports increased from three to five
  • Budgetary responsibility increased by 37%
  • Now responsible for all organizational recruitment in addition to the tasks on my position description
  • Cover manager’s duties in their absence and on holidays and am 2IC for the team
  • Have a seat on a particular committee and attend meetings with stakeholders
  • Responsible for on-boarding all new team members
  • Now have new skills since recent training or certification occurred

Now compare the tasks you do in your role to:

  • Your position description
  • The position description of the next level up, e.g., Senior Health & Safety Advisor
  • Job adverts for roles that match what you do

This way you can ascertain whether you are still doing the role as described in your position description or are carrying out the tasks of a more senior role.

Again, be realistic. You need facts, not a gut feeling that you should have a more senior title.

If your organization either does not have position descriptions, search on-line, and get examples.

Sample position descriptions for most job roles are on the internet and relatively easy to find if you Google them.

If you can, find at least five examples of position descriptions and five measures of job advertisements for the role that you are carrying out.

You should now be in a position to decide whether you will ask for a more senior job title.

“Know your worth, then add tax.” — Rebel Circus

Put together your case for a salary increase

Now you know which job title reflects what you do, it is time to see what the market pays.

For this, you can use annual salary scales from leading recruiters such as Hudson, Robert Walters, Hays, Kelly Services, or any recruiter in your profession that publishes salary guidelines.

Collect the data from all the sources and tabulate it to show all the low, medium, and high salaries in a chart. Then work out what the average median salary is.

Finally, use the salaries on job adverts for similar jobs to what you currently do.

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Find out whether Covid has affected pay rates in your profession. If so, you will need to factor that in.

You should now have a good idea of what the role you are doing is worth in the market place.

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” — Oprah Winfrey

Write a letter requesting a job title or salary review

Now it’s time to pull all this together into a written request for a pay increase and title change if applicable.

Here are some tips:

Do say what you do in addition to your position description and how that adds value.

For example:

‘My responsibilities have increased over the last two years and I now have three more direct reports. I’m also responsible for recruitment, standing in as manager for the team when necessary, and on-boarding all new staff. I attend abc meetings and am continually in contact with stakeholders re xyz projects. I believe what I do is now more in line with the role of Senior Health & Safety Advisor. I am requesting that you review my job title and remuneration.’

Do point out the market rate for what you do using your findings.

For example:

‘My annual salary is currently 50K per year however I believe that a salary of 67K is more aligned with my responsibilities. Please see the table below showing the median wage from recruitment agencies, industry organizations and job advertisements relevant to the role.’

To maintain a positive and polite tone throughout the letter and point out that you enjoy your role and look forward to adding value and contributing in the future.

Do talk about what you can do for your organization.

Do get someone to check your letter to make sure it is professional, not whiny, and positive. It is easy to put too get carried away with emotion and give a poor impression in the letter.

Don’t whine and say your salary is too low.

For example:

‘I’ve been here three years, and I’ve never had a pay rise and I deserve more for all I do.’

Don’t talk about what you want from the organization in a negative way.

For example:

‘For all the work I do here I deserve more money. I always do extra. The company owes me.’

Don’t mention what other people get paid. Even if you do know, you are not meant to.

Now you have prepared your case it’s time to request a meeting with your manager.

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Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash — Money and Star Wars! What a great combo!

Logistics

Sitting down with the boss and asking for a pay increase or promotion is nerve-wracking for most people, so here are some ideas of how to make it go smoothly:

  • Do a common-sense check and make sure you have a real case. Ask your partner or a friend to check whether you do deserve what you are asking for. If you are being unrealistic, you will annoy your manager.
  • Prepare thoroughly and have as much data in your written request as possible. This will make it easier for your manager to make a case for you if they agree that what you are asking for is realistic.
  • Invite your manager to a formal meeting and include the discussion topic.
  • Give your manager a week or so to prepare. Don’t send a request for tomorrow morning.
  • Send your manager a copy of the letter in advance.
  • Practice what you are going to say with a friend or partner. It would be a shame to prepare a well thought out letter and then spoil it with an emotional outburst in the meeting.
  • Think of all the possible objections that your manager may come up with and know what you will say in response.
  • Be prepared to accept a refusal. There may be no budget. Your manager may want to give you an increase, but the people higher up the chain of command won’t sign off on it.

“Whether it’s a salary or a promotion or a job, I think it’s important for women to ask for what they think they deserve.” — Susan Wojcicki

“Everyone else too!” — Wendy Scott

What to do if you are told ‘no’

If your request is refused, ask for some more information such as:

  • Feedback on your performance.
  • If there is any training you could attend
  • What would need to happen for a pay increase or promotion can occur
  • What would you need to do to be considered for a pay increase or promotion?

You now have a clear picture of why your manager turned down your request. Is it you, or is it company policy? Is it a temporary refusal, or will you never receive an increase again? Is the organization short of cash because of Covid?

Be aware that some organizations happily pay the market rate for new staff coming in but won’t consider paying the market rate for existing staff. If this is the case, at least you will know where you stand.

Final thoughts

Going through this process will help you clarify what level you are working at in the organization and also whether you are being paid appropriately.

What you do with that information is up to you. In these times of Covid, layoffs, and organizations failing, you may be better to sit tight and say nothing.

If you do decide to act, remember that HR and Finance managers will only approve pay increases and role changes if they have solid data to back up a request. Make sure you provide it.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!

I’ve worked in HR for over thirty years and have a wealth of information to share. Here are some of my other HR related articles that you may be interested in.

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