How to ask for a promotion or pay rise

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January is typically a good time to review business strategies and plans, and set personal goals for the next 12 months. For many companies, it is also the time of year when performance reviews are conducted and potential pay raises considered.

Salary review requests are not to be undertaken lightly, and discussions around pay rises can be difficult, especially in these challenging economic times. The situation can be particularly sensitive for HR professionals, as they are often aware of information about salary levels across the organisation and any financial concerns their employer may be facing.

Career-minded managers need to realise that it is their own responsibility to manage their career as well as their employer’s, and champion their impact and abilities. As technology has rapidly changed, so have the roles and responsibilities of HR professionals. HR impacts on every department, and every employee. It can improve the effectiveness of other departments and indirectly impacts the bottom line.

If you feel you are not being paid as much as you deserve here are some tips to help ensure your employer and leaders recognise the value that HR brings to an organisation.

First, think:

  • Do you have a strong business case for this request?
  • What is the system within your organisation?
  • What is an equivalent role worth elsewhere?
  • Who is responsible for the final decision? Is it your boss or a team of people?
  • Are you assertive enough to pursue what you want with confidence?
  • What happens if you don’t succeed in getting this promotion or rise?

Preparation is key
You must have a thoughtful, justified business case that is clear and airtight. You must also understand the likely position and response of management. Sometimes, however much you deserve a rise or promotion, the funds or the position are simply not available. Management must also consider the impact of whatever they give you on others.

Ask, don’t demand
Often the best way to approach negotiations around pay and position is to ask questions first about the organisation’s view on you, your future and your potential within the organisation. It may be that what you want is just around the corner. Equally, if the organisation has a very different view of your future than you, it may be that asking for a rise or promotion is a futile exercise. Perhaps you need to move on, and find an organisation whose sense of your ability is more aligned to your own.

In many organisations there are salary bands; movement to a higher band is subject to specific and measureable criteria that are assessed by a team. In this type of organisation there is a clear and formal process to follow. In smaller or more informal organisations, it’s more appropriate to ask for what you believe you deserve because there is no structured system in place. Here you will need to influence and negotiate your way to a better package.

Gather advocates
Part of making your case for a rise should be seeking out senior people who are prepared to champion your cause. Being able to say in your meeting that the head of another department believes your case to be deserving can be a significant influencer.

Differentiate between reward and responsibility
There is a difference between asking your organisation for more money and asking for more responsibility. A new title or new responsibilities at the same salary is often a more palatable proposition for management to consider. Agree in advance that your salary will be reviewed after six months in post, once you have proved yourself in a new role.

If you are not sure about the answer, think hard before asking the question
Properly done, asking for a rise or a promotion should not be traumatic. Ideally you should be in very little doubt about the outcome before you enter the meeting. The worst case scenario should be that you leave the meeting with a clear sense of where and how you need to improve in order to get the promotion or raise you want. Try to get a timescale around this and an agreement that achieving the targets set will lead to a salary increase and/or a change of position.

Remember…
If you don’t get what you want immediately you should not act in haste. Be calm and carry on as normal while looking for ways to develop your career elsewhere within the organisation, or outside it. Being a bad loser will not win you respect amongst the decision-makers and undermine your chances of future success.

Above all, don’t go into the meeting threatening to leave, unless you really mean it. At best, if your conditions are accepted there is often a lingering sense of resentment and, at worst, walking the talk could mean walking the plank!

If you feel so strongly that you will leave if you do not get what you want, you should either have something lined up to go to or accept the decision gracefully and then seek a new position. This allows you to leave on your own terms.

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