Sam Barnes was a consultant at a digital marketing agency for two years before he started to feel that he wasn’t making quite enough money.
“I wasn’t being badly paid, but I felt a little bit undervalued,” said Barnes, 26, who lives in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK.
I’d reached a turning point and it was time to make the move.
He felt he needed a higher salary that reflected his skills, experience and this new life phase. But when he tried to negotiate a pay rise, Barnes realised his employer wasn’t willing to budge, so he started looking elsewhere.
“The more I thought about it, the more I felt like I’d reached a turning point and it was time to make the move,” he said.
Earlier this year, Barnes got a job at a new firm as an in-house digital marketing manager. “I needed a position I felt like I could grow into and progress my career,” he said. “I was lucky enough to find an open position in a great company that gave me the kind of salary I was hoping for, in addition to a much clearer line of progression.”
As in much of the world, wages in the UK and Europe have been stagnant for several years. In the UK, average weekly pay is still £29 below its 2009 peak of £493 ($649), according to the Resolution Foundation. In the US, median household income hasn’t changed significantly in three consecutive years, following two years of annual declines, according to the Census Bureau.
In other words, people’s salaries are pretty much staying put. But, prices keep rising and workers have two options: Ask for more money at work, or leave for better prospects.
“If you feel like you aren’t being recognised, financially or otherwise, for the work you are doing, then it may be time to move on,” said Annabel Jones, HR director at ADP UK, a global human capital management provider. “But if your move is purely money motivated, then it’s always worth trying to negotiate a pay rise with your manager.”
Whatever you do, don’t try to wing it in a salary negotiation.
Here’s how to navigate the often tricky pay rise discussion.
What it’s going to take: Start with research. Find out the market rate for your type of work and position to determine whether to look inside or outside your firm for more money. And—importantly — give yourself a pep talk. “You have to convince yourself that you’re worth it as a first step,” said Michael Dodd, UK author of Great Answers to Tough Questions at Work. “You can fall apart very easily if you don’t really believe you’re worth what you’re asking for.”
How long to prepare: You’ll need long enough to investigate commensurate salaries, research other potential employers, and to think about what you’re going to say. Whatever you do, don’t try to wing it in a salary negotiation.
For instance, what will you do if your boss turns down your request for a pay rise or a higher starting salary? Would you counter with a lower number? How much lower? Would you take less money if they can throw in another week of vacation and the chance to work from home on Fridays?
“You’re doing yourself a better service if you think it out in advance, so you can come up with ‘This is acceptable,’ and ‘This might be an option to get a win-win between us,’” Dodd said.
Do it now: Find the numbers. “Employees could justify their request with external research that demonstrates what the going salary is for someone in their role,” Jones said. “This market research should only be taken from reliable sources that provide online salary surveys or job advertisements to ensure their request is credible.” Places to start include PayScale.com, the Hays Salary Guide in the UK, and the Robert Half Salary Guides, which cover several countries.
Put yourself in your employer’s shoes. Think about whether what you’re asking of your employer is reasonable. “Can they afford to pay you more?” said John Watkins, director of employability at the University of Law in the UK. “What are the implications for other colleagues? Will they give you a rise now but then hold another one back in the future such that your net position is unchanged?” Also, how will they view you on a day-to-day basis afterward? Will they respect you professionally for asking, or will they be annoyed that you seem money motivated?
Have this conversation on the heels of a glowing performance review or a huge win at work.
“If you put yourself in the position of your boss, the best strategy is for you to create an argument in a professional way that helps your boss go to their boss to justify why they’re giving you a raise,” said Jacqueline O’Reilly, a professor and head of the Centre for Research on Management and Employment at Brighton Business School in the UK.
Be prepared to prove your awesomeness. It’s one thing to assert that you’re really good at your job, but when it comes to negotiating pay rises you’ll need to present hard facts. Did you improve sales? By how much? Did you land a big client? How much business did you win for the company? “You’ll need to prove to your boss that you’re an asset to their business and deserve a pay rise, so show them everything you have achieved with tangible evidence of the results of your work,” said Nigel Heap, UK and Ireland managing director for global recruiter Hays.
It also helps to have this conversation on the heels of a glowing performance review or a huge win at work. The memory of your recent value to the firm will be fresh in everyone’s minds. If the timing is right, it’s also useful to have this conversation before the year’s budgets are set—and before your boss is constrained by them.
Be assertive, but realistic. Whether you’re discussing pay with your current boss or an interviewer at a new company, talking about a salary that is too high will make you look out of touch and will mean a negative start to negotiations. “Don’t pluck a number out of thin air,” Heap said. “Do your research and have proof of the market value for your skills and what you can deliver.”
Don’t get emotional. Remember, this is a negotiation, not a battle. Getting frustrated or taking a negative tone won’t help, nor will comparing yourself to others at the company who are making more. “Although pay is an issue that can often trigger emotional responses, employees must only communicate their request based on practical, work-related evidence,” Jones said. “Resist expressing the emotional triggers often attached to such requests.”
Do it later: Pick up a mentor. If you don’t have one already, consider forming a relationship with an older colleague who can offer guidance in matters of salary and job moves. “It’s better to go and ask somebody who’s quite a lot senior for their advice,” O’Reilly said. “They’ll be able to tell you how they got to where they are, and secondly, they’ll see it from the perspective of your boss and how they would manage you. You can ask them, ‘Am I asking for something ridiculous, or is this sensible?’”
Do it smarter: Don’t make ultimatums. If you put too much pressure on your boss — particularly in suggesting that if she doesn’t give you more money, you’ll leave — your boss could react negatively. “Even if the person wanted to stay, they’ve created a situation where the boss says ‘No’ and you have to go,” O’Reilly said. “Never get yourself in a corner that you can’t get out of without leaving.”
This article was written by Kate Ashford from BBC Worldwide-America: Capital and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.