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Know your worth when seeking rise
Anthony Thompson
update on Saturday, November 21, 2009
In a letter asking his boss for a pay rise, an employee writes: "In thi$ life, there are certain thing$ we want mo$t de$perately. I think you $hould under$tand our need$. We are employee$ who have given $o much $weat and $ervice to your company."

The next day the boss replies, saying: "I kNOw you have been working very hard. NOwadays, NOthing much has changed. You must have NOticed that our company is NOt doing NOticeably well ... I have NOthing more to add NOw. You kNOw what I mean."

Like the employee in the above joke that has been doing its rounds on the internet, you have all the reasons in the world to ask your boss for an increase in salary. 

You have endured a significant pay cut, have been doing two people's work for a year and have sacrificed countless week nights and Saturdays (and occasionally Sundays) to entertain the demands of your boss and clients.

But before you knock on your manager's door, make sure you understand the context in which you are negotiating a pay rise. 

While there is little doubt employment conditions have stabilised in recent months, the business environment in which salary reviews will take place next year remains fragile. It is likely that pay rises are going to be nominal. 

After taking the context into consideration, if you decide to go ahead with your request, here are a few suggestions that will help strengthen your bargaining power. 

Take a realistic position

Consider your company's financial position, usual policy on pay rises and expectations of your peers. Recognise pay reviews will take place in economic conditions that are very different from previous years. Think carefully about these factors and decide on a figure you think is fair under the circumstances.  

Present a compelling case

Don't be unprepared for your review meeting because you feel a pay rise is unlikely. Approach it in the same way you would in any other - it is your chance to have your achievements of the previous year recognised. Don't waste the opportunity. 

Whatever your role in the company, you need to demonstrate how your skills and achievements have improved company performance. If you work in finance or technology, show how you have improved process efficiencies and reduced costs. If you are in sales or marketing, focus on revenue generation and market growth. Always link your achievements back to the bottom line.

Review your job description and note the areas in which you have taken on more tasks and responsibilities. Given the job losses that have occurred in recent times, most people who have retained their positions have had to pick up additional workload. Use this to your advantage by showing your manager that your value to the business has increased. 

Be professional

Make sure you conduct yourself in a professional way during the meeting. While it is important to be confident, don't be aggressive or threaten to leave if your expectations aren't met. 

Put yourself in your manager's shoes - how would you respond to an employee with that sort of attitude? Equally, don't whine about your situation by saying you aren't being adequately compensated for the work you do. Be positive.

Stay calm and measured in what you say. You are presenting a factual case for a pay rise, so there is no need to use emotional language or subjective assertions you cannot support. Show a degree of flexibility to avoid backing your manager into a corner. 

Once you have made your case, give your manager time to consider your request and come back to you. Don't expect an immediate answer. Your manager does not have a free hand in the decision and will need to operate within approved budgetary requirements. 

Know your market worth

If you are going to push for a pay rise, you need to know your market worth. Start by researching what people with similar skills and experience are paid in your industry. The best sources of information are job advertisements, professional associations and career centres. It is also worth visiting the websites of recruitment agencies for an indication of salary based on industry, size of company and years of experience.


State case 

  • Be realistic
  • Be compelling in your case
  • Be professional
  • Be sure you know your market worth


Anthony Thompson is managing director, Hong Kong and Southern China, for recruitment firm Michael Page International



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