Getting a Pay Rise
During a Recession


getting a pay rise

If you work as an employee, getting a pay rise is likely to be one of your ambitions. The good news for you is that it really isn’t that difficult to orchestrate an increase in pay – even during a recession.

This is a guide for people who are interested in getting a pay rise now, but don’t know how to go about it.

To give you an idea, I’ve received 3 pay increases myself over the last year or so by following this exact strategy. Several of my friends have used these ideas too, to brilliant effect. Whilst this is a long article at over 3,000 words, it is specifically designed as a step-by-step guide for getting a pay rise. I’d recommend printing it off so you can work through it at your own pace, if you haven’t got time to read it all now.

If you follow the advice in this article, you will end up with:

• an idea of how you have to perform to be entitled to a raise
• the self-belief needed to ask for a pay rise
• a compelling business case to present to your boss
• a strategy for knowing when to ask for the raise
• a guide to the meeting itself and how you should conduct it
• whether to use logical or emotional argument
• some tips on negotiation

Before we get started, however, please allow a slight qualification: This article will only work for valuable employees, who actually deserve to be paid more money. If you spend your days slacking off, doing the minimum amount of work you can get away with, and moaning about your job – you won’t be getting a pay rise - and rightly so. First, you need to learn how to be productive, and then the cash will follow.

If, however, you’re an effective and intelligent worker, who adds value to the company, is happy to take on more responsibility and generates a positive response from customers and co-workers, then read on. You are the type of person who is probably being under-compensated at the moment. If this is the case, then you will likely be of more value to your company than your company is to you.

Hmm. Sounds a little egotistical? Well, not really.

You see, great employees are few and far between. Companies know this. You know this – deep down. If you truly feel that you’re being underpaid, you probably are. You just have to have the courage to act – as getting a pay rise is really just down to bringing this fact to their attention. I admit that this can be little tricky and nerve-wracking, which is probably why so few people ever even ask for a pay increase in the first place.

Your primary objective is to make sure that your company knows you are a great employee, an asset to the company who is to be looked after as a priority. I’d heartily argue that most employers underpay their staff, and actually often pay their employees the minimum they can get away with.

This kind of dishonest corporate behaviour needs to be protested against. This is a guide to show you how to do it.

Getting a Pay Rise – Rule 1: Stand Out

The most important thing to remember when getting a pay rise is that you have to stand out. You must make more of an impact than your similarly-paid colleagues, and your bosses must be well aware of this fact.

I work as a sales consultant, so it’s pretty easy for me to quantify my value: I can stand out by the amount of products and services I sell; the amount of new business I generate; and the feedback and testimonials I obtain from my clients.

These are the three most important facets of my role – from my employer’s perspective - so I ensure that I stand out on every point.

That’s not to say you have to be the best at everything. For example, I’m crap at paper-work, my desk is messy, I swear more than I should, and I never get round to making tea for the office. These inconsistencies are overlooked, however, as I regularly bring in more business than my colleagues.

The questions you have to ask yourself are: How do I stand out? How can I stand out more?

As a general rule of thumb, I’d suggest that you should look to stand out in the following ways (of course, the extent of these will depend on your actual role):

• Direct impact on revenue
• Direct impact on client satisfaction
• Being more efficient and effective than your colleagues
• Direct impact on staff satisfaction
• Unique selling points of your own character

If you’re not standing out, you’re not ready for a pay rise. Instead, focus on increasing your value for a few months (employers have notoriously short-term memories, and just a few months will be enough to make a sizable impact).

If you are standing out, then you are one step closer to getting a pay rise. Read on.

Getting a Pay Rise – Rule 2: Know Your Worth

get a pay rise

There’s a subtle difference between standing out in your employer’s eyes, and of knowing your own value - but this small difference is of profound importance.

Standing out without knowing your own worth will lead you to being seen as a fabulous employee, a great asset and a modern-day “teacher’s pet” – but it won’t be getting you a pay rise.

Employers have a tendency to pay their staff – even their best staff – as little as they can get away with. They rarely come rushing to you with their check-book in hand, making offers of increased pay and benefits.

This is where the issue of your self-worth comes in.

As soon as you can convince yourself that you are a valuable asset to your company, you will begin to project yourself in a different way. With a little bit of confidence and swagger, you will realise deep down that you are worthy of receiving more money – and you will project this belief to your employers.

Getting a pay rise requires high levels of self-belief, and the best way to build a storehouse of belief is by reflecting on all the valuable things you do for your company. Every time you make a sale, create an impact on revenues, impress a customer or do something of note – take time to reflect on it. Make sure that your successes are not lost on yourself - your getting a pay rise depends on on it.

Build a business case for yourself in your mind. Focus on all the good you do for your company. Ponder who would – or could – do these great things, if you weren’t about.

Then, do more of these things. This will add to your reserves of self-belief.

When you truly believe that you are a valuable asset for your company, move on. You’re even closer to getting a pay rise.

Getting a Pay Rise – Rule 3: Prepare Your Case

Four steps to achievement: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.”

William Arthur Ward

The next step in getting a pay rise is the preparation of your case. This is a business case you’re preparing, and not a list of personal reasons why you want more money – like “I can’t afford X”, “My standard of living has gone up”, and “I feel that I’m worth more”.

Whilst the above concerns may all be valid reasons – and in my eyes, they are – they are likely to be of minimal impact to your cost-and-profit focussed employers.

The best way to speak to business decision-makers is by speaking in a way that resonates with them. This is where tools like NLP come in – which help you to communicate more effectively.When I'm looking at getting a pay rise, I ask myself the following question – and you should ask it too:

What does my boss care about more than anything else?

Tailor your answer to your own boss, but typically I’ve found that the most important aspects to remember are:

Results. Prepare some tangible proof of your success so far, which should be quantifiable if possible. I’m talking about amount of business generated; new business you discovered; productivity (number of calls made or amount of reports produced on time); specific feedback from clients – or any work that you did that had a specific and measurable impact. In almost any line of work, you can find proof of your success.

Quality of the work you do. Find out a way to demonstrate that the quality of work you do is superior to that of your colleagues – or anyone they would replace you with. No matter what sort of work you do, you’re capable of doing it better and more efficiently than others. Prove this to your employer, and you’ll be providing music to his ears.

getting a pay rise

Vision. Demonstrate that you are a strategic thinker and that you have ideas on how to grow the company – and your role within it. Not only does this imply that you are thinking long term about staying with the company, but it also demonstrates that you provide more value than you are currently paid for. Prepare a few paragraphs on how you want your role to develop, and what measurable impact you believe this will have on the company.

Comparable Wages. It’s important to do a bit of research on how much similar people get paid in your kind of job role, and diplomatically insert this into your business case. Whilst you should not hang your whole argument on this point, it’s important for your boss to know that you’ve done your research, and that you’re not a pushover. For example, you could mention that “I love working here, and find the work challenging and am looking to achieve X,Y and Z in the next year. When I was researching this, however, I found that typically somebody who does this is paid £5,000 more than I get each year. I thought you’d be interested to find this out, as I cannot see any difference between what they do and what I do”.

Offer to take more responsibility. This is a given – and a great way to get your bosses thinking more about the value you provide, and away from your request for more money. If there is somebody in a position directly above you, assess what parts of their job you can implement into yours – now. Demonstrate that you believe you can do this work – and that it frees up more time for the other person to focus on other activities. Alternatively, if this isn’t the case, brainstorm ways you can provide more value in your role. This doesn’t have to be over-the-top – just try and think of your boss’ “pain points” and see if you can help them out. A little initiative goes a long way.

When you’ve made and edited your business case, it is essential to live and breathe it until you truly believe every word of it – and see it as the absolute truth. You'll only be getting a pay rise if this is the case.

Practice delivering it out loud and in your head. Use creative visualisation to imagine your boss agreeing with you on every point - and agreeing to the raise - and generate the same feelings when you mentally rehearse as you would if the event had actually happened.

Take as long as you need for this step. When you truly believe that your business case is airtight, move on. Again, you’re even closer to getting a pay rise.

Getting a Pay Rise – Rule 4: Pick the Right Moment

pay rise

OK, so you’ve been standing out for months, you know your value to the company, and you’ve prepared – and mentally rehearsed – your business case until it flows off your tongue. It’s time to steam in and demand more money, right?


Getting a pay rise is all about timing. Ask at the wrong time – and you will likely be brushed aside, setting you back months – and maybe even longer. This is the last thing you want to do.

I’ve found that there are two really good times to ask for more money – at times of company gain, and at times of company loss.

In fact, the only time not to ask for a pay rise is when things are... well, normal.

This may seem calculated or deceitful – but it’s not really – it’s simply taking advantage of normal business trading conditions. When things are going ok, your request will lack the urgency necessary to prioritise your pay increase. If things are either really good – or going bad – it is possible to gain an edge, and when getting a pay rise, you do need an edge.

If things are going really well for your company, it’s time to announce yourself as “part of the family” – someone who is in it for the long haul. If you’ve just made a fantastic personal impact – or even if the company has had a recent gain – the collective mindset is more likely to be one of abundance and optimism. Given this mindset, it’s much more likely that your request will be duly considered. Now is a good time to make your pay request. Show your bosses how you will add to the successes already being achieved – and it’s most unlikely they’d prefer to lose you to a competitor.

Conversely, if things have just started to go wrong for your company – you have lost a big client, an important member of staff has handed in their resignation, or problems are beginning to emerge – now is also a good time to proceed. During these troubling times, employers will be in a “damage limitation” mode, and will be keen to hang on to their most valuable members of staff. It’s up to you whether you wish to take advantage of their troubles – but remember that they are likely to be underpaying you in the first place. I like to think of getting a pay rise now as a sort of corporate karma :-)

Getting a Pay Rise – Rule 5: Be Prepared to Lose It

This next rule is simple, yet of paramount importance: To succeed with your request for a pay rise, you must be prepared to walk away if your demands are not met.

When you make your request, there are only really two possible outcomes. The first is that they accept your request (or negotiate with you – see below), and the second is they tell you no – and to go away and get on with your work.

If you are told no, you can happily go back to your desk and tell yourself that it was worth a go, and give up your dreams of getting a pay rise. The trouble with this is your employers will never take any pay request from you seriously again. This leaves you in a bit of an unenviable situation.

The second approach is to walk away – or at least convince your bosses that you are happy to walk away. If they refuse to meet your reasonable request, then you have to have the strength to be able to say “no thank you” – and move on.

This is a decision for you to make – I can’t make your mind up for you. If you perceive the risk as too great, you’re probably not ready to ask for a pay increase in any event.

Getting a Pay Rise – Rule 6: Presenting Your Case

pay increase

Congratulations if you’ve got this far – you’re ready to make your case for a pay rise.

Ask for a meeting with the person who makes the decision about your pay – and try and catch them at a good time. When requesting the meet, I normally allude to the nature of the meeting, without expressly stating my intention until I’m in the meeting itself. For example, I’d ask to speak with them “regarding my role at the company and my future, and to get your views on where I fit in and where I’m going”. This is sufficiently vague as to ensure that they don’t get their guard up; yet sufficiently detailed for you to justify bringing up your pay. If they demand further details, be honest.

When you get to the meeting, all of your practice and visualisation will pay off – you’ll come across as assured and passionate.

Whilst your presentation style will vary dependent on the person doing the meeting, it’s worth mentioning one thing:

You should present both logically and emotionally.

Be sure to emphasise how much you enjoy working for the company first of all, and focus on how happy you are – and it doesn’t hurt to mention that you really like working personally for your boss ;-)

Then, structure your case in the same way you have here: focus on your value and how you stand out, be confident, talk through your results and also your vision for the future. Mention that you’ve done some research and you’re surprised to see that people in other companies get paid X amount more than you. Say you don’t want to leave – that’s not what this is about – but you feel that you should be remunerated fairly. Make sure that you bring your case with you on paper, so you have something to refer to, and also so your achievements are listed in black and white. Give a copy to your boss too – it’s empowering just to place this in his or her hand.

Go back and forth between logical arguments - “this is what I have achieved... this is what I want to achieve”; and emotional arguments - “I love working here... I’m passionate... I want to make a difference... I’m great with the clients... I don’t want to work for anyone else”.

One qualification: never, ever, ever use threats. They do not work, and nor should they. What you are doing here is making a well-researched case that you deserve to be paid more. Under no circumstances should you issue an ultimatum – for even if you do get a pay rise now, this will count against you in the long run.

If you do all of this – and you are indeed a valued member of staff – you are unlikely to go wrong, and getting a pay rise will be just within your grasp. Time for the last step... negotiating.

Getting a Pay Rise – Rule 7: Negotiate!

If you’ve got this far, you’re really onto a winner. My tips on negotiation are really simple, as it’s a little out of this scope of this article to discuss the ins and outs of negotiation.

Simply put, know what you want in a best-case scenario, add a little to this amount(!!), take a deep breath... and ask for it. Also, go in with an idea of the lowest amount that you would be happy to walk away with.

If your boss offers you somewhere in between these numbers, and you are happy, accept it! Say thanks and make your escape! (NB – often, your boss will have to go away to consider your request or confer with other decision makers – but it’s not unheard of that they will make an offer on the spot).

If they make an offer you are not really happy with, say thank you, restate a summary of your case, and ask for a little more. Explain to them the real benefits they will get if they offer you a slightly higher amount, and justify why you are worth this additional increase.

Stick to your guns – the very fact that they are negotiating indicates (a) they accept they are not paying you what you are truly worth, and (b) they want to keep you. This is a fantastic bargaining position to be in – have a little fun with it!

Keep going back and forth until you agree on a figure. Remain confident, and believe in yourself. Whatever happens, thank your boss for their time, shake hands, and walk out with your head held high.

Odds are, if you’ve done all this, you’ve just got yourself a pay rise. Congratulations! I’m happy to accept just 10% of the increase as a commission. Cheques payable to Carl Harvey, please :-)

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