The tools you need to negotiate a pay rise

For most of us, the art of negotiation doesn't come naturally - and it's even more difficult when we're negotiating our own worth. Recruitment expert Anna O'Dea shares her six tips for securing that pay rise.

OneLife  staff writer

OneLife staff writer

Staff writer

Our salaries are essentially a financial representation of our worth (in a professional capacity, at least). And so, for most of us, the thought of having to explicitly ask our bosses for more money is both personal and daunting.

The fear of rejection, combined with potentially having to face up to the fact we may be undervalued, can be confronting, and it's likely to be a harsh realisation for most of the country.

Wage growth in Australia has crawled to a virtual standstill over the past five years, with the situation looking unlikely to pick up until 2023 or later. So, when the country's economic state indicates it's tougher than ever to inch your way up the pay bracket, is it actually possible to get what you want salary-wise?

Anna O'Dea, recruitment expert and managing director of Agency Iceberg and one of LinkedIn's Global TopVoices of 2017 on workplace issues, says that, ultimately, negotiation comes down to being paid at a level that reflects your value - and that nothing should stand in the way of that. Here are six steps to follow when asking for a pay rise:

1. Prepare your business case

If you're considering asking for a pay rise, the likelihood of success depends predominantly on the preparation, says Anna.

"You need to make sure you're walking in with a bank of tangible evidence that shows your boss exactly what value you're adding to the business," she says. "Start collating positive feedback from clients and colleagues about your performance, make a note of any award wins you've had, work out how much you've exceeded your KPIs by, quantify the business value of any new clients or accounts you've brought on board."

2. Ask, don't wait to be asked

"If you don't ask, there's always someone else who will," says Anna.

Harsh, but true. Research shows that men are significantly more likely to negotiate on salary than women and that even when women do ask the question, they walk away with much less than their male counterparts. What's more, where younger members may hold back based on their perceived lack of experience, older employees might worry requesting a pay increase could see them replaced by a younger (and cheaper) model.

Keeping your head down in the hope your hard work will be recognised and compensated isn't the way forward. Instead, once you feel you're backed by sufficient supporting evidence, get a date in the diary with your boss, says Anna.

"It doesn't matter if that's six months after starting with the company or six years. If you know you're smashing it, it's time to have the conversation - don't put it off."

3. Learn the language of value

For many of us, saying what a great job we're doing goes against our basic instinct of not wanting to appear too full of ourselves. But there's a distinct difference between confidence and bragging - and the former is essential for successful negotiation.

To help you sound surer of yourself, get "meek speak" in check. Coach yourself to eliminate 'just' from your vocabulary, because we're all guilty of 'just' asking, 'just' wondering and 'just' showing our bosses how much we don't believe in ourselves.

"Always make sure you're using 'I' in any conversations around pay, too," Anna adds. "You're not going in there to negotiate an increase on your colleagues' behalf, so ditch 'we' and really own your achievements: 'I excelled, I achieved, I would like.' These are all phrases that show you're speaking with real conviction and believe in both yourself and what you're asking for."

4. Outline your terms

It's no good going into a pay review meeting without knowing exactly what it is you're asking for, so make sure you have a definitive figure in mind.

Do your research beforehand and use resources like Hudson Recruitment's annual salary guides to find out what the average salary bracket is for your industry, position and location, and then value where your individual skill set sits on that scale.

Once you've arrived at your figure, put it to the test.

"Practise saying your figure out loud in front of the mirror," advises Anna. "If you can't say it with real self-belief or you feel like it's selling you short, then you might need to revaluate. But it's far better to do that pre-meeting than let it throw you off balance once the discussion's already underway.

"Also, don't forget to clarify things like when you'd ideally want the increase to be effective from and whether it's inclusive or exclusive of super, as these are questions that can often catch people off-guard."

Make your #onechange

Block out 15 minutes in your diary at the same time every Friday to quickly jot down your work-based achievements for that week.

5. Don't only think about the dollars

Work takes up a lot of our time. So, if you're happy with your salary, but feel your work-life balance could be better, it's worth thinking about negotiating some non-monetary perks instead.

Additional paid annual leave, the freedom to take a sabbatical after a number of years' service, flexi working hours, work from home days, and paid wellbeing classes are all worth considering. And incentives focused on personal development are in demand, too, says Anna.

"Candidates are rightly asking 'what's in it for me?' when they're thinking about both their current role and new opportunities," she says. "And employees see training packages as a way to grow their knowledge, expand their skill set and support their future career progression."

6. Be prepared for a no

At the end of the day, your employer is well within their rights to reject your request for a raise - but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the right decision.

"If they say it's not going to be possible at that point in time, press them for a date when the raise might be up for debate again and arrange another meeting," Anna suggests. "And if it's a flat out 'no', without any sign of an opportunity to renegotiate in the near future, then it's time to think hard about whether this is the place for you long-term.

"Because there might be another company out there with all the attributes you're looking for - plus a salary package that's aligned more closely to your own self-worth."

OneLife  staff writer

OneLife staff writers come from a range of backgrounds including health, wellbeing, music, tech, culture and the arts. They spend their time researching the latest data and trends in the health market to deliver up-to-date information, helping everyday Australians live healthier lives. This is general information only and is not intended as medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances. The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.

The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional, tax or other advice. It does not take into account any individual’s personal situation or needs. You should consider obtaining professional advice from a financial adviser and/or tax specialist, or medical or health practitioner, in relation to your own circumstances and before acting on this information.