I recently had a conversation with a friend who is flying high in her career.  She told me that she feels that no barriers have been put in her way because of her gender.  It was great to hear…..but then she admitted to being a shrinking violet when it came to asking for a pay rise.  She either didn’t ask, didn’t give a good case for it to happen, or set her sights too low and came out with a token increase that was barely worth the effort.  Meanwhile her husband was walking confidently into pay review meetings with outrageous demands, and achieving a substantial increase year on year.

Linda Babcock in her book “Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change” found that when men take a job 57% of them negotiate a higher salary, while only 7% of women do!  These trends continue throughout a woman’s career and it’s about time that changed.  Men are twice as likely to ask for a pay rise.

There is a right way to approach asking for a pay rise.  Here are 5 ways to maximise your chances.

Timing is everything

Asking for a pay rise needs to be official. Do not be tempted to ask when the mood takes you.  Apart from anything else you need to plan the negotiation, so asking on a work night out or over lunch is a big no-no. Generally the best time is during an annual review, which means you need to put one in place yourself if you don’t already have one.  You should then have plenty of notice to gather all the information you need to formulate a business case for an increase.

If you do feel the need to ask outside your annual review request a meeting, Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are not the best time as you want a focussed boss to negotiate with, not a stressed and distracted one.  Also think about the wider situation; if your company has just made redundancies or announced loss of profits you may be wasting your time entirely.

Know your Value

The first thing to realise is that if you don’t value YOURSELF then no one else will.  Have a think about what you bring to the company, and make it real.  Make a list of your accomplishments and achievements, and use numbers and figures to quantify your impact where possible.  If you can’t define by figures think about the impact you have had on your department or ideas you have implemented that have changed things for the better.  Remember, your boss might take you for granted and a reminder of what you have achieved is worthwhile.  Keep a note of additional responsibilities that you have taken on over the past year. These additional responsibilities will have been given gradually and often go unnoticed, so speak up and highlight them.  It is a good idea to keep a running journal of this type of information that you update monthly.

Know the market

Your case for a pay rise will be improved if you are getting paid significantly less than your peers.  Investigate how much they earn.  Do you know anyone who has recently left the company? Take them to lunch and ask the question.  Looking at job adverts/descriptions for similar roles can also enlighten you as to what you should be earning.  Quote facts regarding the pay received by others, this will act as a warning that you know you can get what you want elsewhere.  AVOID using specific employees salaries as justification, as this looks unprofessional.  Remember, you are not giving an ultimatum, but you are firing a warning shot.

Be assertive and professional

Making the request in writing AND in person can help with this.  It also may help your manager convince their superiors that you are worth it.  Remember your direct line manager may have limited influence on getting you more money.  So make sure to give them the tools to fight your corner.  If it is verbal only they may not relay the request the way you want to the decision makers.  Re-affirm your commitment to the company, after all, you want more money because you want to stay with them.

It can be tempting if you are really undervalued or get turned down flat to stamp your feet and threaten to walk.  Do not do it.  You may get a negative response this time, but a few months down the line the issue could be revisited.  Some managers seem to be programmed to say ‘No’ but then do some thinking and discussing with other decision makers and subsequently change their mind.

Don’t burn your bridges.  If the lack of wage increase makes you look for, and get, an alternative job then so be it.  Change companies professionally and leave on good terms.  A follow up e-mail to clarify what was discussed is also a good idea so you have a paper trail in case things are promised and not delivered.  If you get a negative answer to your request ask for feedback.  What do you need to do to be considered for a pay rise?  Ask for quantifiable achievements to aim for.

Preparation is key

Asking for a pay rise can be stressful and cause anxiousness.  Preparation is everything, so bring all your facts and figure with you and write everything down that you want to say.  In addition write everything down that happens in the discussion then you can refer back to it.  Practice what you are going to say and the reasons why you deserve a pay rise.  Role playing the meeting with a friend or speaking in front a mirror can allay fears.  Ask for more than what you want (but keep it realistic), because they will likely negotiate you down, so you will still end up content with the amount.  Pay attention to your body language and stay focussed.  This is a business meeting therefore it’s best keep a lid on your emotions.

What Next?

When you get your pay increase, make sure to say thank you.  It should be an automatic response but it’s often overlooked.  Your boss has successfully fought your corner and you should be grateful.  If you don’t get it and the reasons are budgetary there is nothing to say that there isn’t anything in the pot for additional training. It may be worthwhile to request more flexible working, or other employee benefits.  Similar to asking for a pay rise, if you don’t ask you won’t get.

No matter what the response, it is in your best interest to work harder.  Make it impossible to be turned down next time.  It’s worth saying that although a positive attitude is great, there may come a time when you have to move on.  If that happens, make sure you negotiate your starting salary with confidence so you don’t end up chasing the salary you deserve again……because YOU ARE WORTH WHAT YOU THINK.

If you want to learn more about how Generation Women can help you click here.