For a long time I've believed that salaries are falling in real terms.
With the dire job market and the current UK recession, many employees are staying put and tolerating poor pay. They don't dare ask for a pay rise because they consider themselves "lucky" to have a job.
But what do you do when you know you are being paid less than what you are worth?
How do you go about asking for a pay rise?
Well, firstly you need to be sure about what you're really worth. What's the market rate for your role? Check the online job boards to find similar jobs with equivalent responsibilities, same locations, etc. Compare on a like for like basis. Research it properly and you'll have more chance of success.
Then look at the value you bring to your employer. Have you brought in new business? Created new opportunities? Made significant cost savings? Supported, trained or mentored colleagues? Taken on additional workload or responsibilities? Learned new technologies? Improved productivity levels?
Once you're absolutely sure of your worth, create your case and tell your boss that you'd like to meet with them to discuss your remuneration package. It's best not to spring it on them. Give them time to think about it. Ensure that the appointment is in your boss's diary and that they're not just giving you 2 minutes out of their busy day... it needs to be a proper appointment.
YOU set the benchmark
Bring evidence to the meeting and set the anchor. If you allow them to suggest a new salary, it may be totally out of line with your expectations and research. You'll find it difficult to negotiate, and you'll feel insulted and undervalued - possibly feeling worse than if you hadn't asked at all. So make sure you say what you think you're worth at the outset.
Because you've done your research, you know what you're worth so you can make a sound business case for why they should pay you more.
You also need to think about what you do if your request is turned down but hopefully that won't happen.
Should I wait until my annual review?
If you wait until your annual review, you run the risk of being subject to fait accompli... Your pay rise, if there is one, will already have been broadly determined. Whereas if you ask for a pay rise soon after some major accomplishment, you are more likely to be deemed worthy.
If you're really doing a great job and it's not just your perception but also the company's, then your employer won't want to lose you. Yes, there may be lots of people out there who would jump at the opportunity of doing your job for your existing salary. But if they're not going to be as good as you and they need training, then your employer would be foolish not to keep you and pay you what you're worth.
What happens if they say no?
If your request is turned down, don't give ultimatums about leaving the company. This could prove difficult if they call your bluff. Instead, ask if you could perhaps have a further meeting in a month or 3 months' time. Or suggest that you receive a rise or a bonus if you can exceed targets by a given percentage. Give the company an elegant way so that the door isn't closed entirely.
What about equal pay?
Whilst you shouldn't be paid less than someone else in a similar role, you can't expect to be paid more either - not unless you have more responsibility, deliver more value, etc. That's why it pays to do your homework thoroughly.
Good luck! We'd love to hear how you get on.