You didn’t get the pay raise you wanted

Bad news: you don’t understand how pay increases work.

Good news: I can help you with that.

Bad news: you are not a special golden nugget that will be rewarded at an arbitrary point time just for being yourself.

Good news: you can game the system if you know the rules.

Pay increases are often the result of a combination of systems and processes both formal and informal. Information is key and here’s what to look for:

  • As simple as this sounds: just ask you manager / lead what the process is. How he or she answers this question will give you a great insight on how your company is going to handle a pay review
  • What’s the criteria for an increase? Some organizations (specially in some government agencies) can have a pretty rigorous eligibility rules
  • What timelines and milestones are your working towards? You can influence an outcome that is not decided yet
  • What’s the budget? Is there one? Organizations don’t just have money around to give their employees. Budgets might have been cut if the organization is underperforming.

If you are in a management position, it is important that you understand all the aforementioned points. You will have to represent your organization in front your team and you need to understand how the process works. Keep your comms clear and concise.

Planning ahead of time and influencing the decision is the perfect scenario. But even after getting the news that the increase is not happening or that it isn’t what you expected, there’s still some hope and here’s what you can do:

  • First and foremost, keep a cool head about it. It’s not personal, it’s a business decision.
  • Know what you are worth and be as objective as possible: make sure you have industry data and avoid anecdotal information. Recruitment agencies usually publish industry salary surveys.
  • What’s your business case? You are not a special golden nugget but you can convince people that you are. List your contributions to the organization for the last few years and tie them to business goals. How have you made a difference?
  • You won’t get an increase for “just doing your job”. The compensation for doing that is called “your salary”. Make sure you point out specific situations where you’ve gone above and beyond, where you’ve taken more responsibilities.
  • Money is not everything. Getting extra perks (e.g. more paid leave) can be easier to negotiate.
  • Even if, after all of this it is not possible to get what you want, use the same approach to negotiate a future raise. What extra responsibilities you can take in the next nine to twelve month to ensure that you are considered for an increase next time?

As a manager, you can use all of this information to make sure you are prepared for the conversation. Money matters can be stressful for everyone but information and preparation are key to avoid a difficult conversation.