7 Managers Explain How To Get A Raise At Work

Refinery29 UK
Mar 9, 2020 · 8 min read

By Jess Commons

Photographed by Kieran Boswell

Ugh, asking for more money at work is a nightmare isn’t it? It’s cringe-inducing, sure to fill you with self-doubt and probably the last thing you want to be doing.

The stats back us up. A study from last year found that over half of women have never negotiated their salary, compared to one in four men. And while it’s unfair that the system appears to be rigged in favour of those more confident individuals who are ballsy enough to ask (which comes much more naturally to some of us than others), it’s unfortunately the nature of the game.

To help you get ahead, we asked seven managers what they’re looking for when their employees come to them asking for more money. Also, what are they not looking for?

“The best time is when you start your job.”

“My stepdad gave me some advice that I’ve followed pretty well in my career, which is that your best time is when you start a job — once you know they want you. So wait until they offer it to you and then negotiate your tail off. This gives you good leverage as they’ve likely told the others someone’s accepted and the hassle factor of rehiring isn’t worth it.

BUT you need to be able to justify your request if asked; and know ahead of time what you’ll do if they don’t offer you the raise (e.g. be prepared to walk away/know how much you’ll accept before going in). Also: never, ever accept a first offer. I haven’t been in a position to negotiate for salary midway through a role but I’d probably collect evidence to support working at a higher level and present it to them with what any expectations were; but again I think you need to know what you’d accept and what you’ll do if they say no — are you prepared to walk away? I also wouldn’t see any issue in speaking to men at my level to ask their salary, because the odds are good they’d be getting more. Non-transparent wages only benefit the employer.”


“Always negotiate — don’t ask, don’t get!”

“As a manager it’s really frustrating when someone doesn’t negotiate at offer stage and then tries to lobby for a pay rise at the end of probation or later down the line. At offer I usually have a range of salaries and offer at the bottom most of the time, but have some leeway.

After that, it’s a long process to propose it, justify it and then go through committees to get it approved. So unless they’ve done something outstanding or I’ve had the role benchmarked as it’s under sector average so I can justify it, it’d be really hard to get through. The moral of the story is to always negotiate; don’t ask, don’t get! FYI this is public sector, so it’s usually quite set in terms of offering at the bottom of the grade and the bureaucracy. Might be a lot easier in the private sector!”


“Bring the receipts.”

“Advice for those already in a job rather than those at offer stage of a new one: never compare yourself or wage to other people. Bring the receipts of YOUR work and why you deserve more money. It is likely your manager has to get a pay rise approved — they will need the evidence to back you. Help them out!”


“Timing is everything.”

“I make sure my team knows the process the managers take. So businesses generally set next year’s budget for salaries, review the mix of new roles and pay rises in current roles they will award, and then at your annual review they provide you with your salary for next year. If you’re walking into your annual review with a request for more money, you’re way too late in the process. You need to position yourself for an increase when the budget is being set so that you are considered for a pay rise. Timing is everything.”


“Avoid ‘but I haven’t had a pay rise in three years’.”

“They should be a top performer within the team (if they’re not, tell them how to get there). I ask them to articulate to me the key things they would highlight about what would merit it and give honest feedback about how compelling that is. Ask them to look at perceived high achievers across the business and think about what they are doing that could be emulated. Then tell them what the process is and when pay reviews happen and set some milestones for them to work to. Or for promotions if they’re already at the top of their bracket.

Mistakes: ‘I’ve not had a pay rise in three years’-type arguments. For standard performers or underachievers this really doesn’t wash. You generally, as a manager, get given a budget to work to — this will always favour raises and bonuses for superstars.”


“Talk about your future at the company.”

“As a low/mid level manager, line managing junior staff, I get asked about pay a lot because junior entry level pay is always rubbish.

1) Don’t think about mentioning other people being on better salaries and it being unfair (it’s very hard to execute without sounding stroppy, even if it is unfair and true). It can also be about external factors like their recruiter haggled better, which your line manager can’t control.

2) Talk about the value you bring to the processes and how you want to keep doing that. Mention the future and your investment in the company and ideas you have for progression and the future. If I think someone’s here for the long term, I’ll probably work harder to get them more money. If I think they’re disinterested, my attention will go elsewhere due to a busy work environment.

3) As a team leader/line manager, I know my staff well and know their performance. If your manager doesn’t know, question why that might be? I had a team member who was good but never cc’d me in so I always thought they were bad at communication. In a review they were able to prove me wrong and I was fine with that. Understand that it might not be them blocking a promotion/pay rise if it happens, it might be from above. I often tell my juniors to establish a good rapport with senior management too, that way when I go in to ask for a pay review for them, they will know who they are and will need less convincing.

4) If the answer’s no, ask for expectations to achieve it. If your manager can’t answer, they need to do a better job and processes need to change.

5) Think about your company values and look above you at the type of people who have been promoted or rewarded. It might not be the right way or your way and it sounds stupid, but I work in a small company and it’s the people who go the extra mile and get involved that always seem to do well because that’s what the company needs. Also accept that if you’re in a company that is like that and that it’s not you (which is also fine), then maybe you will always be fighting a losing battle and you’d fit in better elsewhere.”


“Try not to get caught in a loop of emotion.”

“As a manager, and as someone who has become better at negotiating pay rises/contracts, mainly: don’t think that what you’re doing isn’t worth paying for!

Women are definitely on the back foot with this stuff (I’ve been there!). I’m not ignoring the bias in the workplace, which needs to be addressed at a system level, but these are a few things I’ve learned and found helpful to employ for the individual:

1. Be an expert on the marketplace — how is your sector performing, what are the opportunities, what roles does your business have in that sector? What are the pay grades — ask people in roles, recruiters, trade press, gov stats etc.

2. Dig deep on the business. Understand the business’s performance and its performance in context of the marketplace — what big business wins have there been, what turnover, what profit, where is the growth? What is staff turnover like? This gives you a sense of its net worth, where it needs people most and how likely it is to pay market rates.

3. Your pay is not just a reflection of your behaviour but also how you collaborate. Autonomous team players are valuable and the better you are at this, the more you’ll be held onto. What is the value of your department and how does it contribute to the business overall? What has the department achieved and how did you play a role in this? What are the opportunities for promotion, if any? What monetary/business/strategic difference has the team, and by association you, made in the past year, and what will you do.

4. Know your worth. Align it all with what you offer, skills and experience, make it tangible. Demonstrate what you’ve done but also impact — if you can find out the monetary/hard business value, even better (find an ally on the biz team!). ALWAYS negotiate at every point — joining a business and pay rises etc. If they want you for the job, they want you, and asking for what you’re worth from the outset sets a precedent and also avoids disappointing gaps further down the line.

5. Remain objective. Interestingly it is easier to be passionate about a job when you can be less emotionally involved, so practise sitting back and see it for what it is, and be aware of how you are responding when challenged/celebrated etc. Whether you get the pay rise is nothing to do with you personally and all to do with what the business has planned (see points above). Remember that appraisals are not always directly linked to pay rises, so try and make sure you understand the whole process in advance as well as opportunities for personal growth (ask questions). Try not to get caught in a loop of emotion and start to question yourself as nine times out of 10, not getting the pay rise is all to do with the fact that there just isn’t the opportunity in the business and little to do with you.

6. Stick to your boundaries. Decide in advance what your boundaries are, and what your flex is. Be genuinely prepared to walk away if what you are offered doesn’t work for you. And I’d suggest never agree to stay once you are leaving, as staying just for salary when you’ve checked out already never lasts long.

7. Employ radical honesty. Try and find ways to be as open as you can with your line manager the whole way along, not just at crunch points. This can be more of a challenge but if you can, then you are getting constant feedback and creating a 360 degree feedback cycle which means you’ll have a better sense of what’s likely, help avoid any big disappointments and advance management of situations. As a manager I prefer to know what’s what so that I’m not having to create a firefighting chain reaction if I suddenly have a big ask. Instead I can start to find the people I’ll need to give my report the best chance of getting what they want.”


Originally published at https://www.refinery29.com.


Refinery29 UK

Written by

The leading global media company focused on young women. We inspire, entertain, and empower our audience through optimistic and diverse storytelling.


Refinery29 is the #1 new-media brand for smart, creative and stylish women everywhere.

Refinery29 UK

Written by

The leading global media company focused on young women. We inspire, entertain, and empower our audience through optimistic and diverse storytelling.


Refinery29 is the #1 new-media brand for smart, creative and stylish women everywhere.

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