How to ask your boss for a pay rise

Video by: Mahi Tahi Media

Written story by: Zoe Madden-Smith

This story is part of Re:’s Money Week, where we take a look at everything from asking your boss for a raise, to explaining what inflation actually is. Check out the rest of the stories here.

Asking for a raise can feel awkward, uncomfortable and just plain terrifying. 

But it’s a skill that needs to be learnt - especially now that inflation in New Zealand has hit a three-decade high

New Zealand’s inflation crisis means that if your wages haven't increased in the last couple of years, you’re actually getting paid less to do your job even though you have more experience. 

Inflation means the price of goods and services have increased while the purchasing power of money has decreased. 

For example, if your salary was $50,000 in 2020, you would need to earn $54,277 in 2022 to be able to afford what you could in 2020. 

In other words, you would need a raise of $4277 otherwise your salary is losing value or what’s known as ‘purchasing power’. 

That’s why pay increases at the bare minimum need to match inflation. 

But how the heck do you ask for a raise?

Career consultant Andrew Tui says having the confidence to clearly and respectfully navigate this conversation with your boss is a skill. 

And like all skills, practice and preparation are what make the biggest difference.

So here's a step-by-step guide to get you started:

Timing is everything

If you’ve just started a new job and feel that your pay isn’t fair, Tui says it’s important to wait at least six months before you ask for a pay increase.

“The risk is if you try to raise it too quickly, it may be perceived as demanding too much and that could set you off on the wrong foot with your employer.”

Tui says it’s also important to read the feeling in the workplace to see if it’s an appropriate time. 

“If your boss is busy and already overwhelmed or there’s some disruption in the workplace then it’s not a good time to add more to the plate. Wait until there is some calm in the office.”

Do your research first

Before you do anything, make sure you research the market value of your role. 

Websites like PayScale, What’s The Salary and Seek can give you an idea of what other companies are paying people who have a similar role to you.

If you come up with a range that is realistic and backed by market research, it’s more likely to be considered, Tui says.

Tui recommends giving your employer a range, not a specific number. 

“If you go too specific, you might risk it being an easy yes or no answer. Whereas a range shows there’s room for negotiation.”

The low end of your range should be the salary or pay that you want and the top end of your range is higher. This means that if they go for the lowest offer, you are still satisfied.

For example, if your current salary is $50,000 and you want to be on $60,000, set your range to $60,000 to $70,000. 

Or if you are paid hourly it could be $28 to $33 an hour.

It’s best to have this number ready in your mind. You don’t want to leave this number for your boss to come up with. 

Don’t be afraid to ask other employees how much they get paid

“One thing that we need to be trying to shift is pay transparency,” Tui says. 

“You shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable about asking your colleagues what they get paid.”

Have a chat with one or two of your colleagues who are in similar roles and ask them what they are being paid. You can also ask if they have ever asked for a raise.

Talking to people in your company is the best research and insight you can get, Tui says.

Know your impact and achievements

What’s most important is understanding why a raise needs to happen. 

This means figuring out what your contribution is to the team. 

How has the company benefited from you being there? What has changed since you joined the team? Are you going above and beyond your role description? Why should the company invest more in you? What return would they see as a result?

“If you go in guns blazing and say, ‘I deserve a pay raise because I’ve been here for so long and do so much for this company’ - that's not going to work,” Tui says.

“Start by talking about your biggest achievements that have made an impact on the team. Give specific examples because you're wanting to prove with evidence that you are worth the investment.”

“Once you have set this evidence up you can say, ‘given the contribution I am making and what I have achieved, I would like to have my salary reviewed,’” he says.

Get your colleagues to help build your case for you

If someone in your company or even outside of your company compliments the work you are doing - ask if they can send this feedback to your boss so they can see it as well. 

For example, in a work setting your colleague could send this message in a shared group chat with your whole team. 

Something this simple can help reinforce your value to the company.

Practice your spiel with someone you trust first

“Practicing job interviews beforehand has been shown to make the person more calm and professional when it comes to the real thing, so this is just the same,” Tui says.

Role-playing with your friends or family or even someone in your team at work will build your confidence. 

It will also be a golden opportunity to hear any feedback someone has for your pitch.

Set up a one on one appointment with your boss

Asking for a raise isn’t a conversation you can spontaneously bring up at lunchtime, Tui says.

The best thing to do is set up a time with just you and your boss to talk. 

“Don’t make the email subject line ‘request for raise’, it needs to be something more general. 

“You can tell your boss you would like to meet to talk about your future at the company or development opportunities. Keep it simple,” he says. 

Putting it all together

Now that all of the preparation is covered, it’s time to make your pitch. 

Here is a checklist of points you can touch on:

  • Firstly, thank your employer for taking the time to meet with you. 
  • Talk about your biggest achievements and give specific examples of how your contributions have benefitted the team. 
  • With this evidence laid out, tell them you would like your pay reviewed and provide a range. For example $50,000 to $60,000. 
  • Don’t over-explain yourself. Make the proposal and then wait for them to respond. By over-explaining you could undermine your case, Tui says.
  • Sort out a timeline that gives them a specific period of time to decide and respond to your request.
  • Let them know you will be sending them a follow-up email after the meeting that goes over what you have discussed. This makes it easy for your boss to remember what you have proposed, Tui says. “This is also an official document that records progress in your role, so it can also be helpful for your next review period.”
  • Before you leave, thank them again for their time and consideration. 

The response

If the answer is yes then congratulations, you deserve it! 

If they haven’t responded to you within the timeframe you have given, be proactive and give them a gentle reminder.

If the answer is no, Tui says you can use this opportunity to work on a plan for the future.

Ask yourself: Do you need a raise or do you need a promotion to a different role?

“If this is the case, now is a good time to talk about professional development opportunities or training they can offer you instead,” he says.

If they offer you a raise that is below your range, you can reiterate what you were looking for and ask if there is any wiggle room.

If there isn’t, you can respectfully accept the raise and ask them what they would like to see from you to be eligible for a higher raise in the future. 

Make an actionable plan with specific achievements and goals so that you can check back in when you have achieved them, Tui says. 

“You are not alone if you think asking for a raise is scary,” Tui says. 

“But if you are respectful to your employer no matter what the answer is, at the very least it will show that you are determined and value yourself highly. So you can’t really go wrong.”

More stories:

Money Week

Welcome to Money Week. For the past month, the Re: team have been looking into money and finance - how people live, what people can do and what things like inflation mean.

View all series