How to ask for a pay rise in a pandemic

Asking your boss for more money is awkward at the best of times.

Throw a pandemic into the mix and it becomes that much harder.

It can feel impossible to broach the subject of a payrise when so many people have been made redundant, businesses are struggling, and managers are trying to coax people back into offices.

But if you’re underpaid and fed up of it, you are absolutely within your rights to bring up your salary with your boss – regardless of Covid.

And in a time when your workload may have increased and burnout is oh-so-common, getting paid what you deserve may feel even more pressing.

So, how on earth do you ask for a payrise with a pandemic as the backdrop?

We chatted with Paul Farrer, the founder of recruitment agency Aspire, for his expert advice on asking for a salary bump.

Don’t wait

Don’t feel like you have to hang about and wait for your annual appraisal. If you’re unhappy with what you’re being paid and feeling undervalued, you should be able to raise the subject the moment it’s affecting your motivation.

Lockdowns may have meant your 2020 appraisal was cancelled. You could use this as another reason for wanting to talk about your performance ASAP – you missed out on the opportunity last year, so would like to talk soon.

‘Ask your employer for a performance review,’ advises Paul. ‘Don’t wait for your annual appraisal, instead be proactive and request a catch up.’

Try framing the discussion as a performance review

Asking for a performance review can be a lot less intimidating than straight up saying that you want to ask for more money.

This way, you can prompt your boss to clearly outline any areas where you’re falling short, and note exactly what needs to be done to go to the next level – if you’re not there yet already.

Make a case that can’t be ignored

Paul says: ‘When negotiating a pay rise you need to be able to support your case with achievements, your value to the team and company.

‘Ask your manager what you need to do to progress. What are the next steps? In what timescale? Finally, address the elephant in the room – your pay.

‘Simply state the facts – that you have benchmarked your skills and experience and your salary needs to reflect this.

‘If your boss asks where you got your figures from, tell them.

‘Be transparent. You aren’t enquiring about another job, merely finding out if your pay reflects your worth.’

Understand your value to your employer

Think about what would happen if you were offered another job that paid more. Would your current workplace match or exceed the salary offered?

‘If you think there’s a strong chance they would, you can enter these conversations with more confidence,’ notes Paul.

‘Bear in mind that right now there’s a big shortage of skilled workers. This means your skills may be in high demand, putting you in a stronger negotiating position with your employer when it comes to receiving the pay rise you deserve.’

Come with evidence

Preparation is key. Rather than going into the meeting with emotional or personal reasoning for why you should get a pay rise (I feel undervalued, I’m trying to save up for a house), gather together evidence of the great work you’re doing.

If you have facts and figures showing how valuable you are, now’s the time to bring them out. If you feel like your boss doesn’t notice all the hard graft you put in, have a list of all the tasks you’re responsible for.

Now is the time to blow your own trumpet.

Do some proper research

Rather than just pulling a number out of thin air, do some research to find out how much you should be getting paid.

Then, make sure to reference that research when you bring up your salary with your boss.

Paul says: It’s worth contacting relevant recruitment agencies to ask them how much someone with your skills and experience should be getting paid. Does your wage reflect this? If the answer is no, use it as part of your reasoning for a pay rise.

‘The salary data we have collected here at Aspire over the past year suggests that wages have remained fairly consistent across the board during the pandemic, at least in creative, marketing, technology and sales roles. As demand increases in these sectors, so does pay.’

Bring in confidence

Now is not the time to let yourself spiral into self-doubt.

It’s okay to feel uncomfortable. Don’t beat yourself up for finding the money chat difficult.

But do as much as you can to project confidence, whether that’s something as simple as wearing something you feel great in, or doing a few practice rounds with a friend.

‘If it helps, rehearse the discussion that you’re likely to have and map out a strategy of how you plan to discuss the issue and achieve the best possible outcome,’ suggests Paul.

Paul Farrer is the founder of Aspire, a specialist creative, technology and sales recruitment agency.

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