How to negotiate a pay rise during the pandemic

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  • No matter how bad things are in the world of work, you can and should ask for a better salary if you have a good case to make

    Don’t dare ask for that pay increase you’ve been waiting for when the economy’s in a mess? Think again. Gita Trevorrow-Seymour is a leadership and performance coach and the brains behind High Definition You who uses neuroscience-backed techniques to empower people to thrive in their careers. Her advice is to think positive – but do your research before you learn how to negotiate a pay rise.

    Trevorrow-Seymour says don’t be put off by challenging economic times. Your company may be extra busy which could mean they need your contribution even more. If you’ve survived a round of layoffs it will make your stock go up. Which means in theory your employers can afford to pay you a bit more. That’s if you can prove what you’re bringing to the company’s situation is of more value than before.

    Stick to the language of the business in your pay negotiations. Simply pointing out that you haven’t had a pay review for two years, using words like ‘fair’ and ‘deserve’ and pointing out your ‘extra effort’, will do the exact opposite. What matters, advises Trevorrow-Seymour, is where the business is right now and how you will contribute to its future success.

    How to negotiate a pay rise – 5 key factors

    1. Investigate the context

    Before you start the salary conversation, set up a Google alert for your company to track news in order to be aware of company and management priorities. They may have just landed a great big contract or laid off a layer of senior management. Whatever the case, knowing the facts means you’re able to have a much richer conversation with your manager about the direction the company’s going in, its priorities and the value you’ll add.

    2. Do your research

    Who is the actual decision maker and what can you do to create a deeper relationship? How well do they know your work or are you solely relying on your manager putting your case forward? Next, research your market. In order to work out your market value get comparisons from similar roles in similar industries, speaking to recruiters and previous managers. Understand what people are valuing right now, the skills that are really important and the value you bring. Show them your updated CV and ask ‘What is my current market value and what do I need to do to improve that number in the next six months?’

    How to negotiate a pay rise

    Leadership and performance coach Gita Trevorrow-Seymour

    3. Present a compelling business case

    Create a self-marketing campaign ahead of the company pay review cycle. Ask your clients, stakeholders and managers to email you feedback on the impact you’ve had. Evidence your tangible impact (eg sales) and intangible impact (eg team morale). Elevate your profile by contributing outside of your department, volunteer for employee groups or to mentor an intern or new starter. Remember deserving a pay rise is not about ‘fairness’. Putting in the hours isn’t actually what counts: focus on articulating the results, the outcomes you’ve achieved and will achieve in the future.

    4. Ask with conviction

    Be brave, state the salary you want. Research shows the gender disparity in salaries is at least in part a result of not asking for the salary we want and instead ask for the amount we think they might pay. Say ‘My market research shows my current value in this role is £X… and I’m currently on £X… how can we bridge this gap?’ Be direct about it, ask quality open questions – and be comfortable in the silence that may follow. And if it’s a no, discuss what else progress could look like, for example, for you to get some training or to have an indirect report so you can start practising your management skills.

    5. Don’t use bluff tactics 

    Be prepared to counter offer with ‘I believe £X is a true representation of the value I’m bringing and will bring’. Or say you’ll go away and think about it. But don’t bluff! Either have another role that will pay you more as a tool for negotiation, or declare you will investigate other opportunities, but don’t pretend you have a better offer in your back pocket or this could backfire. If there’s no pay rise on the table agree that you are happy until another date to revisit it. And then focus your energy on smashing expectations and not begrudging the fact you’ve given it all and ‘they’ haven’t recognised you for it.


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