05/03/2014

By Roger Devles, Director of the Ashridge Executive Masters in Management programme

If you feel you are not being paid as much as you deserve, what is the best way to negotiate a pay rise? Here are some tips to help you get what you want.

Managers often feel that asking for a rise or promotion should not be something they have to do; their work speaks for itself and the reward and recognition that goes with doing their job well should come to them, rather than be something they have to pursue. But career-minded managers must realise that they have as much responsibility for managing their career as their employer, say Ashridge’s Roger Delves and Sona Sherratt.

First, think:
• Do you have a strong business case for this request? Is it strong enough to match the performance of individuals who are currently at the level to which you aspire ?
• What is the system within your organisation? Is it well-defined and is it properly followed?
• Is your organisation the equivalent of a free-market economy? Is it up to you to demonstrate your worth and then to set about obtaining it?
• What is an equivalent role worth elsewhere?
• Who is responsible for the final decision? Is it your boss or a team of people?
• Are you assertive enough to pursue what you want with confidence?
• What happens if you don’t succeed in getting this promotion or rise?

Preparation is key
You must have a thoughtful, justified business case which is clear and airtight. The business case must be based on something more than your own sense of ambition and self-worth. You must also understand the likely position and response of management. Sometimes, however much you deserve a rise or promotion, the funds or the position are simply not available. Management must also consider the impact of whatever they give you on others in the organisation.
In short, if you do request a promotion or rise you must plan both what you want, and how you will ask for it

Ask, don’t demand
Often the best way to approach negotiations around pay and position is to ask questions first about the organisation’s view on you, your future and your potential within the organisation. It may be that what you want is just around the corner. Equally, if the organisation has a very different view of your future than you, it may be that asking for a rise or promotion is a futile exercise. Perhaps you need to move on, and find an organisation whose sense of your ability is more aligned to your own.

In many organisations there are salary bands; movement to a higher band is subject to specific and measureable criteria that are assessed by a team of people. In this type of organisation there is a clear and formal process to follow and there is little to be gained by trying to buck the system. In smaller or more informal organisations, it’s more appropriate to ask for what you believe you deserve because there is no structured system in place. Here you will need to influence and negotiate your way to a better package.

Gather advocates
Part of making your case for a rise should be seeking senior people who are prepared to champion your cause. Being able to say in your meeting that the head of another department believes your case to be deserving can be a significant influencer. It’s even better if these champions can have a quiet word on your behalf before the meeting takes place.

Differentiate between reward and responsibility
There is a difference between asking your organisation for more money and asking for more responsibility. A new title or new responsibilities at the same salary is often a more palatable proposition for management to consider. Perhaps you can agree in advance that your salary will be reviewed after six months in post, once you have proved yourself in a new role.

If you are not sure about the answer, think hard before asking the question
Properly done, asking for a rise or a promotion should not be traumatic. Ideally you should be in very little doubt about the outcome before you enter the meeting. The worst case scenario should be that you leave the meeting with a very clear sense of where and how you need to improve in order to get the promotion or raise you want. Try to get a timescale around this and an agreement that achieving the targets set will lead to a salary increase and/or a change of position.

Remember…
If you don’t get what you want immediately you should not act in haste. Be calm and carry on as normal while looking for ways to develop your career elsewhere within the organisation, or outside it. Being a bad loser will win you no respect amongst the decision-makers and undermine your chances of future success.

Above all, don’t go into the meeting threatening to leave, unless you really mean it. At best, if your conditions are accepted there is often a lingering sense of resentment and, at worst, walking the talk could mean walking the plank!

If you feel so strongly that you will leave if you do not get what you want, you should either have something lined up to go to or accept the decision gracefully and then seek a new position. This allows you to leave on your own terms.

This article is based on an excerpt from the book The Top 50 Management Dilemmas: Fast Solutions to Everyday Problems by Roger Delves, Director of the Ashridge Executive Masters in Management programme, and Sona Sherratt, Ashridge Faculty member and leadership expert.

Every manager has experienced situations where they are stuck and the ideas that unlock the door elude them. The Top 50 Management Dilemmas provides help on the most common hurdles that managers face. This practical publication, based on extensive experience, provides managers with solutions for the most pressing issues they face, whether the challenge is an individual, a team, external clients, conflict or change.

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