How to ask for an increase in your salary at work

Money money money, it’s definitely not funny. Especially when you’re waiting to approach your boss about a pay rise. Your palms are sweaty, you can feel your heartbeat in your feet and you’ve got the shakes. But you know you’re worth more than your monthly pay cheque.

Talking about money is still a taboo subject, particularly among women and particularly at work.

According to data from the World Economic Forum, women still earn less than men in every single country in the world. As a 31-year-old woman living in the United Kingdom, it will take 169 years ‘for the world to close this economic gap completely’. I will be 200 years old by then.

One of the ways to make sure our generation bridges this gap is to talk more openly about money, how much we earn, how much we want to earn and what we think we’re worth.

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To help break the money taboo, we asked three inspiring women how to go about asking for a pay rise.

Their advice? It’s priceless.

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Otegha Uwagba, author of Little Black Book and founder of Women Who

If you think you’re being underpaid, what’s the best way of understanding your worth and putting a figure on what you do?

Do your research. Talk to other people in similar positions (perhaps at other companies) and speak to recruiters and headhunters, who will have a very clear picture of the going rate for your role.

Online salary websites like Glassdoor are great, but be sure to corroborate your findings with some IRL research.

What three practical steps should you remember when asking for a pay rise?

1. Do your due diligence on the entire company’s fortunes, not just the ones in your immediate vicinity. Structural changes like expansion, redundancies or new management can all have an effect on the success of your request, so factor them in to the timing of your conversation.

2. Make a strong case — outline what you’ve contributed to the organisation, presenting tangible achievements and recent successes.

3. Have a concrete figure in mind. Don’t just vaguely ask for a ‘pay rise’ — put an actual number on the table, thereby clarifying your expectations for the powers that be.


What kind of language should you use when asking for a pay rise?

Avoid emotional or subjective language such as ‘I want’ or ‘I need’ at all costs, and instead use phrases like ‘I’ve achieved’ or ‘I deserve’.

It’s vital you frame your request as a business argument, not one that stems from personal desire or need — even if that is the case.

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How do you start the conversation?

Organise a proper meeting with your boss, as opposed to trying to grab a few minutes with them on the fly. When setting up the meeting, make sure you clearly signpost the purpose of the meeting — nobody likes being blindsided, and you’ll probably fare better if your boss has had a chance to prepare too.

Once you’re in the meeting, saying you’d like to talk about your compensation package in light of your contributions to the company (or something along those lines) is a good way of kicking things off.


If you’re nervous before talking to your manager what’s the most useful thing to remember?

Approach salary negotiations as a discussion. Instead of thinking about them as a black and white request that’s met by either a ‘yes’ or a hard ‘no’, frame the situation in your head as a conversation between two people with common interests, who both want to figure out the best way of getting you to where you want to be salary-wise.

Most managers don’t want to lose decent employees, and are inclined to trying to find a solution that everyone’s happy with. 

A post shared by Otegha Uwagba (@oteghauwagba) on Jun 29, 2017 at 6:02am PDT

Should you ever threaten to leave?

Never threaten to leave if you’re not fully prepared to follow through on that. There’s no guarantee it’ll work, and you might end up in the awkward position of either having to follow through on a threat made in haste, or staying put and undermining your position.

At work, as in life, ultimatums are generally a risky move, so try to avoid issuing them.

SAMANTHA CLARKE, Happiness Consultant and founder of Growth & Happiness school, opening in October

What should you do if you think you’re being underpaid?

Do your research — use sites like and – to identify what positions like yours can earn. Evaluate your earning potential — look at your skills compared to the average, years of service, education, extra training in relation to your job location, sector etc.

Look at the financial health of your company: are you in a start up without investor funding? Has your company just merged or been acquired? You can’t always gain an idea of financial health from what you see, do some of your own digging to get to grips with exactly where the company sits and what might lie ahead.


Start by building a good rapport with your boss and be honest about what you love about the company: ‘I’m really enjoying X’ or ‘Since I’ve been in my role I’ve contributed/delivered on/set up/sold’. Showcase your skills, abilities and achievements.

Then say something along the lines of, ‘I’ve been doing my research and for my role, experience etc it seems that I am being underpaid. I should be on XX. I really enjoy working here but I would like a fair salary adjustment that works for us all.’

Don’t make it personal or confrontational, but prove you’ve done your research. A pay rise needs to be a 3-6month process of planning.

Women working Kareena office facebook

What kind of language should you use when asking for a pay rise?

Keep language positive, future-focused, high-performing, emotionally intelligent, company orientated.

Are there any words or phrases you should avoid?

Making it all about you and your needs. For example, ‘I’m trying to buy a house so I need X’. It’s not their problem. Everyone, including your boss, is under pressure in tricky economic and political times.

AVERIL LEIMON, Executive coach and leadership psychologist. Co-founder of White Water Group

What are the three most important practical steps when asking for a pay rise?

1. Change your own beliefs— women often expect to be rewarded for work well done. ‘They will see how hard I’ve worked or what I’ve achieved’ — it dates back to getting good grades at school. They often fail to realise that isn’t how business works. You have to build a case for yourself first before you take it to anyone else or you won’t be convincing.

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2. Build a case for the increase—how much more you are doing, where you have stepped up and learned new skills, where you have gone above and beyond? Do not assume that this is visible to anyone. Also, put it in terms of ‘what’s in it for them’ to reward your great performance. Focus on positive consequences. Don’t use threats.

3. Practise, practise, practise! Get someone to role play and give you feedback who knows what they are doing, i.e. you don’t want someone to add to any fears/beliefs you might have about it being rude to ask for money. If you have to, rehearse in the mirror. Don’t try to be word perfect because it will just make you nervous but you have to hear the actual words out loud or you might baulk at saying them when the time comes.


How do you start the conversation?

Something along the lines of: ‘I would really value your time to discuss my career and my progression. I’d like to make the case for a raise in pay. Here are the facts about my achievements and the results since I took up this role. I’d also like to talk about what I know I can achieve going forward.’

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Are there certain words or phrases I should avoid?

Be very careful of equivocators. These are the words/phrases that diminish what you are saying: ‘Well, in my opinion I have been doing a good job’ compared to ‘My results demonstrate the success I have had and my increasing value to the firm…’

How can I stay calm?

Breathe! Don’t worry about things like whether you will blush. If you do, just tell them you’re excited/nervous because this is so important to you.

Should you ever threaten to leave?

As a very last resort in the face of intransigence, you could say something like, ‘I am very ambitious and really want to feel I am putting my talents to the best use and am recognised for that. I need to know that this company sees that and sees a place for me to develop in the future’.

How should you manage your expectations?

Don’t be an idiotic optimist or a fatalistic pessimist. Be a strategic optimist, ask yourself: ‘What are all the things I have to do to give myself the best chance of getting the result I’m looking for?’

Make a list, plan, practise and go for it.


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