Getting knocked back when you’ve built up the courage to ask for a pay raise at work can feel like a real blow. It can seem as if your hard work has gone unnoticed, and will quickly sour working relationships if you let it. But with some segments of the economy still decidedly wobbly, every pay bump is hard-fought, and more of us than ever are getting turned down when we ask for more cash.
If this is your situation, don’t get disheartened. Instead, think about the different negotiating angles you can work, like requesting a deferred raise, extra pension or benefits, increased vacation time, a personal development payment, or even the opportunity to work from home.
All of these can effectively put money back in your pocket, even if your boss says no to a raise.
Deferred or Conditional Raise
If you asked for a straight raise and your boss was not able (or willing) to offer it, then asking for a conditional or deferred raise is an option. A deferred raise simply means a pay raise that is delayed until an agreed date — and might be worth asking for if your company has specific short-term cash issues, or if the issue is linked to the financial year. If there is no stretch in the budget for right now, that does not necessarily mean that there won’t be in future, and getting an agreement in advance is a head start.
A conditional raise, on the other hand, is linked to your achievement on a certain task or project. This might mean that you are to receive a raise if you secure a new contract, or pass a professional qualification. You might link it to the company profits or your team performance, depending on the sort of business you work for. This gives you the opportunity to show, not only why you deserve a raise, but also how your boss can find the cash.
But for these options to work, they should be agreed in writing, and with as much specific details as possible to back them up.
Boost Your Benefits
Depending on the type of company you work for, it might be possible to effectively boost your overall remuneration by addressing other fringe benefits instead of the salary. This is often an appealing option for bosses if the financial pots for salary and benefits are separate. Even if the one pot dries up, there might still be some wriggle room in the other!
You should look at the benefits your company offers, and make a specific request for improvement. For example, if your business has a grading system which is linked to benefits, you might ask to be bumped up a grade — especially if this allows you access to perks like a company car or share options. If this is hard to swallow for your HR team or boss, then consider agreeing that the grade improvement now could be set off against any future entitlement.
Think broadly when you negotiate this one. You might request company pension contributions, share options or grants, reward cards, discounts on products you actually use, or even increased vacation time. All these routes effectively boost your package and leave you with more cash in your pocket overall.
Invest in Yourself
Sometimes, investing in yourself through personal development or improved qualifications is really worthwhile. If you are struggling to get a raise at work, then why not ask for support in achieving this development or qualifications instead? Some qualifications can give your salary a huge boost over the long term.
If you have courses in mind which would give you transferable skills, and also improve your performance at work, then see if your boss will pay for them. Even better, maybe you can get some study time off to reflect the extra work you are doing. These cash investments tend to be relatively small for the company, but the end result is that you have more skills with which to negotiate a better role or raise later down the line.
Ask for improved flexibility in your work schedule. This can be an equivalent to a pay raise if you can negotiate some time working from home, and therefore cut the costs of commuting or parking. If this is not possible, then perhaps working a more flexible shift would allow you to do some longer days in return for more time off.
The benefits here are felt in reducing the cost of commuting, but also the peripheral costs of things like buying lunch at work or stocking up on gourmet coffees. On the other hand, by reducing your travel, you win back time that can be used to boost your income if you wish. To get the biggest return from this approach, use the time you save to set up a side hustle, and suddenly it’s like you’re being paid double time.
When you’re asking for a pay or benefits rise, how you ask is at least as important as what you’re requesting. If you’ve already been knocked back for a straight raise and are going in for a second pass, then it’s especially important to get your message straight.
Here are some hints to make sure you’re making your case effectively.
Pick the Right Moment
If you were refused because the business is genuinely struggling, then putting the request on ice for a few months might be best. Use the time to sharpen your skills and, if necessary, start applying elsewhere.
Don’t Whine or Give Ultimatums
Avoid comparing yourself to others. Don’t say, “I do way more than the rest of the team!” As tempting as it might be, it’s not going to help your case.
Don’t Highlight Personal Financial Problems
If this is a real challenge, then be honest with your boss, but don’t try to use your cash flow as leverage.
Remember You Are Not Entitled to It
You won’t get one because you did everything asked of you, or just because the cost of living has gone up. Assume you’re making a business case for the raise and present it as such, not a demand.
As uncomfortable as it might be, asking for a raise is part of working life. And if necessary, bouncing back from rejection should be, too. Think of it as an ongoing project to market yourself and your skills and ensure that you are paid fairly, and consider different angles to make your requests so good they can’t be refused.
What is your experience in asking for a pay rise? Let us know in the comments!