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How to successfully ask for a pay rise, as study shows 60% of people are unhappy with their salary

Asking for a pay rise can be nerve-wracking (Alamy/PA)

According to new research, now could be a good time to negotiate. Katie Wright finds out how.


When payday rolls around, are you delighted when you check your bank balance – or do you find yourself frowning and wishing your monthly pay packet was significantly higher?

A new study from CV-Library reveals that nearly two-thirds of employees are unhappy with their salary, with lawyers, teachers and new graduates the most disappointed. The survey of 1,500 people also found that just over half of respondents have never tried to negotiate higher pay – but now might actually be a good time to try.

“When the pandemic first struck, businesses held all the power and competition for top jobs was tougher than ever,” says Lee Biggins, chief executive of CV-Library. “However, in the last few months, we have seen this power shift back in favour of candidates, and the year-on-year salary increases we are seeing across many industries already in 2022, substantiates this.”

As the old saying goes: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Yet broaching the topic of pay can be daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. We asked careers experts to set out the essential dos and don’ts of asking for a pay rise…

Do ask for a meeting

The first step is to set up a meeting with your direct line manager, even if they’re not the person who ultimately holds the purse strings. “Going above them will play out badly politically in the vast majority of cases,” says Ellie Green, jobs expert at Totaljobs.

However, the way you approach the issue of pay can vary depending on your relationship with your boss: “Raising the subject informally may prove to be more successful for some and can be the start of you building a case with more senior stakeholders, but other managers will prefer a formal approach.”

Do know your worth


Before the meeting, research typical salary levels for your role, both within your company and externally. “This way, you can argue that your current pay is not in line with the market and make it clear that this is important to you,” says Green, who suggests using the the Totaljobs Salary Checker.

James Andrews, senior personal finance editor at, says: “Following the 2010 Equality Act, workers are entitled to discuss earnings among one another. Doing this will strengthen your position when it comes to bargaining and also help prevent your employer from taking advantage of you.”

However, Green says there are still things to keep in mind here, adding: “When comparing jobs like-for-like, similar sounding job titles can have different levels of seniority at some companies, salary may differ regionally, and remuneration packages that include bonuses will all have an impact.”

Don’t make demands

Even if you feel you’re being treated unfairly, playing hardball can sometimes backfire, especially if you’re boss isn’t in a position to alter salaries at the moment. Instead of demanding that you must have a pay rise immediately, you might want to consider going into the conversation with questions and an open attitude.

“Ask the question more along the lines of, ‘Is there budget available for pay rises?’, or, ‘What is happening with bonuses?'” says Dr Audrey Tang, psychologist and author of Be A Great Manager – Now! “Asking the open question is going to get you more information than simply saying, ‘I want a pay rise’.”

Do show evidence

“Remember that while it’s important to be ambitious, your expectations should be realistic,” says Green. “Any decision they make will be a balance between their bottom line and the value you bring, so make sure you come with a comprehensive overview of what you’ve achieved over the last year, and what you expect to bring in the months or years to come.”

Examples of evidence might be improved results or revenue, personally or for your team, additional projects you’ve taken on, or positive feedback from clients. Green adds: “Always remember to tie this back to business results. Money talks!”

Do follow up in writing


After the meeting, follow up with a polite email thanking your boss for their time and summarising the key talking points, so there’s “a clear paper trail of your requests and your achievements are well documented,” says Green.

Dr Tang says this is “a normal practice that people don’t always do”. She also advises including a call to action, such as outlining ‘These are the points we discussed, and these are the next steps that I intend to do’ – whether that’s arranging a meeting with senior management or providing more evidence of your achievements, or waiting for your boss to get back to you.

Don’t give up hope

“If things don’t go your way and the request for a rise is denied, don’t be disheartened,” says Andrews. You can use the decision to find out what you need to do in order to achieve your salary goals.

“Ask your boss what you need to do in order to get where you want to go. This will provide you with a pathway going forward, and ensure that next time you ask the question, you walk out with exactly what you want.”


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