Does questioning your salary make you squeamish? Careers expert Corinne Mills tells us how to buck up to make sure we're getting our daily dues

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Money - It’s never an easy topic to broach. Perhaps a trait of our prudish British society, many of us are brought up with the understanding that discussing matters such as personal finances and salary is vulgar, rude and to a level, extremely personal.

It’s not surprising then, that when it comes to discussing financial matters at work we’re often caught totally tongue-tied and filled with trepidation that a discussion over increasing wages would appear greedy, out of place and ultimately, a damning career move.

Indeed a recent government survey revealed that out of 2000 works asked, only 46% had at some point had a conversation with their employer about increasing their pay, despite the fact that the remaining 54% felt they were underpaid. When asked why they had failed to discuss it, a fear of coming across as ungrateful or that it may damage their relationship with their boss were the two main reasons cited.

Now we’re not suggesting that you dive head first into your boss’s office and threaten to quit unless the money starts rolling in - but how long do we continue to indulge in these financial fears before they actually start to damage our career progression and even quality of life?

Hoping to finally put these wage worries to bed, we sat down with Managing Director of  Personal Career Management ,  Corinne Mills , to find out the who, what and why of not being afraid to cash in on your job net worth.

How do you know if you’re eligible for a payrise?

Ask yourself the questions; are you unhappy? Should you be getting more? Are you worth more than the money you're getting? If you answer yes to any of these then your pay probably needs to be re-evaluated.

Some companies already have formal pay review processes in place so that employees positions and monetary worth are regularly reviewed. If not, you need to take control of the situation yourself and set a date to sit down with your boss to discuss it further - don’t wait to be offered because on the whole, organisations and managers will usually always pay as little as they can get away with.

How should you broach the discussion? Should it be formal or informal?

It definitely needs to be a formal scenario as it is a change in your terms and conditions. Try to have the discussion in an environment that allows you to have their complete attention - you want it to be an honest, frank chat - not a snatched conversation in a corridor as you're much more likely to get fobbed off this way. Be honest, firm and direct.

Perhaps pull your boss aside or if you can’t, send an email to say something along the lines of ‘can I meet with you at some point to review my career progression and salary?’

Should you prepare anything before having the discussion?

There are a number of things you should prepare and think about before going into this discussion. Firstly, once your boss has agreed to a meeting, prepare a document that lists all your achievements and successful things you’ve done that year, e.g. impressive sales, customers you've retained or even when delivering a large project on time - just to remind them of how valuable you are to the company.

Next, make sure to do some market testing by researching what others in your field are getting - this will arm you with better knowledge and understanding of the wage you should be on - or at least the minimum amount. It’s also important to do some informal background research as it allows you to sound out how receptive they might be - take into account the success of the business itself, market conditions, or if they generally seem pleased with you.

In addition to this it’s also important to make sure that you’ve thought about any objections or potential barriers they may present - so you can have a counteractive answer. For example, if you’re at the top of your grade, they may suggest there’s no where for you to progress - so to counter this perhaps suggest that maybe you’re on the wrong grade then and that you need a job evaluation as well as a pay evaluation - there’s always a way around it.

Finally, always follow up the meeting with an email to thank your superior or boss for their time and to also simply re-outline your reasons for a pay increase that were mentioned in the meeting. If they’ve already said no, then suggest that you meet again in another three to six months time - but make sure you hold onto this email as a marker - if not these things can get lost in time and before you know it a year has gone by and nothing has happened. Vigilance and attention to detail is key - you can’t expect anyone else to be keeping track for you.

Is there anything you definitely shouldn’t or should say?

Steer clear of mentioning anything along the lines of ‘if I don't get this pay rise, I’ll look elsewhere’ - as this can backfire dreadfully and people can find themselves out on their ear. Don’t even give the slightest hint or indication of it.

You have to remain rational and encourage the view that you love your job and simply want to progress and make a future with them. Your suggested movement within the company is only because it doesn’t reflect your market rate or contribution to company - not simply because just because you want more money in life (however just that may be).

Should you ever mention your personal situations?

No - never. Always keep it strictly business - it’s not their responsibility to sort out your finances and by implying that they should puts the whole discussion on the wrong footing. Also, people can often become quite angry when emotional manipulation comes into play as it puts them in a difficult position - they feel bad if they refuse it and resentful if they’re guilted into it.

Your justification always has to be a business decision - and your companies decision will almost entirely be based upon that - whether you're nice or having a hard time simply won't and shouldn’t come into it.

How do you show determination and authority without coming across as pushy?

Again, it’s important to reinforce how much you care about your job and that it’s not just about the money. However, you must also remember that it’s okay to ask for extra money - we don’t work for love, we work to pay the bills. If you don’t ask, you don’t get - so at the end of the day you have to just get on with it and be as professional as possible. Book a time, come prepared with ideas and thoughts and justification, follow up with an email, put a time scale around it and don’t give in to or create any form of manipulation.

What would be a fair increase in pay?

It depends, but generally speaking a fair increase would be between 2-5%.

What do you do if your request is rejected?

Ask the question ‘what needs to happen to make it a yes next time?’ What would need to shift? Maybe something in the organisation needs to alter or maybe you need to do additional study or improve your performance scores to get a better bonus - either way you need to find out - don’t just simply accept the answer and walk away.

Even though rejection can be disappointing, the discussion of pay can still sometimes flush out existing problems by bringing to the surface issues with your job or performance - not to mention a better understanding of what you're real prospects actually are for the company. So, even though it’s hard, try to see the positives and don’t take it personally - it can sometimes feel like a judgement as a person or individual, but it isn’t - so don’t let it affect your self-esteem.

Most importantly however, whatever the outcome, remember to thank you superior or boss involved as it will only stand you in good stead for the future.

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