How to ask for a raise during a pandemic

Lydia Smith
·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read

WATCH: How to negotiate a pay rise

Asking for a raise doesn’t have to be an anxiety-inducing ordeal, but lots of us still avoid doing it in the hope our employers will take the initiative instead. Unfortunately, it’s rare to be offered a higher salary without asking for it.

More than a quarter of women have never requested a pay rise and women are substantially more likely to find the process “awkward”, according to research by Good Money Week. A survey of 2,000 people last year found 41% of men talked about a salary increase with their manager in the previous six months, compared to a third of women.

And with many people worried about the future of their work as a result of Covid-19, it can feel even harder to ask for more money. So how can initiate the conversation during a pandemic?

Jane Ferré, an executive career coach and mentor says asking for a raise can be a mindset challenge, especially at the moment. “We have been hearing messages of doom and gloom since March and these are starting to seep into people's subconscious, becoming a mantra that we all repeat without thinking,” she says.

While some businesses are struggling, however, others have experienced growth over the past year and will want to keep hold of talented employees.

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With many people worried about the future of their work as a result of Covid-19, it can feel even harder to ask for more money. Photo: Getty

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“As an example, one of my clients began a new role at Easter, she had to onboard with her new company from her home office,” Ferré says. “Half her team were in San Francisco and the other half were in Newcastle. After her probationary period, she was promoted and awarded a pay rise as she had more than demonstrated her value through that period.

“In other industries, there is a lot of uncertainty around right now that people are concerned about asking for a raise as they feel it will make them look greedy at a time when people are losing their jobs or are under more pressure than they have ever experienced before,” she adds.

“But this is also a time where businesses need to keep hold of their best people, their strongest leaders - these are the people who will lead the business out of the pandemic.”

So what should you do if you want to ask for a pay rise?

Firstly, prepare what you are going to say in advance and practice it out loud so that you sound confident, Ferré advises. It can help to have a number in mind, based on what other people are being paid in the field or in your company.

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It’s also important to focus on the conversation on data rather than emotion. You may be excited to ask for a higher salary, or frustrated if you feel you have deserved a raise for a long time. However, it’s more helpful to think about where your salary sits in relation to your colleagues or the market median for the role, Ferré explains.

“The further away you are, the more you can ask for,” she adds. “Ask for a meeting in advance too - this is not a watercooler conversation.”

You should also think about what tangible benefits you have brought to the company to justify the raise. Although your employer ought to know what you bring as an individual, you will likely need to state your case clearly.

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“Prepare examples of how you have contributed to the success of your team, department or business,” Ferré says. “Focus on numbers. How has this impacted the bottom line? Think RIGIS - what have you reduced, improved, grown, increased, saved?”

Ferré recommends being prepared to offer and consider different solutions. “One approach I have used is the two-part uplift,” she says. “Give an uplift immediately and then a second one three months later if certain targets have been hit.”

It can also help to think about the “total reward” associated with your job. There may be other ways to increase your total reward package that doesn’t include a raise. For example, you could ask for more paid time off, a larger bonus or the chance to gain qualifications, which may increase your earning potential further down the line.

“Consider your response if the conversation does not go the way that you would like,” Ferré says. “What are you going to do if the answer is no? Are you going to leave to look for other work? How long are you prepared to wait before you ask again? What is the lowest offer you will accept?”

Finally, remember your manager may not have the authority to give you a raise on the spot and may have to come back to you. “Make sure that you get a time commitment and follow up at the agreed time - do not pester them in the meantime - there may be a complex sign off process going on in the background, particularly if you work for a large organisation,” Ferré says.