Asking For A Salary Increase? It’s Not As Simple As It Seems…

Posted On 28 Apr 2021

Asking For A Salary Increase? It’s Not As Simple As It Seems…

28 Apr 2021
Asking For A Salary Increase? It’s Not As Simple As It Seems…

Candidate Resource, News & Events, On The Job

Asking For A Salary Increase? It’s Not As Simple As It Seems…

On the back of our Masterclass last week, I thought this sensitive subject of salary increases needed further exploration. It is not an easy subject to navigate, so this week’s blog may take you an extra minute to read – but it is worth it!

Hiring Managers, this is for you…

Firstly, for Hiring Managers, do not be put off by this question or topic.

Instead, please take it as a compliment that someone in your team trusts you enough to bring it up. It takes courage, and most people will do everything they can, including leaving a job they love – rather than broach the complex and confronting topic of a salary increase.

Which brings me to another discovery for you to consider – it is likely that if your employees are bringing this subject up, it is not something they thought of over the weekend. It is something that has been sitting with them for a while – long enough for them to gather courage for the conversation – OR sufficient time to fester resentment.

Let’s explore ‘fester resentment’. It goes like this….

The idea of a salary increases pops into your employee’s mind. It could be that their partner or best friend received a salary increase recently or an unexpected bill has come in. It may remind them of their own dissatisfied need or a lack of recognition. The idea/feeling disappears as quickly as it appeared. The thought lies dormant for some time.

But then it pops back up again – triggered by another similar event. The thought stays longer this time and may take on a life of its own. Not long after, a ‘negative’ experience occurs at work, e.g., working back to meet a deadline. It is also likely this ‘negative’ experience was not ‘negative’ in your eyes – you provided dinner, a taxi home and showed your gratitude and appreciation.

In the mind map of your employee, the ‘negative’ event attaches itself as ‘evidence’ of deserving said increase. From here, their mind will look for activities and situations that warrant and justify their way of thinking, also referred to as confirmation bias. The frame of reference will be to see situations a certain way – that backups not just an increase but maybe even a resignation. This is the time when resentment eventually wins. It happens to the very best of employees and performers. Your employee is also finding a way to justify not having that difficult conversation. Remember, people will ‘do everything they can, including leaving a job’…..It’s part of our human nature.

As a short ad juncture – of course, different personality types deal with this feeling of ‘unfairness’ in different ways. Not everyone will allow resentment to manifest. Some employees will blame themselves – not feeling worthy and may lose motivation, self-confidence, and thus their performance suffers. Our blog does not allow time to explore all these behaviours – but I wish it did!

Either way, as Managers, we need to be acutely aware of how our team are feeling. If resentment or a lack of self-worth has kicked in, we are now in a very precarious situation. We are trying to negotiate and reason with someone who already has one foot out of the door. It is hard to coax people around if they are too far gone but it is still possible if you are aware. It takes time, timing, and trust.

Far better though, that your employee does not venture down the road of justifying the increase via resentment; and instead, they travel forth on the road of courage to openly discuss their salary with you. In a market short of talent, it is hard enough to recruit for new roles – you want to avoid a situation where you are recruiting to backfill positions.

I am most certainly not advocating increases all around! That is not the answer – what I am suggesting is to have your antenna up and be open to seeing, hearing, and feeling what is happening in your team.

Employees seeking an increase, this is for you…..

Now, what if you are the one seeking a salary increase? In mentoring you on your quest, my first question posed is why? If it is simply because of the recent market movements, I would encourage you to reconsider.

The market has indeed moved, but it has not ‘settled’. In the same way, property prices increase, reach a peak and then ‘settle’ – this is what will happen to salaries in the job market.

The Landscape and Perspective

Consider the landscape. Yes, the economy has picked up, and how fortunate are we! However, it is only just the beginning. Less than four months ago, we were still in the throes of feeling the pinch from COVID, and this time last year, if we are honest with ourselves – we did not know how it was going to pan out.

Whilst individually, we all might be feeling more confident, it is not that easy for businesses. Like a big machine – it takes a while to warm up and for the flow-on effects to come through. Businesses are still hurting from COVID, and for a great majority of them, despite upward sales figures, the road to recovery is still 12 to 18 plus months away.

  • If you fall into any of the below, I will also suggest the timing may also not be right in asking for an increase:
  • If you have had a salary increase in the last 12 months already – let it play out for min 12 to 18 months
  • If you have had a promotion within the last 12 months
  • If you have received a bonus in the previous 12 months
  • If the business you work for has made people redundant in the last 9 months – again, timing and sensitivity

I am not saying you may not warrant an increase – what I am saying is the timing is likely not right. You may have to wait a little longer – 3 to 6 months until discussing the subject. In that time frame, though, be mindful to avoid the resentment trap – keep optimistic and realistic in your quest and choose the higher path of courage.

This will also give you time to formulate a plan on how to ask and get your mind ready to do so. Also, do not go out on interviews (I thought I was a recruiter!!) – if you like your job, culture and boss and can wait a little longer to bring the subject up, then going on job interviews will confuse you unnecessarily.


Which brings me to mindset – this is the most critical part in asking for a salary increase. Having time on your side can be a good thing – to perfect your pitch. Plus, when you meet, you can mention you wanted to discuss this 6 months ago but recognized the timing was not right – your boss will appreciate the consideration showed.

Having the right mindset means a balanced, open approach. I suggest creating a gratitude list that is non-monetary based. If you think I am away with the fairies – you could be correct, but also – I take on my own advice. Unfortunately, I have no one to ask for a salary increase! BUT I channel this sort of thinking to any problematic situation or discussion.

It’s not about you

When asking for a salary increase – it cannot be about you, i.e., extra bills to pay, saving for a holiday, a house or school fees. These might be needs you have and are warranted, but that is not a reason for your boss to give you an increase. Instead, you are better to focus on the business needs.

I make this point to save you from making a mistake with the wrong pitch or approach. You could be well deserving of a salary increase – but if you put your case forward on any of these grounds and not the ones that are of mutual benefit to the business and you, you may end up doing yourself a disservice.

Do your research

Please be rational. If there is a salary range – do not assume you should be at the highest level. If your salary is only a little behind the market – I would likely sit on it for a while and hold off asking. Again, it is about timing. Think of the big picture – far better you wait a little longer as your case will be stronger as well.

Your review

What were the development areas in your last review? Have you worked on these? How much have you improved – how do you know – do you have anything to demonstrate this – perhaps positive reviews from customers?

Review your job description – do you cover EVERYTHING on your JD, even the hygiene part of the role you do not love as much (we all have these!)? To what level and degree do you do everything on your JD? 9 or 10 out of 10?

What do you believe people would say about you? Your peers, colleagues, stakeholders, customers, other managers? It’s essential to have a complete understanding of how you are viewed in and outside of your team – it counts.

What are the extra, additional tasks you do that sit outside your JD? What would be any other contributions?

Think Big Picture

Your employment is not a sprint – it is a marathon – it is for your whole life. I meet a lot of people who leave jobs and bosses they genuinely liked and loved and struggle for years to find that connection again. If you are seeking a salary increase – it is not a do or die. Your gratitude list will help you to see perspective etc.

The Pitch

Write it all down, redo it and redo it until you are happy you have covered all. Practice saying it to yourself in front of the mirror and read it out! Reading it in your mind is not the same. Read it to someone you trust and ask for their honest advice and thoughts. You are looking for them to identify any defensiveness, resentment, or passive-aggressiveness – even if only traces.

Do not have the meeting until you are 100% comfortable and ready and feel great about it. Do take your notes with you to the meeting and don’t be afraid to read from them – that way you will cover all points and not ‘chicken’ out when you look into your bosses’ eyes!

Be prepared for a no

In our current times – an answer of ‘no’ is a possibility. Please do not be disappointed. You have planted the seed, and that is the good news. A salary increase is not a given, it’s rather a negotiation, especially in larger businesses with banding and policies in place. A small note as well – it should also never be for bargaining.

You have put wheels in motion – you have made your boss aware of the situation and how you feel and in a professional, well-articulated way.

In most cases, you will be well on your way to achieving the outcome you are after, just in the future and maybe not right this minute.

Keep working as hard and as diligently as before, and do not go on job interviews (again, I thought I was a recruiter!!) – give yourself and your boss time to get through this period without distractions that will not serve the outcome you both want.

As a very final note on maybe my longest blog ever! Some experts will argue a salary increase can be a bad thing, as at the core of it all – is the central question, do you love your job? Are you working in a role and in an organization that is the perfect match for you; are you really in your dream job? For those who answer ‘no’, you may be fortunate enough not to receive a salary increase or promotion – for the promotion or increase may just prolong the ‘agony’ of not loving your job.

To me, loving your job is number one – but that is another blog!


“Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.” – David G. Allen

About the author
Roxanne Calder
Managing Director

As Founder and Managing Director at EST10, Roxanne has an all-encompassing role that includes building and growing the business, as well as actively recruiting and consulting.

After completing a Bachelor’s Degree at Monash University, Roxanne began her recruitment career with renowned recruiter Julia Ross. From there, Roxanne worked in HR and recruitment with a number of global players and boutique businesses throughout Australia, the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong for over 20 years. She has been responsible for managing large teams and projects, implementing RPO models, managing and assisting businesses to an IPO and assisting companies in setting up their recruitment teams and processes.

Following completion of her MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management, Roxanne launched EST10 in July 2010. In doing so, she hoped to combine the flexibility and high touch service levels of boutique agencies with the structure and strategy afforded to larger firms. Roxanne believes in high-touch, high-care consulting and is always on the lookout for consultants that share this vision of recruitment.