The best way to ask for a payrise or anything else you want from your boss

Matt Kirk Permanent, Contract, Temporary...

You want more money, fewer hours or a change in hours, a new laptop, a cycle to work scheme, promotion or maybe someone who just listens to your excellent ideas...

You've probably brought it up before, even if you haven't; it's making your life difficult at work and you might even be considering leaving because of a number of these issues. The first place you might go to is to look for another job. Finding somewhere that this problem might not exist, or somewhere that will simply pay you another five or ten thousand, or offers a bonus.

If you haven't explored this with your current employer though you might want to. It's better to have this conversation upfront rather than going in search of another job which might lead to counteroffers; which upsets your current and prospective employers and closes doors for you in the future.

The problem is, this isn't an easy conversation to have. You can't imagine yourself doing it, you might make them think you're looking for a job, you might worry that they'll think less of you or spoil an otherwise positive relationship.

Let me take the stress and awkwardness out of it for you today.

Call a meeting...

You don't actually have to call a meeting. You might want to wait for your review (if it's coming up soon), you might have an already scheduled meeting, you might be due to go to an external meeting in the car with your boss.

Whichever way, make sure it's the most Senior person you have regular access to in your organisation. (What's the point in having this conversation with middle management? IF they go up the chain and ask for the things you need at all, then they will sell a watered-down version of what you asked for).

If you do actually need to call a meeting, ask for a five minute sit down in an unassuming, non-official sort of way. They might tell you they're busy, if so schedule it for the next day or two there and then. You probably do this often enough already, but if not don't worry about doing this, we're going to make it a positive conversation, there is nothing ominous about this meeting, it'll be lighthearted but will get the message across...

Having the meeting...

I shouldn't need to tell you that this should be a private meeting. Just you and your boss.

So let's go back a bit before we start the meeting because you will have prepared for it thoroughly beforehand, this will make everything go smoothly and feel clear and open on the day. To prepare you need to:

  1. Write down your grievance(s). All of them.
  2. Make a diagram if that's the way your brain works or just write it all down sentence by sentence, whatever makes you express yourself on paper cleary and ask yourself how do these problems/grievances affect you in work and at home? Go into detail, again it's just on paper at this point, you aren't going to offend anybody by writing it down.
  3. Now put yourself in your bosses shoes and solve each of your problems. Even if it's simple. If it's a money issue simply write down payrise and the amount you think you should get, if it's a new laptop, write down "spend £1000 on a new laptop".
  4. Finally, put yourself in your bosses shoes again, and reason with yourself, why would they offer you that solution? If it's a new laptop, you'll be more efficient, they'll get more out of you and should see it as an investment rather than unnecessary spend. If it's a pay rise; well it's going to cost them more to rehire your position... write that down, you might also be a happier more motivated employee if you get a payrise, again if you put yourself in your bosses shoes and use logic this should be seen as an investment by that person not dead money.

Now you have your thoughts in order lets get back to that meeting room.

What you're going to do...

You're going to make this meeting a positive one. You don't need to make ANY demands, you don't need to sell your ideas, you don't need to justify yourself. You just need to present your problem in a very open, positive way.

Let's pretend your boss is called Bob and talk through the scenario of the obvious one; payrise. You should open like this:

Hi Bob, thanks for sitting down with me. I just wanted to tell you that I love working here. I love the team, I get on with you brilliantly and I think this business is going places. That's why I wanted to have this conversation with you.

It doesn't have to be those exact words, look for your own positives about your workplace.

So far you've made it all very positive of course, Bob should be relaxed, and you've also highlighted that you want to talk about some problems... not explicitly, but you've prepared Bob for the next statement.

Remember that list you wrote? You're going to go through it and present it to your boss, the justification/business reasons from step 4, mention the solution from step 3 (without having to actually ASK for a pay rise) and tell them what your problems are / your reasons you need this from step 2. Step 1 will come very shortly afterwards, but your boss is going to say the words, not you.

Now let's turn that into a non-threatening statement:

I'm a very productive person, and I don't often need motivating by others. But I think I could be happier and a little bit more motivated in the office. I'm otherwise happy, I wouldn't want to even think about leaving this company and I really don't want to cause you a recruitment headache. It's come up because I've got a family now and I couldn't afford a bigger car or a small family holiday if we wanted one.

Finally, make one last statement, then let them talk. The last statement is designed to be non-threatening and invites THEM to solve your problem for them.

Is it Okay with you if we have a wider conversation about this?

Now shut up, don't say a word, let them talk. What do you think the first thing they are going to say is? It's only going to be one of two possible answers or some variation of these:

"So you're asking me for a pay rise?" (...and we're back to step 1 in your pre-meeting writing exercise)


"I understand, but we're a small company, we can't afford to offer people big salaries..."

If they go with the first answer, you simply smile and say yes... then let them talk again. Don't say anything, they're now going to go about solving your problem for you. The answer might not be the one you want, but they will at least apply themselves to the problem. You might get more targets, you might get a refusal, or you might get your pay rise. They will probably ask you how much you want...

If they go with the second, they've answered your question and you've taken the awkwardness completely out of it when asking. You now know it's definitely time to look for a new job.


The example above doesn't feel threatening or difficult to me personally. It might to you. But your simple formula to ask for a pay rise in the most positive, non-threatening and friendly way is to:

  • Make the conversation positive and break the ice by telling them what's making you happy and what is positive about where you work.
  • Give them the justification for asking what you want before making them aware of what it is you want. Do this in your own words, but from their point of view by going through the prep work I recommend above. Reword your statements until you're comfortable with them.
  • Don't ask directly for what you want. Make it obvious though by presenting the problems your grievance creates for you.
  • Don't ask or order them to do anything else. Just ask for an open conversation with them about your problem.
  • Let them do the talking from there.

Don't try to justify yourself, don't present facts and figures, just find the least threatening way to present them with the problems your grievance is causing you (remember: don't mention the grievance itself but do make it obvious in the body of your conversation).

Other methods are available...

I'm not saying don't present facts or figures to your boss if you're comfortable in doing so. Use logic to break them down by all means. You've got to bear in mind though, that they're probably aware of your achievements if every boss followed the logic you're going to present them with they would have offered you what you want already.

You could also flat out ask the question at some point here: "Can I have a pay rise?" maybe replace the final statement with this if you feel confident in doing so.

The method above is directed at the majority though. Those people who are a bit nervous or awkward about asking for a pay rise or something else they want in work... we hate talking about these things don't we? We hate asking for more money especially because it's all a bit perverse.

Using this method you can appeal to their emotions (not their logic) more than anything, and you're inviting them to solve your problem; to help you. And people like helping other people believe it or not. Especially people they like... that's going to help you.

There's lots more to be said on this subject. Anyone is welcome to ask for advice from me.