How to ask for a payrise… Supporting the BBC’s 100 Women season


There are 3 things it helps to think about if you really want to secure a pay rise. Only a third of women feel confident to ask according to recent research by the BBC as part of its 100 Women season. Whilst few people – men or women – would actively look forward to a conversation about money, there are things you can do to make it feel more do-able. Thinking carefully about these 3 things in advance should help you feel more prepared and hopefully to find the courage to give it a go. 

So, before you knock on that door, think…

1) What facts will help ? – some good evidence and background information will increase your chances of success

2) Who you are asking and what do you know about them? – this will help you to prepare how to ask them in particular

3) What you are like under pressure? – you can then plan how not to be your own worst enemy !

So firstly – what facts will help. 

Prepare and take along evidence of some great results or specific responsibilities that illustrate that you are worth more. To get a payrise you are likely to need to show that you are going above and beyond whaat is expected of you – Remember to show what you will do in the future as well as what you have done in the past.  

Find out what your job is worth – look at similar jobs both inside and outside your company so that you can be clear about whether you are actually being underpaid at the moment and what a reasonable salary is for the work you do.

And think about the best time to ask – How your Company is performing and how the pay rise process works are important to know. It may be that there is simply a better time of year to have the conversation – maybe when budgets are being set or when cash flow is not an issue.

So on to the second piece of thinking – How to ask the person you are asking. 

You are probably asking someone you know so think about them personally… When are they personally at their most receptive? – is there a good day of the week or a time of the day to avoid? Certainly don’t catch them off guard by asking them in passing or when they are preparing for an important meeting themselves.

Think about what you know about their working preferences. Would it be better to ask them for a formal meeting in the office or ask to speak to them informally first? Do they like making decisions in the moment? If not, think about giving them advance notice of what you want to talk about. Some people like to reflect and so it might be better to meet and then give them a summary in writing so they can think about it?

Think about what they value in employees in particular and draw their attention to when you have done those things. Also plan what not to say – avoid anything that hints at complaining, arguing or over-sharing such as “My pay is not fair because…or I’m desperate for more money right now….” 

Finally think about your own responses in difficult conversations so that you can plan not to be your own worst enemy. 

Neuroscientists think that these highly charged situations at work make our bodies react in the same way that our ancestors did when they experienced a physical theat – so having a payrise conversation might mean your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. When our heart is racing our our palms are sweating during these highly charged situations the neuroscientists have proved that up to 80% of the blood and oxygen that is normally helping the part of the brain that deals with rational thinking and problem solving is diverted to your heart and your extremities – so just at the point where you need your wits about you and need to be able to think clearly, your rational brain is working at about 20% of its usual capacity….great ! So what can you do ?

Well, getting angry or upset won’t do you any favours, whereas staying calm and considered will. So if you notice that you are becoming emotional, breathe and remember that you may not be able to respond in a level headed way, so try not to start talking until you have really taken a moment to think about what you are saying.

Practise out-loud – saying slowly and calmly the key points you want to make – and then practise leaving it there and staying silent! We can tend to talk too much when we get nervous. It’s often better to say what you have to say and then shut up so that you can really listen to the answer you are given.

And if you get a no, well that’s life. Rehearsing for this and preparing a question like “How would I make this a yes in 3 months time ?” is certainly better for your career prospects than threatening to resign ! 

So…Think about the facts. Think about how to ask the person you are asking. And think about how to prepare yourself. 

Then my ultimate tip is – just do it ! Asking for a pay rise is a real “who dares wins” situation. Because it is difficult to do, your brain will try hard to find you all sorts of reasons not to experience the discomfort of that conversation. So look beyond your natural resistance.

Ask yourself honestly, what do you really have to lose by respectfully asking your boss to review some evidence that suggests you are worth more?

You might get a “no” … but in the process you may well get some feedback that will help you understand what you need to do more of to get a yes in the future. 

And given practise makes perfect, asking for a pay rise once, will make it easier to ask next time! 

There’s more information about how I can help you personally with these challenging conversations at and Or view my video clip on the BBC website at the link at: