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How to ask for a pay raise

A Step-by-Step Guide To Asking for a Pay Raise or Promotion Amid Inflation & a Labour Crunch

profileKenneth Fong

You should’ve noticed by now that prices have been increasing drastically, especially on consumer products such as petrol and groceries.

This is due to inflation. In Singapore’s context, inflation is a measure of the rate at which the price levels of goods and services in the economy increases over time. This causes a decrease in purchasing power of the currency as more money is needed to buy the same product now compared to the past.

So, what’s the next best thing you can do for yourself amid rising costs?

Ask for a pay raise lor.

In fact, on Thursday (May 5), The Straits Times reported that human resources services company ADP found that six in 10 workers in Singapore are prepared to request a raise, in its annual People At Work 2022 report.

Source: makeameme

It seems like most workers feel that they have put in extra hours of unpaid work by starting early, staying late, or working over breaks, since the pandemic started in 2020.

This, coupled with the easing of Singapore’s COVID-19 restrictions, we’re facing a labour crunch where companies are hiring or upgrading their workers aggressively, in order to stay competitive and keep their businesses afloat.

This thus gives us even more reasons to ask for a pay raise.

With these in mind, we’ve developed an actionable plan that you can use to ask for a raise or a promotion.


TL;DR: How To Get The Pay Raise Or Promotion You Deserve

Here’s a 6-step guide on how you can plan for your pay raise/promotion:

  1. Reflect on whether you deserve a pay raise
  2. Inform your intentions for a pay raise/promotion through regular meetings with your boss
  3. Review your current accomplishments, align them with pay raise/promotional criteria, and create an action plan with your boss
  4. Volunteer for higher-level tasks, review further accomplishments (about 6 months to build your reputation)
  5. Check in with your boss regularly (about 3 months to check your progress and align any differences)
  6. Ask for your raise or promotion and focus on your value (D-Day)

There’re ways to get what you deserve without coming across as being insensitive to the company’s situation:

  • Let your intentions be known as early as possible
  • Contribute authentically as a team-player
  • Continuously build a reputation and case for why you deserve the raise.

The best period to ask for a pay raise is either at the beginning or end of the year because this gives you a timeframe to build your reputation, and gives your boss(es) time to assess your performance over time.

Once you’ve set the tone right, it’ll be easier for your boss to say, “This person should’ve gotten a pay raise/promotion half a year ago… let’s do that now.”


Negotiating a Pay Raise or Promotion Amidst Rising Costs & Labour Crunch

NGL, it can be really hard to start a conversation with your boss regarding your pay and promotion.

1. Step 1: Reflect

Source: Tenor

Before you ask your boss for a pay raise or promotion…

You’ve got to be honest with yourself.

Are you ready to take on work above and beyond your current role?

And can you perform at that level?

Also, on behalf of bosses everywhere: You’re NOT getting a raise for doing the job you were hired to do.

2. Step 2: Let Them Know Your Intentions Through Regular Meetings

If you feel that you deserve that pay raise or promotion, be patient and paint a picture for your boss.

Remember that it takes time to convince bosses why they should employ you, but it takes even more time to prove to them that you deserve better.

If your boss is aware of your intention early, at least you’ve set yourself up for the next meeting where you’re more likely to get it.

During that meeting, take the opportunity to go through your progress with your boss.

Not gonna nag here but do your basics to find out how your company deals with promotions and pay raises.

Is there a monthly, quarterly or yearly review? Does the company practice an off-cycle pay raise?

3. Step 3: Identify Areas To Up Your Game & Create Action Plans With Your Boss

Source: Tenor

Your boss can be your greatest ally and advocate. If you involve them EARLY in your quest for that pay raise or promotion, they can identify pain points for you to act on and even help you build a case for when the performance review comes around.

For example, if you would like to progress from an executive to a managerial role. You might need to lead a team to demonstrate your leadership abilities.

If your boss is aware of your intention, he or she can put you in a position where you can take on that responsibility and prove your worth.

You don’t have to brown-nose anyone, but it just helps if you know how to meet and exceed a management superior’s expectations.

Source: Tenor

Before we move on, make sure you’ve done your research on the average salary across industries in Singapore, and assess where you’re currently at.

If you work in a company that has a rubric for performance measurements like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), you’ll want to identify where you are, and if you are already performing at a level higher than the defined responsibilities for your role.

Should your boss agree with your assessment, you can tick these off your checklist and identify areas where you can up your game.

Basically, you need to:

  • Figure out where you are excelling and get your boss to acknowledge this
  • Identify areas for improvement and take your output to the next level
  • Create plans to make it happen.

If there’s no official metric, talk to your boss, and come up with one which both of you can agree on.

This way, there’s hard data to back up your claims of being a top-performing employee who deserves a pay raise.

4. Step 4: Volunteer For Higher Level Tasks And Create A List Of Accomplishments (Six Months Progress)

Getting a pay raise or promotion is never easy.

And the bottom line is: you’re going to have to work for it.

So think of this step as a mental shift.

You also have to communicate to your boss that you’re comfortable with more responsibility and that you’re delighted to take it on.

Source: Giphy

“Give me more, but I’d like to be compensated too.”

Similarly, keep track of the accomplishments where you went above and beyond your job description.

And be specific:

  • Make a list of critical projects you led or the times when you checked off a huge to-do on your action plan
  • Highlight responsibilities that added value to your company
  • Keep track of external validation from coworkers or other managers, as well as satisfied clients and customers (any endorsement that recognises your extra efforts).

At the end of every day, make it a habit to list what you’ve done.

And about once a month, identify the high-value contributions you’ve made and prepare a list.

This list is your ticket to your promotion or pay raise.

5. Step 5: Check-In With Yourself And Your Boss (Three-Month Progress)

Be realistic with the numbers you are hoping for, but know your worth.

Hopefully, you’ve made some progress.

Source: Tenor

Use resources like Glassdoor or PayScale to get a feel for the industry average salary of people with job scopes similar to yours, or for the title you want.

This way, you have an actual number or per cent in mind which you can ask for.

If you’re paid below market value, now you know how much more you should be getting.

If you’re taking on more than what your job scope entails, then perhaps your current responsibilities should come with a title that matches your contributions.

Also, Practice Your Pitch

You’ve done the work and you have compiled a list of accomplishments.

Take some time to practice your pitch with a friend or in front of a camera.

Review and identify how you can convey confidence. And of course, consider the various scenarios and prepare your responses accordingly.

Always prepare for pushback.

6. Step 6: D-Day To Ask For Raise Or Promotion

Source: Tenor

Timing is everything. We’re not talking about waiting for the stars to align.

It’ll probably be helpful to make your case when the company just reported a great quarter or when your boss is in a good mood.

The best time will also depend on whether your company has an official review cycle or not.

If you’ve followed this step-by-step guide, you would have (at your disposal):

  • The industry average for the promotion or pay raise you want
  • A clear understanding of how much you are worth
  • A list of accomplishments that highlight your contributions beyond your current job scope
  • And ideally, examples of external validation.

Think of it as presenting factual evidence in court.

If you walk into the conversation with facts and figures in mind, you’ll potentially come across as being more compelling and will be able to make your case with more confidence.

Next, remember to emphasise the value-adding projects that you’ve done, and reaffirm how committed you are to the company.

Basically, your approach should be softer and more empathetic.

Instead of “I deserve this” or “Give me this or I walk”, you want to talk to your boss and say, “I know this is not a conversation to have right now… But here’s what I’ve accomplished at my job so far…”

Stick to the facts and let your boss know you’re a team player who only wants to be recognised appropriately.

The pay raise might not happen immediately, but it’s important to let your intentions be known now.

And of course, you should have a good performance track record that makes it very clear why you deserve the pay raise.

Once there is a chance, it’s easier for your boss to remember you and give you the pay raise or promotion you deserve.


Dealing With “No”

Source: memegenerator

As much as it hurts to be rejected after putting in all that work, it’s crucial to stay motivated and find out why you were denied.

This is an opportunity to find out what it’ll take to get a raise the next time.

Understand that “No” does not mean “Forever”.

If you continue to excel at your job and build a strong case for why you deserve an increase, it’s easier to revisit the conversation later when things get better as your company has even more reason to keep their top-performers around.

There are other things you can do even if a pay raise or promotion is not granted.

1. Propose Alternatives

There could be budget tightening or a hiring freeze because of rising costs, and a pay raise is simply not possible.

If a boss is kind enough, he or she might be able to offer alternatives like:

  • Stock options
  • More annual leave
  • Flexibility to work remotely
  • A title change that could eventually set you up for an increase in pay later
  • A budget to attend training or courses to upgrade and develop in-demand skills
  • Set you up for an interesting assignment which you’ve always wanted to do (read: can prove your ability there too).

If not, you can also propose benefits which you might like to have if a pay raise is not possible… for now.

Basically, be open to other ways of compensation, and best if they are mutually beneficial to you and your company.

I mean, no company’s going to say no when an employee wants to go for further training to get better at his or her job right?

2. Regroup, Plan, And Grow From The “No”

Source: Tenor

You have to rise above the disappointment.

Make another action plan and propose how you can continue to provide value moving forward.

Continue to put yourself in a position where your boss can easily show his or her support when promotion time comes around.

And this time, your boss will definitely have you in mind if a name has to be put up.

3. Is It Time To Move On?

You’ve done the research and you know your worth.

You’ve also consistently performed above and beyond your job scope.

If you’ve gone through this cycle a few times and still aren’t getting the raise or promotion you want, then maybe your boss is just stringing you along.

In such cases, it might be worth looking at other opportunities.

Consider your growth potential at your current job and decide if it’s still worth sticking around. Or maybe it’s time to move on.


How To Ask For A Pay Raise Example

Let’s look at a case study between two people: Chanel and Dior.

Both are powerhouses who constantly perform at a level that is higher than their assigned job descriptions.

Source: Flaticon

Chanel

  • Meets with her boss every other week to provide updates on her progress
  • Ends the meetings by asking if she is on track toward the promotion and raise she wants
  • Asks about the timeline for the promotion and understands from her boss that June is when performance reviews take place
  • Takes on assignments above-and-beyond her current role that will help her boss make the case for her promotion
  • Sits down with her boss in early April to review the goals they set together as well as the extra projects she took on
  • Proposes a promotion and subsequently proves her value, putting herself in a good position for a promotion.
Source: Flaticon

Dior

  • Meets with her boss (at his convenience) to talk about work and to understand what else needs to be done
  • Takes on additional tasks but prefers to let her work speak for itself
  • Sits down with her boss during the April performance review and asks for a raise
  • Rationalises that she has been doing a great job and thinks that it is about time
  • Learns from her boss that this is the first time he hears about her desire for a raise and that it’s too late because the employee ranking and promotees have already been decided.

Conclusion?

Chanel got her pay raise.

Be like Chanel.

The biggest takeaway from the above-discussed case study is that asking for a pay raise or promotion is a process.

You can’t just barge into your boss’ office one day and say you want a 15% pay raise, just because #yolo.


Some Other Things To Think About

Co-Worker Comparison

Let’s say you accidentally stumble upon your colleague’s payslip.

You’re both doing the same job but your co-worker is somehow getting S$1,000 more than you are.

Source: Tenor

Before you confront your boss and demand that you’re “fairly paid”, remember that there are many factors that determine how much an employee is paid.

If you want a pay raise to match or even exceed your colleague’s salary, then you should focus on the value that you bring.

Don’t bring your coworker’s pay into the discussion.

How To Leverage An Outside Offer

If you’ve received an outside offer, take a moment to consider:

  • Do you like your current job?
  • Are your colleagues just acquaintances at work? Or do you have treasured friends you would like to continue working with?
  • Is there anything about this offer that attracts you?

A great way to broach this topic with your boss is to open with a line that’s neither threatening nor disrespectful.

“I got an offer for a lot more money, but I’m not taking it because I love this business and this company.”

“However, I’m really wondering, could you level with me as to what my future prospects are like here?”

This is VERY different from saying.

“Eh boss, either you match the price the competitor is offering, or I walk.” (dramatic mike drop here optional)

Be professional.

Keep it cordial.

And c’mon, be fair to your boss.


Why You Should Really Consider Asking For A Pay Raise

In an ideal world where we’re rewarded for loyalty and hard work, we should all be getting pay raises and promotions without having to ask for them.

But the reality is this: employees who stay with their companies are paid 50 per cent less.

The Forbes article highlighted that companies know that it is always cheaper to hire better people and pay them more.

Note: I highly recommend reading this Forbes article.

So if you’re counting on your boss to give you a respectable pay raise without you asking for it… you probably have to wait long long.

But I Was Given a Raise Without Me Asking…

If you received a pay raise without asking.

Source: Tenor

It’s probably because:

  • That’s just an annual increment (read: everybody gets that)
  • You have a really supportive boss (very rare)
  • You’re leaving money on the table (very likely)

Think about it.

Once you’re in a company, it’s more difficult to get the promotion or pay raise you want, simply because you may be waiting in line behind others who should have been promoted a year ago, or because there is a limit to the number of people who can be promoted.

And this is often the case.

In fact, in my previous company, there was a practice in place where each team could only have one promotee.

If you’re actively looking for another job, you may find that your skills might match a higher position that they’re looking to fill.

And that’s your ticket to a sizeable bump in your salary.

But hey, if you’re a talented individual who enjoys your job and loves what you do, it’s always worth talking to your boss about increasing your remuneration before considering jumping ship.

What If I Pai Seh (Feel Uncomfortable)?

As Asians, and Singaporeans especially, the subject of money is somewhat taboo.

To even think about going up to our bosses and asking for a pay raise is tantamount to extracting a tooth with pliers.

Source: Parks And Recreation

As uncomfortable and painful as it may be, if we can make the conscious effort to ask for a raise and work towards showing our boss why we deserve it, it’ll get easier with practice.

Man… I Really Don’t Want To Come Across as Being Overly Aggressive

If you’re good at what you do and you have the results to prove your worth, then you are asking for a raise AND doing the work to justify it.

Coming from personal experience, the worst feeling is witnessing someone else getting the raise or promotion you KNOW you deserve, and when you did a significantly better job.

Source: Tenor

Remember that you are in control of your own career, not your manager or your boss. You should do yourself this favour.

When it comes to money, the reality is that most of the time, you don’t get what you don’t ask for.


Closing Thoughts

If this is the first time you’re reading an article like this, it’s probably also the first time you ever thought about seriously asking for a pay raise or promotion.

If you can demonstrate your value and prove your worth with your actions and facts.

There’s no reason why you cannot be appropriately compensated for the stellar work that you do.

Keep up your good work and know that only YOU can do this for yourself!

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About Kenneth Fong
I threw all of my money into the longkang once... because I wanted to see my cash flow.
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