2009 16 Oct

Terrific! Now you know all about how much to ask for, how to handle the meeting and how to negotiate the best possible deal.no raise But hang on, what if your boss won’t negotiate? Suppose they refuse to discuss a pay rise with you? There are objections that some unenlightened bosses raise to giving a salary increase – or to discussing one anywhere near the sort of range you’re looking for. So what do you do when your boss turns you down flat?

Generally, your boss will give you a reason. If they don’t volunteer one, ask them. You’ll find that an outright refusal tends to stem from one of only a handful of reasons. So here they are, together with the correct response on your part to keep some kind of useful discussion open. Look through this list, and learn those responses so that you are ready for whatever your boss throws at you.

‘it’s not in the budget’
This is a standard response, and one that may or may not be true. In fact, good managers budget for pay rises in line with their team members’ increasing value. But maybe your boss didn’t. Maybe the company is tightening its belt at the moment and your boss couldn’t be seen to award a substantial pay raise when profits are falling.

Since you timed this meeting to pre-empt the annual salary review, and we’ve already considered options for deferring a rise, presumably your boss is saying no for the foreseeable future. But don’t fret – you can beat them with logic.

What if the rise didn’t cost them anything? What if they even ended up making a net gain from it? They can hardly argue with that. So propose that they give you a performance-related bonus each year (or month or whatever suits you both). You get a payment equating to a percentage of the added value you bring to the job. If you don’t generate any added value, you don’t get the bonus. If you do, you get a share and they keep the rest. You’re both quids in.

Make sure you get this agreement down in writing, as always. It should represent a permanent undertaking to increase your salary year on year, no matter what the organization’s circumstances, so long as you increase your value.

What are you worth?
If you do a job where you can easily calculate how much revenue you generate, or what savings you instigate, working out a bonus is very straightforward and you and your boss need only agree what percentage you should get. But as we saw earlier, you can set targets for any job that you and your boss both agree represent added value. Maybe you will increase your throughput, take on extra responsibilities, work extra hours, generate ideas that produce cost savings elsewhere in the organization, and so on. Offer to draw up a set of measurable performance standards that enable you and your boss to agree when you have added value, and how much you’ve added. Then schedule another meeting to discuss and finalize these.

‘I can only offer you a much smaller pay rise’
Your boss may well agree to a pay raise of sorts, but one that falls well short of your bottom line. If you agree to this you have sent out a message that you are a pushover when it comes to salary negotiations. What’s more, you will have come away with less than you decided you were prepared to settle for. So find out why they can’t offer you more. If they tell you it’s not in the budget, suggest they make up the difference (making part of your salary performance-based).

If you really cannot get your boss to budge, and you don’t want to go so far as to leave the company, there’s no point turning down what little you have been offered. So accept it, but make it clear that you do not regard it as full settlement of your claim. In other words, let your boss know that you will continue to seek a full pay raise; that way, they can’t complain that you keep pestering for pay rises. You’ve only ever asked once – and you’re still waiting for a final and satisfactory answer.

There’s something else you can do, too. Ask your boss, ‘What would it take for you to award me the pay rise I’m asking for?’ They can’t very well claim that nothing you could do, however valuable, could possibly warrant a rise. So they’re going to have to commit themselves to some kind of concrete goal for you. They might say that you’d need to increase revenue by 50 per cent, or get extra qualifications, or improve your financial skills. Whatever their answer, you’ll be making sure it goes down in writing. Now you know what you have to do; do it.

‘nobody else earns that much’
This is a popular response with many bosses, and frankly an irrelevant one. You should be paid what you are worth, period. If others are paid less, then either they too are being undervalued, or they are worth less than you are. Neither of these seems like a good argument for under-rewarding you. But of course, it’s your boss who needs persuading.

What you need to do is to read between the lines. What your boss really means is, ‘But if I pay you that and the others find out, they’ll all want pay rises. And I can’t afford that.’ So what your boss really needs is an excuse for paying you more than anyone else.

Your boss probably needs an excuse to give to their own managers too, to allay precisely the same worry. So do them a favor – give them the excuse they need.

It is important to make yourself a special case, and this is why. Your mini-presentation should have included this, and all you need to do when your boss makes this objection is draw their attention to it. ‘Ah, but no one else in this department has my experience with the GZ109′, or ‘No one else carries as much responsibility as I do. When you’re away, which amounts to as much as 75 days a year, I look after the department on your behalf.’

Pick the right benchmark
If your research showed that your employer pays salaries below the industry norm, point this out to focus your boss on the wider picture instead of the narrow perspective of your immediate colleagues. Say, ‘I don’t know how much my colleagues earn, but I know what legal secretaries like myself earn in comparable organizations. And my salary is about 12 per cent below average. Is there a reason why you pay less than most companies in the industry?’ Obviously you can back up this assertion, and you’ll have shaken your boss, who doesn’t want to find they can’t compete in the job market.

‘you’re costing us too much’
There’s a very simple response to this ridiculous objection: ‘I hope you don’t view me as a cost. I feel I’m an asset to the organization. My contribution has increased since my last pay rise, for the reasons I’ve outlined, and I’d like a rise in salary to reflect that increase. I believe I will still represent value for money.’

This objection can conceal a deeper concern on the part of your boss: your proposed salary increase will bring you dangerously close to their own salary level. This threatens their status. The way to get round this is to show them that if they give you this rise, it will bolster their own claim for a pay rise. The only thing is, you can’t say this outright because they won’t thank you for suggesting that they are so status conscious. So here’s your response: ‘I don’t see that I’m that expensive.

After all, plenty of more senior managers here earn more than I do. If I can be paid £35,000′ (the figure you’re asking, not your present salary) ‘that must mean that the managers above me are on substantially more – they certainly should be.’

‘you’re already earning the maximum for your job’
Oh, dear. One of those old-fashioned organizations that hasn’t noticed the benefits of paying people what they are worth. This can be tricky, especially in a large organization which is likely to be very inflexible. But there is a simple solution.

In organizations like this, your boss may well not like the system. If you’ve presented a good case for a rise, they may genuinely want to reward you, but their hands are tied by the inflexible rope of bureaucracy. So with a little help, you may find them very responsive. And the solution is delightfully logical: if you can’t earn any more in this job (because the system says so), why not promote you? Then you can move into a fresh salary bracket.

In some organizations this can be managed by creating a new job title, if it isn’t possible to move you up to the standard next position. When a new job is created, a new salary scale will have to be set for it. You could keep much the same responsibilities but be promoted from sales representative to sales associate, or from chief packer to deputy despatch manager.

‘I can’t give you a pay rise now; wait a few months’
This may be a genuine plea that now isn’t financially feasible but your boss really will give you a raise in a few months. You can easily test whether it is genuine by asking for a firm date. If they give you one, ask to negotiate the rise now (at least in outline) and put it in writing confirming the date from which it will take effect.

If your boss isn’t willing to do this, the reason is doubtless that they are simply trying to put you off. So ask what the problem is with giving you the rise now. They will almost certainly respond with one of the objections such as ‘It’s not in the budget’, ‘Nobody else earns that much’ or ‘You’re costing us too much’.

Positive reasons for waiting
Your boss may have another genuine reason for asking you to wait a few months for your raise, so you need to find out if this is the case. Perhaps they want to wait until you’ve got the qualification you’re studying for, or maybe they are planning to promote you when Daphne retires and they intend to give you a rise then to go with the new responsibilities. So always ask why they want to wait.

‘my boss won’t agree to it’
The only reason your boss’s manager won’t agree to a pay raise is that the arguments for it aren’t convincing enough. If you’ve done your preparation well, you will have presented a case strong enough for most bosses to feel they can pass on, so this objection is unlikely to arise. But it’s another of those responses that conceals a deeper worry on your boss’s part.

Even if your boss feels their manager may say no, that isn’t in itself a reason for them not to ask for your pay raise – after all it will placate you better than refusing to ask, so what have they got to lose? The answer is that they fear their own boss will think poorly of them for coming to them with an unjus¬tified request that they should have rejected without referring it upwards. It will make them look as though they’ve all but given in to your outrageous demands.

Money RaiseThe way to appease this fear is therefore to make your case so watertight, so convincing that your boss can be certain that their boss will at least consider it reasonable. That way, they won’t look foolish for recommending the raise. So ask them why their boss won’t agree to it, and they will no doubt tell you what they think are the weak spots in your case. If you then furnish your boss with persuasive answers to these doubts, they in turn will feel confident of using these answers when their boss raises the same doubts.

‘I’ve talked to my manager and the answer’s no’
Your boss may well not have given you an on-the-spot answer to your request for a pay rise (or whatever you want), but have taken on board all your arguments and then put the matter to their manager for a decision. They will then call you in for another meeting, at which they will give you the final answer. Often the answer will he yes, or yes with one or two final conditions or alterations to agree between the two of you.

But sometimes the response will be no, or it will be an offer well below your bottom line. In this case, your first priority will be to establish the reason for the refusal. Having established this, you can then follow the guidelines we’ve just covered for whichever objection your boss’s manager has raised. Just because you are getting the response via your boss, rather than direct from the senior manager concerned, doesn’t make you any less entitled to a good, clear answer with a plan of action for working towards a future pay raise. What you want to know is:

• why you have been turned down
• what you can do to put yourself in line for a future pay raises.

If your boss is not prepared – or not able – to answer these two questions, you will need to talk to the manager concerned to find out the answers. Explain to your boss that you feel strongly that you need clear answers to these questions, and that you would appreciate a meeting between the three of you so that their manager can put you in the picture (don’t try to exclude your boss; they won’t appreciate it). It’s not an unreasonable request and they should agree to it, especially if they themselves were persuaded that a pay raise was justified.

They may decline a meeting, but agree to ask the manager on your behalf. In this case emphasize that you would like clear targets to work towards in order to earn a pay raise. You don’t want a message back that says ‘You’d need to increase your sales by quite a lot’, or ‘you’d need more qualifications’. You want to know precisely what level of sales you’d need to reach, or what qualifications you should train for.

If you are underpaid for the contribution you make, a fair request for a pay raise should get you the reward you deserve. But in the end, if you have a genuinely good claim and your employers simply refuse to consider k, you may need to decide if they are the right employer for you.