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Is Now The Right Time To Ask For A Pay Rise?

Should you ask for a raise during a pandemic? It depends on how well you perform, and how your company is doing.


You consistently deliver, you always exceed your targets, and your boss is thrilled. 

Does that mean now the right time to ask for a raise – despite everything going on in the world? 

Actually, now could be the perfect time. 

It might seem counterintuitive, but economic downturns often mean steady wages, says Dr Michael Gravier, Professor of Marketing and Global Supply Chain Management at Bryant University.

“Layoffs and workforce reductions are done partly to preserve the salaries of remaining workers, and companies know that they must keep up the morale of remaining workers,” Professor Gravier says. 

Since recessions don’t last forever, businesses have an incentive to make sure their best employees stick around to ride out the economic storm.

“Companies that are most well prepared tend to come out of economic downturns stronger than competitors,” adds Gravier. 

“This means that workers who haven’t been furloughed are, on average, well-positioned to request reasonable pay raises, especially if they’ve shown a talent for doing more with less or improving operations or succeeding despite the odds during these difficult times.”

Where to start

Are you a high performer? Then it sounds like you’re ideally placed to ask for a raise.

Start by understanding how well your company is doing, and its priorities for the next several months.

And don’t be put off by reports that overall wage growth is weaker now. Professor Gravier points out that supply chain industry wages have remained fairly robust. 

Bottom line: go get that raise.

Build your case

Start by assembling proof that you deserve a raise. Remember, the topic of your paycheck might be deeply personal and sensitive to you, but it isn’t to your boss. All they want are hard facts that prove you meet and exceed expectations.

For that reason, it’s smart to get in the habit of jotting down this evidence regularly. For example, Professor Gravier set aside time every Friday to write about what had happened during the week, and how key performance metrics were going. 

‘“You must first know thyself,” as the old saying goes,” Gravier says. “If workers cannot justify their performance, clearly there is not much need to entertain their request [for a raise].”

So what sort of accomplishments should you record? Anything that proves how valuable you are, says Scott Dance, Director of Hays Procurement & Supply Chain.

“[W]rite down all the things that you’ve achieved individually or contributed to significantly as part of a team, [and] back up these achievements with real, measurable evidence,” Dance says.

“Your fundamental objective is to prove that you’re an asset to the business and that you have made a significant contribution during what has been a particularly challenging time for many organisations.”

Know your market value

The next piece of evidence you need is your market value, says Jacqui Paterson, Director of Supply Chain and Procurement at UK recruitment agency Drummond Bridge.

“I would advise [employees] to look at all of the factors associated with their current role, [like] ease of location, job satisfaction, working conditions and then research what the current market rate would equate to for the role they deliver,” Paterson says.

A good way to benchmark your salary is using a guide, like the one recently published by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply. That way, you can see averages for your experience level and geographical region.

Paterson also recommends asking yourself questions like:

  • How long ago was my last pay rise given?
  • Can my company accommodate a rise right now? 
  • Are my skills in high demand?

It’s all about doing your homework first so you’re prepared, professional, and ready to make a strong case.

Choose your timing

People often ask for a raise during a performance review. But that’s a mistake because many other employees are asking for a raise then too, Paterson says.

When is a better time, then? Paterson advises to “time the conversation strategically – perhaps after a series of successful, valuable contributions have been delivered.”

And don’t forget to approach your discussion diplomatically. “A confrontational or “expectant” pay rise conversation doesn’t usually end positively,” Paterson warns.

What if they say no?

Even if you make a convincing case, you might still get rejected. 

What should you do next? Find out why you were turned down, says Paterson. “No to a pay rise just now does not mean never.”

“If the [employee] is generally happy where they are, this can be the trigger to initiate conversations in writing that if certain savings, KPIs etc are met that the raise will be reviewed after a three-month period.” 

After all, “[n]ot all businesses can afford to consider a salary rise in the current market conditions, or they may want to review how business is moving when the economy shows signs of improving before committing to any salary rises,” Paterson adds.

Another possibility is your boss can’t give you a raise, but they can sweeten the deal by giving you other benefits. 

These could include a job title change, extra time off, or the ability to work from home permanently.

So before your conversation, you should consider if you’ll only accept more money, or if you could be satisfied with recognition in other ways.

Is it time to leave?

Only you can decide if you’re happy sticking around without a pay raise. If your top priority is a bigger salary, leaving may be your only route.

“If your current employer can’t meet your requirements in terms of salary or otherwise, it’s certainly worth testing the waters and seeing what you could be getting elsewhere,” says Scott Dance from Hays.

“Despite ongoing uncertainty, there’s no reason why you should hold off looking to the future and considering how you can make your professional ambitions a reality.” 

Dance advises updating your CV/ resume with any new skills or expertise you might have learned over the last few months of lockdown.

“Refreshing your CV might open up new avenues which you thought weren’t possible before,” Dance says. That’s why you should be open to trying something new.

“The long-term reality of the Covid-19 crisis may mean that we see surges in demand, industry shifts and emerging trends that impact the jobs market,” Dance adds.

“Being flexible and open-minded about your career may help you secure that pay rise you’re after and take your career in an exciting new direction.”

Do you have any tried-and-true advice? Share your thoughts in the comments below.