So you asked for a pay rise and your boss said no? This is what to do next.

So, you put your hand up for a pay rise and your boss said no? Unless you’ve asked many times before and they keep saying no, don’t give up. While it might feel like the ball is in your boss’s court, the reality is what you do from here matters most to getting a ‘yes’ next time.

Before we explore the steps you can take to win a pay rise, let’s first acknowledge a few harsh facts. Some employers are unfair and have no intention of doing the right thing by paying you what you deserve. In some cases, even what you are legally entitled to. If you’re working for one of those type of bosses, it’s definitely time to move on.

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Other employers are struggling to get by and can hardly afford to pay themselves let alone you. If your boss is in this category you’ve got some thinking to do about whether it makes sense to hang in there. If you trust both their character and competence as well as their vision for their business, missing out on a pay rise now might just be worth it in the long run.

If you work for an employer who wants to do the right thing and can afford to pay you well, then here are three essentials steps you can take to ensure the next time you ask for a raise the answer is yes…

1. Understand the value of your role

There’s no point kidding yourself about what you can earn in the job you’re in. The reality is there is a ceiling to what most employers will be willing to pay for a particular role. If you are already earning at the top end of the salary range for your job, it may be time to face the reality that you need to earn a promotion in order to increase your income.


Actions: Understand what is reasonable to expect by doing your research. Talk to people in your industry who are able to give you accurate insight to what you can expect to earn doing your job with your level of experience. Engage with recruitment consultants and leverage information freely available online to assess the range of salary and benefits that are typical.

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2. Optimise the value of your contribution

Reflect on the standard of your performance and extent to which you are delivering to the standard you are capable of. Understand how the standard of your contribution justifies the need for you to earn more than you already do. Has the level of your contribution grown over time? Within the range of typical salary for your role, understand why your performance justifies you being more highly paid.

Actions: Work with your manager to understand the ways in which you can improve your performance. While you may already be achieving to a high standard, demonstrating your commitment to continuous improvement will put you in good stead at pay review time. Just as important are working hard to be disciplined, organised and focused. Optimise your productivity and your employer is more likely to see the value you add.


3. Grow your capabilities

How do your capabilities compare with those of your peers, inside and outside of your organisation? Reflect on the depth of knowledge, skill and experience you bring compared to other people your boss could hire. If you are unsure, ask for feedback from your manager and peers. Get the insights you need to better understand how your employer sees your potential and therefore future worth to the business.

Actions: Get the training or support you need to both excel in your role and grow into the next one you want. Get the experience you need to demonstrate your ability to add greater value over time. If you have reached the ceiling of earning potential in your current job talk to your manager about what skills or experience you need to take on a more senior position.

While an initial knockback can be difficult, don’t allow fear of further rejection to stop you from putting your hand up again, when the time is right. Having clarity and confidence about the difference you make to your employer’s business is key to your ability to put forward a compelling argument for a pay rise.

Karen Gately, a founder of HR consultancy Ryan Gately, is a leadership and people-management specialist. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit