How do I get paid more? Am I getting paid enough? How would I know?

These are common questions asked by almost everyone at some stage of their working life. Much of this hangs on pay or remuneration reviews, and the dreaded meetings this decision hangs on.

It can be tough trying to get a pay rise, or dealing with one of those pay review meetings.  You might genuinely be really good at your job. But what happens if no part of that job includes pay negotiations or knowing how to value your work?  You might be like many people I know, and simply want the experience to be over, almost content to take a pay reduction if it means you don’t have to talk at the meeting. 

Wherever you sit on the continuum, this guide will help you along.

Let’s break this down into 5 parts




Subject matter


First up – let’s start with a small mindset shift.  You’re not asking for a pay rise.  You’re not actually asking for anything.  What you’re going to do though, is highlight key reasons for why you are worth more to the business than you’re being paid.   Asking for a pay rise because you want one, or worse, emotionally begging for one,  puts you at a significant disadvantage in a system that is already imbalanced.  Instead, you’re going to use a structured approach that uses evidence to support your position.

Now, if you’re going to have a conversation about pay rises or remuneration reviews it’s important you remember, it’s a conversation, not a competition.

If you go into the situation with the mindset of going into war, it’ll become adversarial and quickly turn emotional.  It doesn’t do anyone any favours.  

Also, pay discussions should never hinge on a single conversation.  It’s mutually beneficial to you and the company, for you to both be aware of the other’s perspective, and their expectations, well in advance of any key meetings.  This will also help you avoid situations where a decisions has already been made and locked in.  

Instead, use conversations or check ins with your boss before any big pay review as a chance to highlight the value you are bringing to the table.  Just like you, managers and business owners are busy people, and dont always see how your knowledge on the people, processes, subject matter and politics, is benefitting their business.  These conversations are a way you can highlight what those are.  They also serve to help you understand what else the business is using to assess your performance.  

And now – People, processes, subject matter and politics.

Once you’ve been in a job for 6 months, you’ll know more about the people, processes, subject matter and politics than you did on the day you started.  Your knowledge and actions that use this knowledge can make you more efficient and productive, than if you didn’t have this foundation.  This applies to small business right through to the multi nationals.

When you’ve been in the role for that period of time and more, you might not have mastered the job, but you will have started to identify who are the people that influence what you do in your job, how you do it, how fast you can do it, and the quality of what is done.

The more tuned in you are to this, the more you’ll find yourself connecting in better with the other parts of the business.  You don’t have to be best buds with those people but you’ll understand how their circle of influence overlaps with yours.  Here’s an example.  If i’m the cleaner or janitor that comes to clean the floor, and i can’t start until the last person has left for the day, and that person is renowned for being messy then the time and quality of my work is heavily influenced by that person.  

Or you might push a keyboard and have a report that needs doing. In order to complete that report, you need the input of someone else in the business.  If you know who that person is, you can more readily get in contact with them.  If you don’t know who the person is you need to be talking with, then it’s going to take time, and money from business, for you to find out and build a relationship with them

Two of the infinite examples where knowledge of people in the business, can be built into your knowledge bank.

Processes.  Every company, big or small, will have it’s processes.  The way things are done.  The internal language of the business.  It’s not to be confused with policies which often come in the form of a document, sitting in a ring binder somewhere, gathering dust because no one was forced to read them after their day one induction.

No, the processes are how things are actually done.

Here’s an example from a large insurance company i worked for.  The policy said staff must not pay out on claims if they weren’t submitted on a particular form.  The staff however, knew that no one liked using the forms, or even understood the forms, because they were written in legalese, so experienced staff went around the policy and paid out the claims anyway.  The frontline staff did it, under the eye of their managers, who recognised it was the not only the right thing to do, but was far more efficient and cost effective for the business than overhauling their policies, which no one had the time to do.

Another example could come from that report earlier.  If you have several levels of sign off, knowing the process for each of those will enable you to manage deadlines and expectations.  Believe it or not both of these it turns out, are critical.

By the time you’ve spent a few months in a role, You’ll no doubt have loads of little ways that save time, money or effort for you and the business.

Next up, Subject Matter.

The more you learn about the thing you’re working on, the more you’ll be recognised as becoming the expert on that thing.  This recognition will often happen without you even asking for it or wanting it.

As you build up your knowledge in your workplace, you’ll eventually be looked to for advice and even recommendations.  People will want to know your opinion, or your input might be used to help shape theirs.  However it’s used, the deeper your knowledge of the subject matter, the more valuable it becomes.  I’ve lost track of how many people i’ve worked alongside, especially in local and central government, that have built empires out of being the only person that knows what they know.  

You might not ever reach that extent, but the knowledge you gain has a value.

And finally, Politics.

It’s an ugly word and not a space i play in, but when i say politics, just be mindful that i’m talking about more than the water cooler gossip, back stabbing and shit talking that goes on.

I actively avoid office politics and being a contractor makes this easy to do. But no matter what your job, you should have some awareness of them.

Istead of being distracted by the negativity, I focus on the work I need to deliver, and who is going to give the final seal of approval.   When i need a decision made, or have a piece of work to be delivered, i identify who the key decision maker is, and who influences that persons decision making processes.

In environments where there’s more than 2 or 3 staff, it’s really obvious to see that the people making decisions, are often getting their comfort levels satisfied by people they trust.  Or Their advisors so to speak.  Alot of times these people don’t even have the title advisor, but they’ve definitely got the ear of the decision maker.  Knowing this, i make sure to bring that advisor along in the journey so by the time a decision has to be made, its’ a formality 

One example I had was in preparing a report back to a senior leadership team. Instead of having all 6 of them, plus their advisors in agreement, I had already targeted the key people who were not only going to sign it off, but would influence the others that it was a great idea.  By having them along from the outset, it was effectively their idea they were celebrating anyway.


As you can imagine, there’s a stack of detail that sits within this advice but the principles remain the same.  People, processes, subject matter and politics are 4 key areas to address when having pay review conversations.  

They’re by no means the only ones, and things like previous experience, ambition, company fit, innovation and initiative also add value, but tend to take a little more to unpack as they’re more specific to the individual.

Now, this advice on getting a pay rise is PROVEN real estate.  I know it because I’ve used the approach many times that said, it’s not going to work for everyone.  If you’re in a situation where you’re getting micro-managed my advice would be to get out asap, but that’s for another post.

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