Is it worth asking for a pay rise in 2024?Jan 28, 2024
Every year, it feels like I write an “Is it worth?” blog post, which started at the height of COVID when so many plans flew out the window. There was the “Is it worth setting goals in 2021?” blog post from 2021 (read it here). Then the “Is it worth setting goals in 2022…again?” (read that one here). And to save you time - the answer is yes, it’s always worth setting goals.
But times have changed and the craziness of COVID has eased and a different challenge is now rearing its head: the economy. Now, I’m not a doom-and-gloom kind of person and I don’t wax lyrical about the state of the economy and cost of living crisis. But I also don’t ignore it. I simply look practically and realistically at it and then go ahead and continue on my goals and my path.
Many companies are reducing spend, cutting headcount, and pausing pay rises. So does that mean you shouldn’t even bother asking?
Yes and no.
I firmly believe it’s always worth asking for a pay rise - even if the chances of actually being granted the pay rise at this time are low. And here’s why:
Your career is not a hobby
We spend 1,760 hours a year at work. That’s 220 days. Over 44 weeks.... And there’s only 52 weeks in a year. And this is only if you take out holidays and sick leave and weekends. Which some of us don’t. Your career is not a hobby. You go to work to get paid. If you don’t get paid, it’s volunteering. And pay isn’t created equal - you want a fair and equitable wage, rather than being overworked and underpaid.
The gender pay gap means you’re likely already behind
Many women are not being compensated fairly for the work they do, the effort they put in, the results they get, and the relationships they build. With the gender pay gap, you’re likely already being paid less than your male counterparts. That pay gap is sitting in someone’s bank account - but it’s not yours. So even asking for a pay rise might only be bringing you up to what you should already be earning.
If your salary doesn’t go up, your company is “stealing” from you
You get pay rises because every year your skills and experience are deepening and your value to your company is expanding. I controversially believe that if your salary only goes up by an average 1-3%, you actually aren’t getting a pay rise. Because your pay is going up with the cost of living, the extra money you make only buys the same amount! And if you don’t get a pay rise at all… well, perhaps we could even say your company is stealing from you (because you’re getting the same money, but it buys less). With cost of living so rapidly increasing, your company is likely increasing the cost of its goods and services (albeit selling less of them). So what happens when inflation stops and interest rates settle (which we know will happen)? Those prices will stay the same at their new high normal, but your pay hasn’t gone up at all over that time. Any chance you get to ask for a pay rise (such as a new year milestone) - take it! They may still say no and cite the current economic landscape, but at least you’ve asked.
It tells your bosses that you know you’re worth more
Even if you don’t get the pay rise, it at least indicates your intention and that when pay rises are back on the table, you expect to be amongst the first to receive one.
But there still may not be a point in asking…
The sad truth is that the likelihood of getting a significant pay rise in your current company is low. Your company has been paying you for several months or even years to deliver a certain level of quality. They are used to you being worth that amount. But the open market isn’t. When I moved from one marketing role in a Consumer Goods company to another marketing role in a bank, I got a $20,000 pay rise. Why? Because I recalibrated what I was worth against the open market. I changed to a higher-paying industry, moved to a Fixed Term contract with bonus and contingency built in rather than discretionary, and I simply got paid more. It was the same me, but in a new place and a new space I was worth more. If I’d stayed in Consumer Goods, the real raw cost of staying stuck was $20,000. And when I moved from Permanent to Day Rate contracting in Change Management, the real raw cost of staying stuck was almost $100,000.
Remember - this is broader than just you. The gender pay gap is real across the world and it’s not until women like us decide that we are worth more and go get that higher income that we can start to pave the way for other women and shift the global paradigm of being underpaid and overlooked.
So rather than ask for a pay rise, you might prefer to simply hold your cards close and start actively looking and being open to new roles outside your company. You’re already in a role, so there’s no stress or pressure to find a new one. But a new position in a new company could be so much more lucrative without having to go through the stress and struggle of asking for a pay rise.
I’ll be sharing more about how to get yourself geared up and confident to ask for a pay rise, a promotion or career change in my free Underpaid and Overlooked Workshop starting next week on Tuesday 6 February, with a free live “Earn Your Worth” Q&A session on Zoom on Thursday 8 February.
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