How to Negotiate a Pay Rise?

17th Feb 2019
Share this blog post:

The below is an article, written by our Managing Director Eoghan McDermott, which was originally printed on

PAY NEGOTIATIONS ARE always tough. Sometimes tough enough to cause strikes like the ongoing Luas strike over pay and conditions. The Luas guys are represented by a trade union.

Many of us, these days, don’t have that. We don’t have a trade union to help us navigate these choppy waters.

Late last year, IBEC claimed that 71% of companies would be increasing the pay of their employees in 2016. If they’re right, and you’re lucky enough to be working in one those organisations, how can you make sure your bank balance gets the right size of bump?

The first thing to remember about any negotiation is that it should be about mutual gain, not one-up-manship. It’s not just about getting the best deal for you, but about getting the best for both parties. You should scope out what is a reasonable end position for both you and your boss.

Figure out where the other side is at

A good guiding principle is: Don’t start a negotiation from what you want, but rather figure out where the other side are at.

What are their pressures? Worries? Needs? For example, can they afford to give you an increase? How many others are looking for an increase?

A 2% increase can seem small, but if 100 people work in the organisation, that’s a large increased cost to the company balance sheet.

When looking for a salary increase, it’s not just a case of looking at last year’s performance. You have to prove that you’re consistently improving and contributing to the company’s successes.

Try keep the interaction fact-based. Your feelings and personal opinions are irrelevant. Stick to the information that will persuade your boss to make the decision you want made. Show how an investment in you will provide a substantial payback to the company.

Think of the future

You need to have a small bit of future tense stuff that says, ‘Those kinds of sales that are coming in, I can see another four of them’, or, ‘that success that I had in R&D – I have a further three projects of that kind.’ Or, for example, you should be talking about emerging patterns of business and how you could maximise them.

You’re trying to show how an investment in you, in the future, will be paid back by virtue of the things you’ll be doing.

Preparation for any predictable interaction is hugely valuable. People often go into negotiations for a pay increase like they’re haggling over a belt at a market stall on holidays. You need to figure out a few things in advance.

What’s your ultimate aim? What’s your ideal position? What’s good value for you? What’s the market paying someone with your experience? What’s your fall back? What’s the lowest you’ll go?

And what’s the point at which you say to yourself “I’m looking for a new job, as this is now an insult”.

Have a think about alternative options

You should also have options. If your boss can’t give you the €4,000 you were looking for, but can give you €2,000, have you thought through other benefits that could make up the difference?

For example, support in getting a further qualification that is beneficial to all. Or extra holiday days. You might decide that an extra two weeks off in the summer is worth as much to you as the €2,000 that they can’t cover.

The final thing you want to make sure of in meetings like this is that you are not at a point of emotional confrontation. There shouldn’t be any emotion in it. And if can’t keep emotion out of it, you’ll struggle.

It’s the manager’s job to keep costs as low as they can, while still keeping you happy. You shouldn’t be going in braced for conflict. You’re approach should be “I can justify all of this” and go into the meeting sunny and upbeat.

And all of this might stop you from feeling the need to go on strike.

Here is a quick checklist of things to remember:

1. What’s my boss thinking?

2. What’s my goal?

3. What options do I have if I don’t get my first preference?

4. What evidence do I have to support my case?

5. What if I get nothing?