My boss refused my request for a pay rise. Should I try again?

Yes, but don't threaten to resign unless you're prepared to follow through, says Jeremy Bullmore.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 01 Apr 2016

Q: A few weeks ago, I asked my boss for a pay rise. I did my homework, explained why it would be good for the company and my team, and outlined the extra value I would deliver as a result. I thought the meeting went well, but a few days later she sent me a short email rejecting my request outright. What did I do wrong, and is there any point in trying again?

Jeremy says: Your boss doesn't come out of this story well. Your request was made face to face in a meeting. It's both bad manners and bad management to reject such a request in an email and without explanation. You didn't do anything wrong. The most likely explanation for your boss's behaviour is that she's under pressure from her own boss (perhaps the chief executive?), who's told her that all salaries have been frozen. Since she felt that admitting this to you would seriously undermine her authority in your eyes, she chose to duck the issue by rejecting your appeal remotely and without explanation. Cowardly, certainly - but just, sort of, understandable.

Most salary negotiations contain an element of 'who blinks first?'. Before you try again, be absolutely sure of your own limits. If you meet further rejection, are you prepared to resign - confident that you can get a better job elsewhere? If not, don't even imply that you might. Once you've played that card, and they haven't blinked, you need to start looking around with some degree of urgency.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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