How to convince your boss to give you a pay rise

Psychology plays a bigger role than in economics in whether your pay packet gets fatter.

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
Last Updated: 01 Sep 2016

Although money doesn't boost job satisfaction, most people want to feel appreciated. Thus in an ideal world nobody would have to ask for a pay rise: it would happen automatically as a result of employees' performance and when it didn't would just signal that they don't deserve it.

However, in the real world of work other - less rational - factors play a key role in determining whether employees get a pay rise, and psychology matters more than economics. Just because you don't get one, it doesn't mean you don't deserve one - and equally not everybody who gets one deserves one. So what drives bosses to give their employees a salary rise and how can we use this information to our own advantage?

There are three key factors to consider:

Does your boss actually like you? For all the talk of performance datification, most people still get promoted for their ability to suck up to their bosses. Or at least, for having the necessary emotional intelligence to be rewarding to deal with. Thus likability matters more than ability and work ethic. You can be smart and hard working but unless your manager enjoys your company, you're unlikely to be first choice for a pay rise.

Are you making your boss look good? While being rewarding to deal with is important, it's equally crucial that your performance helps your boss to stand out. This will require letting your boss take credit for your achievements, and making sure your efforts are focused on his/her agenda rather than your own. In other words, there's often a difference between working for your boss and working for the organisation, and the former is more likely to get you a pay rise than the latter.

Are you a threat to your boss? Sometimes you can make your boss look so good that he/she will worry about you. As Freud noted, in any group there will be competition for power and control - and the most driven and confident individuals will be after the leader. This is why the best way to get a promotion is to stand out from your colleagues, but without eclipsing your boss. Good managers hire people who are better than them, but they still have trouble rewarding them (because it makes them look weaker).

Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling, people analytics, and talent management. He is the CEO of Hogan Assessments and professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter: @drtcp


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