The Top 10 Reasons Why Your Boss Doesn't Pay You More

by Calum Coburn

You're good at what you do, your boss loves your work, so why aren't you making more money? Yes, we all know it's unfair, but you're paid what you can negotiate.

10. Friends in the Right Places

For those of us who don't play golf with the CEO, we need to influence the right people to support us.

  1. Who makes the final decision? One person or more?
  2. Who influences this person or these people?
  3. How good is your personal relationship with each of these people?

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Most people tell themselves that they make decisions based on cold hard logic. Research shows that we usually decide on emotion, and then we look for facts to justify our feelings. The best sales pros know this, which is why they use stories instead of too much facts and figures. It's about time we all used this gem to our advantage. So if the decision maker doesn't like you, you're at a deficit. Building relationships takes time, so do them a favour today.

9. Ask!

Not the search engine Ask. At review time, do you always ask for more? It always amazes me how many people either don't bother asking for more, or stop asking on hearing their first "No" response.

Yes, you will likely face reasons why you can't be paid more, and many of these reasons will be based on "company precedents" and "company rules". What to do? Find exceptions to the rules, look for a counter precedents. This is where knowing old timers who can talk the hind legs off of a donkey about the company's history, can be a real asset to you.

Schedule a pre-meeting with your boss. Why? Three reasons:

  1. The pressure is on when you're meeting to talk about your salary level. The pressure is reduced when you're merely "talking about talking" about your salary. You'll find it easier to ask questions and explore in this more relaxed atmosphere.
  2. If you expect to face objections (who doesn't?), don't argue. Better to lay all their objections out on the table in this meeting. Listen, ask questions, explore - but don't try persuade just yet.
  3. You're more likely to cover all the points you wanted to cover, and not get weighted down on a contentious issue. This frees you to focus on the hot topics in your upcoming salary meeting.

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8. Get your Facts Straight

How well have you done your homework? Do you know what you're really worth on the open market? The Tech industry and Sales industry have their own rates, usually by sub-category. Could you negotiate a premium if you worked for a competitor? If you possess niche or specialised expertise that would be difficult for your employer to get elsewhere, then you need to add a premium to the standard web job salary listings.

Get your timing right. Is it a buyers or a sellers market? Could you get a higher rate contracting or consulting versus permanent, or is it a good time to switch to a permanent position? Often rates of pay are not published. So do you have friends with similar positions to you who you could ask for their job description and salary package? If your boss challenges you to produce information to back up the job rates you're quoting, will you have printouts at hand? You don't want it to come down to your word versus theirs.

7. What Makes YOU So Special?

How clear are you on the value you bring to your organisation? Those in sales can measure their revenue and often bottom line impact. If you're in a support role like IT, you'll probably need to do more work to pin a figure to your head. If you have a senior mentor in your organisation, especially if they have a good head for finances, then ask them to do the money translations for you. If you've solved any problems, see if you can put a number to the problem. If the savings stretch on across several years, then your value goes up. This will be great preparation for your job interviews (more later).

A few words of warning: If you're irreplaceable, watch out, as this often means you're also unpromotable. It's not so much what you did that matters, but more what you say you did that counts. Anyone who has suffered a boss or colleague stealing their credit has learned this lesson the hard way.

How confident are you? It's not only what you say you did that matters, but also how you say it. If you don't naturally exude confidence, I suggest you borrow a secret from star athletes by visualising the end result, and how you'll feel once you're successful. So invest time creating a mental picture that your unconscious mind can go to work on creating for you. You'll feel a lot better going into the meeting if you do. To read more about this secret, pick up Ken Blanchard's best selling short book: The One Minute Sales Person. If you're not in sales, don't be fooled by the title, these skills are essential for salary negotiations or persuasion of any type.

6. How High?

Are you aiming high enough? Simply put, most people suffer from low aspirations. Here's the logic: If you ask for more than you want, you can always retreat down to a lower figure. Of course it's wise to not make an unreasonable request (unless you REALLY want to leave your job, and a fat increase is the only thing that would keep you there). If you do your homework, you'll be able to back up your price with researched facts. When challenged, don't retreat without getting something in return.

5. Become a Politician

Remember how seasoned politicians either answer the question quickly without taking time to think? Or if they don't like the question, they'll change the question into one that they prefer answering?

The best way to have a great answer to the toughest questions is to write them down before the meeting. Start with the questions you expect to be thrown at you, then add to these from researching interview Q&A's, or one of many books .

I wouldn't recommend dishonestly twisting the question around like Bush, Blaire or Howard. It's more ethical to use powerful reframing to choose which direction your answer takes the conversation. An powerful lesson from framing is to talk more about what the company and your boss stand to lose if you were to leave, rather than what they stand to gain if you stay. To learn these powerful reframing patterns, start here.

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4. The Rules of Their Game

Most companies have a big advantage at salary negotiation time. They create 'the rules' through creating "job grades" or "salary bands". Most bosses will sooner have you bumping your head up against the glass ceiling of your job grade or band than promote you.

It's not easy to level their playing field. Many prefer to not become permanent salaried employees to be free from the employers internal laws. What to do? Find someone in HR/Personnel, someone you're NOT going to negotiate with, and ask them to help you with:

  • Finding reasons why you should be on a higer job grade.
  • Searching for an example of someone who was paid a premium.
  • Do all roles fit neatly into grades? Investigate the roles that are different/special and compare yours.
  • Are you doing more than your job description requires? Investigate cutting back on time or responsibilities or getting paid a bonus.

3. It's All About The Money

Or is it? What if you hit a stone wall? What if your employer can't or won't put more money on the salary negotiation table? Time to start looking at the other forms of 'remuneration':

  • Reduce your hours
  • Get flexible working hours
  • Work from home, and have your employer pay to set up your home office
  • Get hardware: blackberry/iphone and laptop
  • A car or car allowance
  • Subscriptions and membership fees - incl for your gym or other clubs

If none of these do it for you, and you're unhappy in your job, then skip straight to reason 1 below.

2. The Whole Story

The more time you spend in their shoes before the meeting, the better the quality your preparation, and the more successful you'll be in getting your increased salary.

So think back to what they've said to you in the past, check through relevant emails, ask others who know your boss. What are you looking for? You're trying unearth what motivates them, what criteria they usually make salary negotiation decisions on. We humans almost always fall into the groove of our old patterns. Once you know someone's pattern, you can communicate in ways that are irresistably persuasive to them. This isn't easy, but it's powerful, and your investment will pay you back many times over in the longer term with everyone you need to persuade and influence.

While you're preparing looking through their eyes, see how your leaving would affect them. Would they end up doing some of your work? Would they need to find a consultant in the short term, and how much would this cost? If you have leave due to you, and used your leave time to work less than your full notice period, how would this affect them? How would your sudden departure make them look to your colleagues, their peers and superiors? The answers to these questions may be the gold dust you need to choose the timing of your negotiation - especially if you combine it with the most powerful reason:

1. Who Wants You?

The best was saved for last. Nothing is more persuasive than having alternative job offers to choose from. Even if you don't want to leave your job, there are a number of reasons why you should put your resume out and start interviewing months before your salary negotiation:

  1. It's very hard for your boss to ignore your solid job offers - especially if they're in writing
  2. It shows your boss that you're: proactive, confident and that you know your own value
  3. Your interviews will get you 'match fit' for your internal salary negotiation
  4. You'll have valuable conversations, and find out what's really on offer in your profession
  5. You may be offered a position that's too good to turn down

Don't forget: your employer needs to believe that you are prepared to take the jobs on offer, else they have little value.

While most companies are prepared to pay a premium to get you to join them, most of the same companies are not prepared to pay a premium to keep their best talent. This is counterintuitive, as your value to your employer is far greater once you have experience in your position. Nevertheless, this glass ceiling is a reality in most organisations. So moving jobs to get more, or at the very least having the option to walk away may be exactly what you need. In negotiation circles this is known as your BATNA.


Most of this article's advice requires your investing some of your precious time. Considering how much time you pour into your job, isn't it worth an investment in YOU to get paid what you're worth?
Most of this article's advice can also be used when you're interviewing for new positions.
If you're happy with your job or would like to stay with your organisation, let your boss know this. This alone can make your negotiations a lot smoother.
If you have any questions, send them to us, we'll answer them for free.

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15 of 18 people found the following comment useful:

They can only ride your back if it's bent - 2007 Aug 6
Commentator: Matt Baker (United States - Colorado)

"Once worked for a boss who was making a "budgetary saving" of 3 heads on a department of 12. While he got credit from up above for saving 3 salaries, I had to work almost 2 roles. I got no bonus, praise, just a caution when I cut my hours down to 50pw.
I didn't stick around for much longer. Unfortunately some parasites do make it reasonably high up on the food chain."

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