Design For Life

My colleagues are earning more than I am, how do I rectify this?

This week, recruitment expert Louise Campbell advises a reader on how to negotiate a pay rise

The fact that pay equality continues to be discussed rather than fixed is a big blow to women’s confidence

Dear Expert,

I’ve been in my job for 11 years and to say I’m being taken for granted is putting it mildly. A lot of new people have recently arrived and I’ve found out that one – who wouldn’t have half my experience – is earning more than me (I’m on 40 grand, they’re on 55). We don’t have a review policy – it’s a small company – and I’m unsure of how to go about asking for an improvement in my salary. The last time I tried, my boss took me for an expensive lunch and then said he was glad we had sorted everything out. I was mortified – it felt like I was a little woman who just needed a pat on the head. I’m 35 and maybe I should just move? Or should I ask for the raise first and then see? The job is fine, but it’s not a vocation or anything.

Dear Reader,

It sounds like you may be among the 45 per cent of women we surveyed in 2022 who have never attempted to negotiate their pay. Last year, it was a whopping 57 per cent! Our research also told us that of those women, 26 per cent received no increase compared to 20 per cent of men. This figure rose even further for LGTBQI+ women and black women. Let’s look at the main reasons why women don’t negotiate their salary.

1. Lack of confidence. Twenty four per cent fear that their employer will not offer them a raise, while twice as many women as men are “too embarrassed” to have the conversation.

2. Poor relationships with managers. More than a third of females think their manager has not taken the time to understand them personally. Many feel that they are not viewed as the main “breadwinner” or provider. In addition, female professionals have stated that their male counterparts have a naturally better way of showcasing their successes – with some suggesting this would look “needy” or “trying too hard” coming from a woman.

3. Low self-worth. Seventy per cent of heterosexual men earn above the average Irish salary, compared to 51 per cent of women. The long-running pay gap has done nothing to aid women’s belief that they should be paid more. Instead, the fact that pay equality continues to be discussed rather than fixed is a big blow to women’s confidence.

So, how do we tackle the above? You simply have to have the conversation with your manager. Here is how you can prepare.

In order to present the facts in an objective, non-emotional way, you must take time and look at a range of factors:

1. Previous appraisal documents. Have you achieved your objectives? When have you gone above and beyond what was expected of you?

2. Results. Are the results of your efforts having a direct impact on the business? If so, document and have them ready

3. Management/general responsibility. Are you training any of those new people? Has your remit expanded informally? Think outside the box – you may have trained upwards for new senior starters or mentored someone in another team.

4. Workload. Your job spec says ABC, yet you are also working on XYZ. It’s time to take this into consideration. Outline how you transformed ABC efficiently in order to accommodate XYZ.

I would normally recommend leaving comparisons with your peers out of the conversation. It is generally not wise to say, “Mary is getting 20 per cent more than me,” as this will only irritate your boss. In this instance, however, it seems glaringly obvious that new starters are being paid a premium and you have a right to ask why.

Make sure you ask for the meeting verbally or by email. If asked, say it is about your salary and you would like to share some thoughts. If your boss refuses, then it’s time to insist you want a meeting. Politely but firmly state you would like to discuss your responsibilities as they are not an accurate reflection of your wages.

Before the meeting, practise your opening lines – the less small talk, the better. If you do get a rise, be gracious but respect that fact that you deserve this. If you don’t, express your true feelings in a professional manner: “I am extremely disappointed to hear this, but thank you for letting me know. If that is your final answer I will need time to consider my options. Can I suggest we meet again next week?”

Think about what you would accept. If you want €10,000, would you stay for €8,000? Go through the scenarios beforehand rather than waiting to see how you feel on the spot. Would you be happy with the promise of a raise in January? If so, get it in writing.

Go in with some counter-suggestions. Have a three to six-month plan of things you will achieve that warrant a pay rise at the end of that period. This will also make management realise that you have a cut-off point.

Be cordial, professional and prepared for the worst. Take emotion and subjectivity out of the conversation. Start the meeting, control the agenda, state the facts and allow your boss to respond. Own any uncomfortable silences.

Don’t link a salary increase to a rise in your personal costs such as travel, childcare or mortgage. Don’t threaten to walk unless you are prepared to do so. Don’t allow the meeting to digress – have a short agenda in front of you to remind yourself why you are there.

Just remember, negotiating salary is a very common scenario for managers. Do not feel like you are asking too much – it is up to ourselves to place a value on our time and skills. Whether you have the desired outcome or not, practice is important, as even in another role you may find yourself discussing your pay.

Good luck!

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Louise Campbell is head of learning and development across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas at the international recruitment company Robert Walters. Her role focuses on ensuring that every employee from starter to senior manager is given the best possible training and development opportunities. She has been voted as one of the Top 100 Women in Global Staffing by Staffing Industry Analysts three times over the last decade. She is a board trustee of the international charity Global Angels. For more information on her work, see