When and how to ask for a promotion or pay rise

A Developer’s Dilemma

In an ideal world, you will be given a pay rise or promoted if you work hard and deliver. But that’s only in the ideal world. Truth is, some bosses assume that if you do not ask for a pay rise, then you’re happy with what you’re being paid, even if other people doing your same work are being paid more. So, a higher salary is related more to the ability of an individual to know what is being paid in the market and using this information to negotiate, rather than the true value established by the market.

The aim of this post is to help you avoid having to leave a job you love to be able to get the salary you deserve.

The first step is to establish the going rate in the market for your skills. With more and more employers staying away from promoting the salary for jobs they are recruiting for, you may have to apply for some roles to get a good idea of what you are worth. Keep in mind that the skills that will help you get a better salary are not only software-development related but may also be related to one’s ability to work and lead a team, for example.

With this information in hand, the next step would be to figure out the best timing to ask for a rise.

Some assume that this should happen during the annual performance review, and there is some truth in this. However, keep in mind that when preparing for these reviews, management would have already established the thresholds within which to give increases. With a fixed pool, a greater increase for you could mean lower increases to others, so the probability of this happening is rather low.

A different approach would be to ask for an increase or promotion just after a very successful project has been completed in which you played an important role. Rather than ask for a rise, you could explain that you would like to make a greater contribution to the company. It is a win-win situation and will be perceived more positively that a straight-forward request for a rise.

A different approach would be to talk to your boss, explaining that you know that other companies are paying more, or have possibly approached you, but you are very happy working here and would rather stay than move. Explain that you would rather not have to wait for the performance review. However, don’t make threats that you will leave if you are not granted what you want, as this will never work in your favour in the longer-term.

Perhaps it is time to go?

A possible result of your discussions could be the realisation that you will not get what you think you deserve and that it is time to look elsewhere. This is made worse in an environment where you are not learning anything new and the opportunities to progress seem bleak.

Even in this case, plan your exit in a way which doesn’t burn your bridges with the boss, since paths will possibly cross several times in your career.