How to Negotiate for a Salary Increase After Probation
Salary negotiations can be dreadful. Most of us want more money for the jobs we perform, but asking for it is a very different thing.
Negotiating for a salary increase can be especially tough after probation. Is it even possible?
In this guide, I’ll explain what probationary periods are and what you should know about them and your salary prospects before you enter into a contract.
I’ll also give you tips on how to prepare for salary negotiations after probation and what to do and say during the daunting meeting. If you take all of this on board, you might be in for a bigger paycheck!
DO COMPANIES OFFER SALARY INCREASES AFTER PROBATION?
Before I get into the nit and grit of negotiating a salary increase, it’s worth stopping for a second, and understanding what the likelihood is for this. What are probationary periods in the first place and how common it is to get a raise after you pass the test period?
What is a probationary period?
As I revealed in the last sentence above, probationary periods are in essence a test to check how well you can perform in the role. Employees use them to check if they’ve made the right choice hiring you and it does provide you the opportunity to also see whether you enjoy the job and the role.
The probation is generally a specific timeframe; for example, a three-month period. It’s a kind of safety net for the employer, and to some extent you. It can help test your ability to perform in the role and to ensure you are the right fit for the team and the work environment. It does provide the employer more flexibility in dismissing you, if you don’t meet the standards set before the probation.
On the other hand, if you don’t feel the job is right for you, walking away at the end of the probation period can be easier than quitting your job later on.
So, how common are probations? The answer would be rather common. Most companies in both public and private sector have some sort of testing period. The length and the criteria can differ from company to company – always understand the rules of the probation period before entering it.
In terms of salary increases and probation, the period typically ends with a performance review, which can be a good time to talk about salary issues – especially if you’ve performed exceptionally well.
But a salary negotiation may or may not be part of the agreed period and it can be difficult to negotiate a raise at this early in your employment. But don’t despair – salary increase is possible and I’ll show you what to do!
And if you’re looking to survive the probation period, check the tips for your first 90 days at a new job by Smith Arnold Partners:
What to know before you accept a probationary period?
Before you enter a probationary period – in fact, before you enter employment – you need to check whether you’ll have to go through probation and what the specific terms of it are. Knowing these can help you with your possible salary negotiations later on.
Here’s the checklist of what to know before:
- Do you have a probationary period and how long is it?
- What are the specific terms of the period:
- Your duties during the probation.
- For the employer and yourself in terms of terminating the contract after or during the period.
- The performance criteria for a successful passing of the period and any other benchmarks for passing the period.
- The salary negotiation timeline:
- Will there be an automated review after the probation?
- Does the company offer a review at regular intervals?
- Is there an option to negotiate the salary after a good probation?
You would ideally want the above in writing to ensure you don’t end up in a “She said, he said” situation. You’ll most likely have the employment offer in writing, so just ask them to include or clarify the probation clauses.
This can make negotiating a salary easier, but it also ensures the whole period is smoother for both of you.
IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU WON’T GET IT
I once read an interesting blog post by Krystal Yee from the Give Me Back My Five Bucks and it helped me open my eyes to a crucial problem people have in terms of negotiating a raise. Other than having terms in writing, there’s another essential tip for negotiating a salary – not just after a probation period, but also at any point.
The golden rule of getting an increase is: if you don’t ask, you probably wont’ get it.
There aren’t many bosses out there willing to sit you down and say, “Let’s give you a big raise”. This isn’t to say they don’t want you to say or they don’t think you might deserve more – but increasing salaries just isn’t generally their priority. You need to be the active member in looking after your interests – no one else will do it for you.
I understand that asking for more money might not come naturally to you, and it can feel uncomfortable, especially when you’ve recently joined the firm. But do you want to spend months slaving off; performing tasks that you know should pay more, just because it might seem awkward to ask?
Asking for a salary increase (especially after you’ve followed the below steps) is a natural and necessary thing to do. You aren’t being a moneyhungry person – we all need money and we all work to get money to some extent. Naturally, you do need to follow the below steps and to establish valid reasons and justifications for the raise.
But don’t talk yourself out of it or feel bad about asking – if you don’t ask, you probably won’t get it. So, either you stop dreaming about the raise or step up and take initiative.
Remember, asking for a salary increase is not bitchy or selfish; it’s smart. To survive in today’s competitive job market, you need to understand the value of what you do. If your employer is unwilling to even listen to your case, then someone else out there will.
Asking or negotiating is not the same as getting exactly what you want – but you also can’t expect to get what you want, if you aren’t willing to outline it. The whole point of negotiating is reaching an agreement that suits both parties – a salary that satisfies you and which the employer is able to commit to at this point in time.
So once more, you need to get over the hurdle of asking, before you can start dreaming about a salary increase.
THE STEPS TO TAKE BEFORE STARTING SALARY NEGOTIATIONS
Any good negotiator will tell you preparation is the key to a successful result. Therefore, your journey to negotiating a salary increase should start long before you enter your manager’s office and ask for the raise.
So, how to prepare for the negotiations? You need to first evaluate the work environment and then carefully consider your value and performance.
Evaluate the work environment
It’s beneficial to look around a bit and carefully evaluate what is happening in the company. What this means is to understand the current financial situation of the company a little before you start asking for more money.
You can’t expect the train to start moving a lot faster, if you’ve stepped into a steam train in the first place. Now this doesn’t mean you need to know the ins and outs of the company – you simply need to use your discretion in understanding whether it’s the right time for a raise. How do you know this? Ask yourself:
- Has the company been hiring many new people recently? This can be a sign of healthy financial situation and open the door for negotiations.
- Has the company fired a lot of the staff recently? On the other hand, if many people have been fired recently, the company might be suffering financially and you might not succeed with your request.
Aside from getting a sense of the financial environment of the organization, you should also consider the company’s salary position.
In effect, you need to understand whether the company has an automatic salary review schedule in place. Certain companies regularly negotiate salaries and offer increases accordingly.
If such a system in place, when is the next interval for these negotiations? If the salary discussion will take place within a few months anyway, you might as well wait until this happens instead of launching your own negotiations. On the other hand, if you know the company doesn’t have regular review, you can start the negotiations.
Finally, look at your work environment, including the requirements and responsibilities. Has there been any change from what you were expected at the start of your probation and what you have ended up doing? Have you acquired responsibility on your own initiative or has the manager added to your tasks?
If you have suddenly seen a change in your work environment and the responsibilities you have, you should start noting these down. Creating a list of things that have changed your work description or added to your challenges can help you outline why the raise is in order.
Consider your value and performance
The other important thing to consider before starting negotiations is your work performance and the value you add to the organization.
As I mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a raise, but only if you can prove you are worth it. Don’t simply ask for a salary increase for the sake of it – you need to prove to the company you are worth the money you are asking for.
How do you evaluate your worth? Well start by listing out your duties and responsibilities. This means writing a list of everything you’ve been doing during the probation and the kind of tasks you’ve done. Once you have the list, you should compare it with the responsibilities listed either by the employer, either in the job description or the probation agreement you have drafted.
Compare and note down any discrepancies. Have you done tasks that were not mentioned? Has the list of responsibilities changed? This simple act can help better identify your actual job description and thus help you evaluate what you should be paid based on your actual duties.
You should also keep building a portfolio of achievements. This means noting down any special tasks you’ve undertaken and any specific ways you’ve helped the team or the organization in their objectives. For example, perhaps you were in charge of the sales team and under your supervision, they were able to increase their sales by 40%.
Note these achievements shouldn’t be part of your regular job description, but be about the extra value you’ve added. So, if your responsibility was to meet a monthly 40% increase and you’ve done it, you’ve not added anything that wasn’t expected of you. But performing above expectations or adding more value than what was expected of you is an achievement to mention.
The portfolio is helpful in highlighting the extra value you provide for the organization – so even if your job description hasn’t changed or you don’t perform extra duties, you can seek for a raise based on the added value you provide for the team.
Finally, you want to look around in the job market and compare what you are doing to salaries out there. Does the organization pay a lot less than the average in the industry for the role?
If your salary is based on junior manager role, but the list of responsibilities shows you act more like a senior manager, what are the salary differences? It can help your negotiation position to show that other organizations are offering better salaries for the same position. Furthermore, doing this research will help you see whether you are actually deserving of a salary increase or if you are just trying to milk more money.
So, if you find that your position already pays a lot more than average and your list of duties doesn’t seem out of the ordinary, negotiating a raise might not be in your best interest.
You can use job sites like Glassdoor and Monster to find information on different positions and average salaries. You can also talk with your colleagues (if they seem willing) and have a chat with any friend or acquaintance you have working in a similar role or the industry.
But remember: don’t make direct comparisons during the negotiations. The fact your mate Steve gets more can depend on many different factors, even if you do similar jobs. But do use the information as a leverage and guidance in terms of what you could be asking.
NEGOTIATING A SALARY INCREASE
By now, you should have enough proof to convince your boss that you deserve a raise. How to go about negotiating the salary increase? First, organize the meeting with the person who has been in charge of your probation. You also want the person in charge of approving raises present at the meeting.
Why do you need both? Well, you want the person who’s overseen your performance to be present, as they can vouch for your performance. You also need to negotiate directly with the person who can decide the increases, as it’s always better to make your case face-to-face with them rather than have a manager speak for you.
When you are organizing the meeting, be open about your intention. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to say you want to talk about money. Instead, say you are looking discuss your role in the organization and your career growth options. This sends the message, but isn’t quite the same as organizing a meeting stating you want more money.
When it comes to the actual negotiation, you need to keep in mind a few essential tips and tactics. I’ve listed the key things to focus on with your communication style and the flow of the conversation. These include:
- Be polite and friendly, even if the conversation is not going your way.
- Explain how much you enjoy working for the company and the things you like about the new role. Do this first to ensure the people understand you do enjoy your work.
- Give a brief summary of what you feel you’ve helped the company to achieve. Use your list of achievements at this point to point to the positives you’ve achieved.
- Give your account on where you’d like the company to move forward and how you would like to see it grow. It’s great if you could offer some ideas you think might add more value to the company or the team. For example, if you’ve noticed the software for keeping track of customers has had problems, recommend another you’ve been researching about. If you think a new social media campaign on Instagram could drive up sales, provide a short introduction to this idea. Don’t start talking about these projects or ideas as the main point, but do mention something showing your passion for helping the company and the real value you can continue to add in the future.
- Ask about your probation period. You want to get a sense of what the employer thought of it, did you recognize the same achievements that you did, and what is the main criticism he/she has.
- Give an honest account of what is the value you think you add to the organization. If you know you are being underpaid by industry standards, then don’t be afraid to nudge them towards knowing it. It can help to let them know you understand the worth of your work and to make them see that other companies might be willing to offer more.
- Listen to the manager and the boss, trying to get a feel of where they stand. Do you hear a lot of positive feedback? Is the feedback negative and different from your own experience? Adjust your expectations accordingly. If the management sounds positive about your probation and seems excited about your ideas, you have a good opportunity for focusing on the higher end of your salary expectations.
- Take the initiative and ask directly for you feel, for the reasons you’ve talked about (value, achievements, current industry standards, etc.), you would like to see your salary increased. Provide them with a number as well. You might not receive this, but it gives a starting point for the discussion. If you simply state you want a raise, they might give you a slight increase, but this might not be satisfactory for you. As I’ve mentioned at the start, if you don’t ask, you won’t get it.
The golden rule about negotiating a salary increase is about focusing on value. You need to make the management understand how you have added value to the company and the team and how you could be adding more value in the future.
Furthermore, there are three big things to avoid during a salary negotiation, especially after probation. The three big ‘no-nos’ are:
Threatening to quit or cause disruption. Even if you’ve been offered the moon by another company or you are being taken advantage big time, you can’t start threatening the company. The response in these situations would most likely be, “Well, there’s the door!” In fact, think about it; if you hate working in the organization or you know someone else is offering something better then you might as well leave now. On the other hand, if you just threaten in the hope it guarantees a pay rise, you are going to be on the black list of the management team.
Taking rejection or critique personally. The manager might be blunt. He/she might just go, “Sorry Sally, we appreciate your work, but at this point in time, you really aren’t worth 3k extra.” You need to learn to distance yourself from the decisions, especially when it comes to negotiating a salary. The financial implications of increasing an employee’s pay might not have anything to do with how good the person is at his/her work or what the organization would want to pay him/her. Sometimes issues of money are just issues of money.
Complain about the role or the company. Yes, you might struggle having to do two people’s roles or having to work in a cold office. But salary negotiations are not the place to critique the organization. Remember the golden rule: the conversation should be about value – nothing more, nothing less. Let’s say you don’t like the fact that you suddenly had to start responding customer e-mails, which wasn’t part of your job. Instead of going, “I don’t like the fact that now I also need to write e-mails”, you should say, “I also took on the additional task of replying to customer e-mails and while I’ve not had this responsibility before, I’ve found it has helped me in my ability to serve customers.”
If you stick to the above tips, then you’ll be able to showcase the management your talent and you’ll be offered a raise. Remember to think carefully whether you accept the offer before you say no, as you don’t want to stick with a company you don’t think appreciates your value enough. Keep in mind that no matter how well you stick to the advice, the answer can also be ‘no’.
BE PREPARED FOR THE ‘NO’
Whenever you ask for a salary increase, there are two possible outcomes. You either:
- Get a ‘yes’. This option in itself can have three outcomes:
- You get exactly the kind of raise you were looking for – positive ending.
- You get more than you asked for – extremely positive ending.
- You don’t get quite what you were hoping for – slightly disappointing ending, but you can always negotiate further or move on from the organization.
- Get a ‘no’.
You need to be prepared for the rejection or the disappointment of not getting enough. The sooner you start thinking about those options and preparing for them, the easier it’ll be to respond to the situation and to move on from the situation. You don’t want to storm out of the office or hand in your notice of resignation in the heat of the moment. A ‘no’ might not be the end of the world.
Therefore, if you hear the dreaded word or you feel the salary offer is disappointingly low, you should:
- Understand and examine your boss’ reasoning. There can be plenty of reasons for saying ‘no’, but some of the most common examples include:
- The company explains the decision is down to a financial situation, in which case you might be able to expect a raise as soon as the situation gets better.
- The company might not negotiate outside of the annual salary negotiation schedule. In this case, you might just have to wait it out.
- The company does not agree with your value assessment and doesn’t agree you necessarily deserve more. This is the trickiest, as it doesn’t provide much breathing room, other than finding out how you could improve your performance.
- If the reasons are performance-based, take a long and hard look at what your boss is telling you. What is their reasoning for the current salary or only the slightest increase? Be honest with yourself and compare the situation in the industry. As I’ve mentioned, if you’re already being paid close to the average, then you might not have much room for seeking an increase unless you drastically improve performance.
What is the right move to make in these situations? According to a 2015 Glassdoor survey, 35% of employees think it’s quitting. Honestly speaking, there isn’t any ‘correct’ answer and you need to figure it out yourself. Nonetheless, you should examine the situation in different ankles depending on the reasoning. What this means is that if:
The reasons are outside of your hands, meaning they aren’t performance related, you need to consider your commitment to the organization and the prospect of a raise in the near future. Did your boss hint a possible raise would be incoming as finances improve? Is the increase likely, as the annual negotiations get closer? Think how willing you are to commit to working at the organization even at the current salary and how likely you think a raise would be within a year. If you love the role and you see light at the end of the tunnel, stay and see what happens. If you really don’t feel the company is able to change the salary it pays and you feel it is undervaluing your input, you might want to move forward.
The reasons are performance-based, evaluate the basis of them carefully. If you understand where the management is coming from and you feel they’ve given you clear and reasonable expectations for obtaining a salary, simply try working harder and adding more value and showing passion. Even if you don’t agree with the valuation, moving on immediately after probation might not be a good idea. Sometimes it can take longer for the company to understand your true value. So again, if you love the role and you enjoy it, consider staying put, showing that commitment and skill, and the pay rise will follow. On the other hand, if you feel you’re being taken advantage off and the organization truly doesn’t get what you are doing, consider leaving and testing the waters elsewhere.
As you’ve seen, closing the door might not always be the best idea. While you should never continue working for a company that doesn’t appreciate your value or which doesn’t pay the right salary for the work you do, sometimes patience is a virtue. You don’t want to end an employment and find yourself in a situation where you aren’t getting offers for roles. Before you close the door behind you, check the current job market and ensure there are options out there that seem either more fitting for your talent and passion, or which pay the kind of salary you are looking for.
To get over the disappointed, take these tips by Brendon Burchard on board. The video is perfect for getting past disappointments in life – whether it’s salary negotiations or job application rejections.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Before you take the step of negotiation for a salary increase after probation, you need to focus on two things: understand you won’t get what you want until you are prepared to ask and outline it, and you need to know your value to the role and the company before you can put a figure on it. Assess and evaluate the work environment and your own input – be able to show how, when and why you are useful and valuable to the organization.
When you enter the negotiations, be open and willing to listen. Do not slam the door of opportunity just because you don’t agree with your management. Always consider your options and understand where the other party is coming from. If you don’t get what you want, then be prepared to take the leap if it’s the right choice to make.
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