Can leaders inspire confidence in asking for pay rise?

Woman and pay rise

It’s hard to read the news today without seeing a mention about pay.

Whether it’s about executive’s bonuses or pay gap reporting, being paid fairly is on top of the news agenda. Companies, quite rightly, are being more transparent about their employees’ pay and this open publicity is encouraging positive discussions within businesses. Gone are the days where talking about pay was considered a taboo, but employers still have a role to play in ensuring their staff feel at ease to raise the subject.

It’s engrained in your culture

The truth is, if your employees feel awkward talking about pay, it could be down to the culture of your business. They might worry that they’ll be judged by their managers or even penalised for bringing up the topic. This is a problem – not only when it comes to pay – but also the way it impacts overall job satisfaction.

If they don’t feel comfortable talking about their concerns or needs with managers, employees will start to feel frustrated that they aren’t being recognised for their work. This is where companies lose out on great staff as people decide to move on.

Leaders need to fix the root of the problem. They must consider how to go about building a culture that actively encourages staff to have open discussions with managers. So, think about how approachable the leaders are in the organisation, make sure pay is a topic that can be discussed openly, provide easy channels for communication and set expectations from the get-go.

Keep your relationship in check

Whether it’s a small start-up or big beast of a corporation, a strong working relationship is key. Managers should be having conversations about performance progress regularly with their team and not save it for a once-a-year review.

It’s also important that managers are approachable and a trusted person for staff to turn to. As with any relationship, it should be built on trust, shared respect and mutual understanding. If employees feel they have a good relationship with their managers, they’re more likely to feel comfortable talking about their role, performance and salary. These check-ins will also provide clarity on performance, their expectations, potential routes to progression and with that, increase in pay. It’s not only important for staff to know how appraisals work, but also how they are connected to salary. Businesses need a measurement structure in place that aligns with salary, so there’s clarity on what’s needed for each pay increase. This method will then help benchmark talks around salary, using these structures to help managers discuss staff progress.

With the changing expectations driven by the media, government and businesses, it’s no longer seen as an off-limit topic – and it’s about time. Businesses should strive to create a culture where relationships are strong, employees are comfortable speaking openly and achievements are rewarded.  At this point, talks about pay rise should no longer be a concern.

About the author

Aliya started her HR career in 1996 and co-founded JourneyHR in 2010. Aliya has predominantly worked in the communications industry reporting in at board level at Aegis Media, Naked Communications, Media Planning Group and She applies commercial focus and business psychology to HR and continues to influence business owners in the marketing and communications industry on innovative people practices.

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