HOW TO ASK FOR A HIGHER SALARY? There are certain things you should think about first, say these top-level executives. Photo: Private

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Four top-level executives in Norway: – This is how you ask for a higher salary

Written by Sondre Tallaksrud, Tekna Magasinet Nov. 16 2020

There are 18 questions you should prepare before going into a salary negotiation.

Is it possible you’ve lost money on bad salary discussion over the years, or have you always been completely prepared for every discussion with your boss?  

Four top-level executives in Norway give you their take on this discussion from the other side of the table from where you normally sit.

Irene Vik, Director of Tafjord Kraftvarme, thinks that a good salary discussion doesn’t take place in the boss’ office.

– This discussion should take place on neutral territory – not in anybody’s office. Besides, both the employee and supervisor have to be well prepared for talking with one another. In collaboration with the trade unions, we’ve agreed on the salary criteria that apply to us at Tafjord, which creates a starting point for the discussion and resulting salaries that are determined in accordance with equal criteria that apply to everyone. These points are very helpful for making  good salary discussions, she says.

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– How should somebody ask for a higher salary?

– They should refer to their educational background, position and any other qualifications, all of which dictate a higher salary. Although offering your personal opinion about your salary is fine, it has to be done in a professional way, of course.  

– Do you have any examples of good or bad discussions in recent years?

– Most of the discussions I’ve had in recent years have been very good ones. I’ve experienced a couple of times that employees have been really pleased after getting a raise, and that’s always nice. I haven’t often experienced that individual employees argue for increasing their salaries. The demand for higher salaries usually comes from the trade unions. There have been cases of «whining» where an employee won’t give up, and doesn’t have very good arguments, but luckily, this happens rarely, says Vik.

Not everyone’s convinced 

Yngvar Kjønigsen, CEO of Hymatec, says that there are certain things you should be aware of when going into a salary discussion.

– With regard to discussions that reflect the frameworks found in [national] salary negotiations; they should be based on a common understanding of the group frameworks. It’s also a given that there should be an agreement about how an employee’s salary growth will be over an entire career, for example a senior-level employee won’t get the same percentage raise for their contribution as somebody who’s just been hired. Not everyone is convinced of this point, so I usually give a brief description of these points at the start of a discussion.

– After that, it’s the individual’s performance and importance to the company that determines if they’ll be given a raise either above or below their «curve». And for employees who don’t do very well at these discussions, I’ve often pointed out the reasons this happens and emphasized that this is something they themselves can influence. They might also have other information that could be influential in one way or another, and if that’s the case, it’s important for them to bring this to light during our discussion.

– It’s being said now that there have been lean wage settlements in recent years, and the possibility of differentiating salaries has been limited.

– How should somebody ask for a higher salary?

– This is often brought up in different ways. Either that the company makes an adjustment to make salaries more equal, or that the individual employee brings it up. In the latter case, it might be that this employee has gotten an offer from a different company. If we decide to fight to keep this employee, we offer to increase their salary, and at the same time start a dialogue about other things that need changing (something that often happens in these cases). These kinds of discussions can also be triggered by job changes; if this happens, there’ll be a longer process where the discussion goes back and forth before we reach an agreement. If we’re called on to make salary adjustments due to inequality, the employee gets the chance to present their situation in a meeting and be informed about the reasons why an adjustment will/won’t be made, he says.   

Have these 18 answers ready

Per Olaf Brett, an experienced co-director, advises you to prepare answers to the following questions before going into a salary discussion:

  • Do you enjoy your work? Why? Why not?
  • Tell me about what you’ve achieved over the course of the past year … for yourself and the company… How important are these results?
  • Have you achieved or completed the work-related and personal tasks we agreed you’d follow up on during our last salary discussion and performance review?
  • Can you give two examples of how your contribution has influenced the company’s/industry’s overall value creation?
  • Has your contribution been observed and appreciated by others? If yes, by whom?
  • Which other individuals and groups have you collaborated with during this period?
  • What have you contributed? Have you gotten any feedback? – Positive or negative?
  • How long have you been here?
  • What kind of responsibility and duties do you have?
  • Are you satisfied with your current salary? What about other benefits?
  • Do you know anything about salary levels in other companies in this region? If so, are they comparable to yours?
  • Who can you compare yourself with either in the company/organization or outside of the company?  
  • What do you think these people make in a year?
  • Where do you think the company’s at now regarding its ability to pay salaries, and what kind of growth in productivity have you helped create?
  • Do you feel like you’re in the wrong job? Getting the wrong salary?
  • Are you familiar with the company’s pay scale and how it’s used?
  • Which factors dictate that you should get a raise?
  • What do you think would be an appropriate salary level for you?

– We’ll consider your input when making an evaluation of salary discrepancies, salary determinations and levels and get back to you quickly with an answer.

– How should somebody ask for a higher salary?

– You should be ready to answer the questions above. Be ready to defend what you say– a real discussion seldom takes place if there aren’t any truly good reasons to keep you, or if the company doesn’t value your unique talents and abilities. Think through the kind of feedback you want – what you can accept and can’t accept.  

– Be clear about what you want to do if you don’t get an acceptable response  – quit, ask for an internal transfer – or if there are other positions in the company that can give you what you want to achieve in both the short- and long term. Be patient and realistic – remember that there are a lot of other smart people out there, he says.

– Why should you be individually evaluated?

Wenche Olsen, departmental head in Norway’s Civil Aviation Authority, thinks the timing of a salary discussion is important.

– Ask for a salary discussion with your closest supervisor well in advance of the annual salary negotiations. Or you can ask for a separate evaluation outside of these negotiations. Prepare well – feel free to send written information to your supervisor before the discussion date.

– Give a good reason why you should be individually evaluated. It should first and foremost be based on the results you’ve achieved or significant changes made to your tasks and responsibilities. You can remind your supervisor about the results you’ve achieved in your own task portfolio, how this helps the organization accomplish its goals and any other revenue it generates. If you’ve taken on new areas of responsibility, this can form the basis for a salary evaluation, especially if these tasks give more you more responsibility than you had previously.

– It’s not wise to justify a demand for a higher salary by stating that you have a lot of tasks or that others are earning more. Salaries are often individually determined, so some people will be earning a higher salary and others a lower one.

– If you think that you’re earning a lower salary than others in the same position, it can be smart to not ask for more money, but instead ask for an evaluation of the areas you should improve on so that you can increase your chances of getting more money. It’s always smart to give first and then ask for a higher salary.

She also thinks employers should prepare themselves well for the process, not least after the discussion.

– After the annual wage settlement is over, they should have salary discussions with both the people who’ve gotten something and not least with those who haven’t gotten anything (or who didn’t get what they’d expected or demanded).

– In preparation for the wage settlement for employees who have an individually determined salary, joint criteria should be set up so the individual employee can be evaluated. This information should be made known throughout the organization and entrusted with the union representatives. The criteria can include different things like result achievements, compliance with departmental strategy and values as well as an individual evaluation for managers in accordance with management criteria. It’s important that a manager must in fact evaluate each individual employee in relation to the joint criteria and that priorities in the wage settlement are realized with respect to this point.

– In subsequent salary discussions, this evaluation should be actively used in discussions with individuals, both to say something about why they might have gotten a good result from the wage settlement and use it as a motivating factor for the employees who didn’t get what they wanted through pointing out areas where they didn’t measure up during their evaluation. The goal is to help the individual employee understand how he/she can improve in the future.

– The goal is also to have some well-known evaluation criteria so that you have as much objectivity as possible during the evaluations and take away arguments based only on opinions, she says.

What are you earning compared to others?

Are you wondering how your salary compares to others working at your same level? 

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