How to respond if you’re unhappy with your salary review

By Robert Half on 20 May 2019

A disappointing salary review might just be the impetus you need to take effective action and secure the remuneration package you deserve.

Let's consider some of the main options available if you are not happy with your recent salary review:

1. Look for a new job

Perhaps the most obvious way to improve your remuneration - other than asking for a pay rise - is to change jobs.

In a growing economy, skilled and experienced professionals are always going to be in demand. So even if your own organisation isn't faring particularly well - and can't offer you a pay rise - there will be plenty of other employers who will. Some may pay you considerably more for doing essentially the same job; others may be willing to promote you to a more senior role - one which naturally offers more attractive rewards.

Perhaps your current employer assumes you will stay with them out of loyalty, having worked for the organisation for a number of years. They've seen you accept the financial constraints during the recession, and now that conditions have been improved, might be inclined to push their luck a little further. The last thing you want is to be taken for granted, so if your employer won't make a fair offer for someone with your skills, experience and potential, it could be time for a change.

You can start by looking through the job boards, recruitment agency websites and classifieds to identify potential new roles. There's no pressure to apply for jobs that don't suit you - after all, you're still in employment - but if you do come across an attractive opportunity, why not apply? Should you perform at the interview and be offered the job, it could see you automatically receive a major earnings boost. If you're somebody an employer is eager to bring on board, they may be willing to make an attractive offer in order to secure your services. Having identified you as their preferred candidate, the last thing they want is to see you accept somebody else's offer or decide to stay put.

2. Negotiate with your employer

Being active in the jobs market might just allow you to negotiate a better salary with your existing employer. If they suspect you are gearing up to leave, it could spur them into action. Even if the company has a policy on pay rises and counter-offers, they might make an exception for you - it all depends on how valuable you are to the organisation. If you are deemed indisposable, they may try to trump any other offers you might receive. This begs the question as to why such action wasn't taken in your salary review, but ultimately, an offer is an offer.

The reality is that employers pay what they need to in order to attract and retain staff, subject to budgetary constraints. They certainly won't pay more than they deem necessary - this just isn't good business. If an employer thinks you will happily stay with their organisation for 'X' amount, they won't be inclined to double it by offering 'Y'. So sometimes, as a professional, it is necessary to take a tougher negotiating stance - applying a little pressure on your employer in order to get what you deserve.

Your employers certainly won't make it easy for you to coax a higher salary out of them. But remember, it costs a lot more to recruit new employees, onboard them and get them working to maximum levels of productivity than to keep existing members of staff happy and engaged. So if you have the confidence to return to your employer following your salary review and ask for more, they may find you difficult to ignore. The bottom line is, if you're adding significant value to the organisation, they won't want you to leave.

3. Court a counteroffer

Some employees may hand their notice in, hoping to coax a offer to stay out of their employer. However, you should never accept a counteroffer - the chances of your brinkmanship paying off are very slim.

There are several reasons why your employer will, in all likelihood, resist the temptation to come in with an offer of an improved contract. First of all, you've broken the bond of trust by choosing to resign. Secondly, since you're evidently unsettled, you may leave anyway sooner rather than later. Thirdly, your employer has no guarantees you won't pull the same stunt again in the future, having seen it work the first time. And finally, the last thing employers want to do is set a precedent for making counter-offers, and see other employees use resignation as a mechanism for securing a pay rise.

Perhaps ask yourself why exactly you are looking for a new job - is it solely because of money? Typically, salary is just one of a number of factors which impacts on employee morale and motivation in the workplace.

If there are other reasons why you're unhappy in your job - for instance, a lack of progression opportunities or job satisfaction - then a pay rise in unlikely to solve the problem. Even if you do secure an improved contract, the same issues will eventually creep up on you again.

4. Use a recruitment agency

If you're actively looking for a new job - either because you definitely want a change, or you want additional options - it's worth your while contacting a recruitment agency. Not only can they help identify suitable roles and put you forward for the latest vacancies, but they can also negotiate an attractive pay and benefits package on your behalf.

As an intermediary between employers and prospective hires, recruiters are ideally positioned to represent both parties' interests. They have specialist knowledge of the industry, jobs market, candidate demands and employer expectations. Knowing know how much employers are able and willing to pay, they can use this information to your advantage.

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