Don’t fall for the “There is no budget for a salary raise” excuse!

Featured in Annabelle Magazine
When I encourage women to negotiate for a better salary, they sometimes tell me they tried doing that, but unfortunately, they didn’t get it. Though their boss seemed in favour of a salary increase, their hands were tied as there was no room for a raise in the budget.

And that had been the end of the conversation. So these women would return to their desks even more demotivated than they were before they conversation, when they still felt they had a chance. They had mustered up the courage to ask for more, but gotten nowhere and would now have to wait until the new financial year to ask again.

Or would they..?

You see, “not in the budget” is the easiest cop-out your boss can give. When they can blame the budget, they avoid a difficult conversation with you. After all, financial constraints aren’t their fault, and on the surface, it appears you cannot argue with this “no budget” argument.

But here’s the thing: my clients happily work around the “no budget” excuse and get their raise after all. Here is how they manage.

The first thing they do, is they EXPECT to hear this argument and they are ready for it. “This is where it gets fun!” they’ll remember. “Now I get to test my newly-found negotiation muscle!”

Instead of starting a difficult talk about money, the trick is to have a meaningful conversation that focuses on both your and your boss’ interests. And when you realise that you share a lot of interests, that is the start for a productive conversation.

After all, you both want you to work at your best capacity, right? And you do your best work when you feel valued, you are motivated, inspired and excited. And you get the to that great place by earning a good (or even great!) salary for the magic that you do at work. Therefore, it’s in both your interests to pay you what you deserve.

So now it’s only a question of finding the funds. And to quote a wise man:

It’s never about resources, only resourcefulness.

As such, it’s your joint responsibility to get creative and to brainstorm possible solutions for this practical issue of finding the money to meet your request of a salary increase.

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

  • Can the role be redefined or expanded would this allow for some additional budget being brought in?
  • Could they define a raise now, and can this be paid retro-actively from the new financial year, so you get a nice bonus then, plus a new salary going forward? (Get everything in writing!).
  • Are there other pots of money that could provide some relief? Often, when the “employment” pot is empty, the “training and development” pot may provide options, for example.

Your specific circumstances will undoubtedly enable you to come up with even better solutions. With a bit of creaticity, it’s often perfectly possible to find something that satisfies all sides’ interests.

And as an additional bonus: this kind of conversation often improves the relationship between you and your boss. You’ll discuss goals, wants and needs, and this type of meaningful conversation often leads to a greater understanding of one another. Many of my clients get promoted as a result of speaking to their boss about salary…

So please, if you hear the “lack of budget” excuse during your next salary discussion, don’t assume this is the end of the conversation; it’s only the start!

Wies Bratby.

Negotiation Coach, former top Lawyer and HR Director, and unapologetic advocate for women in my tribe getting what they want and what they are worth.

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