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How to ask for what you want at work - and actually get it

Whether you’re wondering how to ask your boss for a few months off to travel, or are bracing yourself to have ‘the chat’ with your manager about your stagnating wages, negotiating at work can be tricky.

But never fear, almost everyone struggles when it comes to knowing how to have difficult conversations at work, so don’t let dread or embarrassment hold you back. 

Learning how to negotiate at work is a handy skill that will make your life run much more smoothly. Here, we break down how to approach common workplace discussions so that your career (and bank balance) can go from strength to strength. 

How to ask for a pay rise

Career coach Kate Richardson believes timing is everything when it comes to asking for a pay rise. Apart from checking whether your company evaluates salaries at a set period (like during your annual review), preparing your boss for the conversation is just as important as preparing yourself.

'When you ask for the meeting, give your boss some notice and make sure they know what it’s about – the last thing you want to do is catch them off guard,' Kate says.

Kate also believes giving consideration to the WIIFMB (the What’s In It For My Boss) factor is smart. This involves demonstrating the value that you add to the team with concrete examples of your achievements, then showing your boss how a salary increase will be a win-win for both of you. 

'Would a salary increase mean they can not only hang onto you, but keep you motivated and over-delivering for another 18 months? Does it mean you see yourself staying on and continuing to grow your career with the company?' she says. 

Also, researching comparable salaries will arm you with the data to support your request and help you feel more confident about what you’re asking for. 

'Talk to recruiters to get their gauge on current salaries, review industry salary surveys and do some research on a platform like LinkedIn,' says Kate.

How to ask for a promotion

If you’re chasing a promotion, be prepared to ask yourself some questions and be a little patient before you take on a new title and more responsibilities. 

Kate points out that promotion discussions usually require more than a single conversation. If you want to step up into a managerial role, start by understanding the big picture and where you fit into it.

'Ask your manager if you can talk about the bigger plans for your team and organisation – what does success look like over the next year and beyond? Then you can discuss the role you can play in delivering that success, and specifically how a promotion would help you do that,' says Kate.

She adds: 'You might need time to reflect, so consider making that a follow-up conversation.'

How to ask for flexible working arrangements

Whether you want to work from home to avoid a long commute, or work different hours to the norm so you can pick your kids up from school, it pays to think about the types of questions or objections you’ll likely face.

Perhaps your boss will be worried about your productivity levels, or concerned about the impact that less personal contact will have on the team dynamic. Anticipating these issues beforehand will help you to come up with some answers and solutions to allay your manager’s concerns.

'When you know what they might be worried about, you can present your solution in a way that directly addresses their concerns and shows that the arrangement won’t have a negative impact,' says Kate. 

Demonstrating the benefits of flexible work arrangements (such as fewer interruptions from co-workers translating to higher productivity) and giving examples of how flexible arrangements have worked for other employees (or other organisations in your sector) will bolster your argument, too.

How to ask for extended leave

If you’re keen to take a few months off to walk the Camino de Santiago trail in Europe or dedicate some time to post-graduate study, Kate believes your employer will be more likely to say yes if you’ve been with the company for a while. So if you’re new to the team, you might struggle to get a large chunk of unpaid leave approved.

Regardless, you’ll need to consider your company’s leave policy before asking. Kate also suggests speaking to co-workers who have taken a career break, to get their advice about how they made it happen. 

As with asking for a promotion or pay rise, demonstrating the benefits of going on a sabbatical will improve your chances of getting your manager’s approval.

'Perhaps extended leave is something you need as a result of a few tough years after the pandemic and will mean you return refreshed and ready for the long haul? Or maybe you plan to study, which will help you develop skills that you can bring back to your workplace?' says Kate.

How to get your finances in order 

You’re working hard for the money, so it’s important that you’re also managing your earnings effectively to balance paying bills with some spending thrills.

Start by giving your monthly incomings and outgoings a once over. This is particularly important if changes at work have impacted your salary, but it should be part of a regular financial health check you do once every 6–12 months.

The Virgin Money app can help with the admin, with banking features like spend tracking and categorisation, bill scheduling, and smart insights to help you build good money habits. 

Set a budget with clear goals for what you want to achieve through your savings, but make sure it’s realistic.

Are there areas where you could cut back for some serious gains? Are you giving yourself enough cash for the fun stuff every now and then? You can set up to nine personal savings goals in the Virgin Money app and then sit back and watch them grow.

If you’d prefer not to think about it, switching on the Round Up feature in your Virgin Money Go account will round up transactions to the nearest dollar and transfer them to your savings account.

Finally, consider ways to make your monthly earnings work harder via a high-interest savings account like the Virgin Money Boost Saver. And with the Lock Saver Feature switched on, you’ll earn extra interest when you meet the monthly criteria for deposits and purchases.

Ready to bank like a boss?

Open a Virgin Money Go Account and start depositing your salary today. To help reduce the admin, simply fill out our salary transfer form and give it to your employer.

Open a Virgin Money Go Account