The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

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That awkward payrise conversation: how to slay it (and not piss off your boss)

Now that we are all super BFFs with the four ladies who will make us rich, I want to spend a little bit of quality time with one of them. Think of it as a Single Date on The Bachelor, but no awkward kissing at the end. (Unless that’s your thing, which is fine, no judgement here).

The tricky thing about Earning is that she can be hard to control. There are many factors in play, including the job you choose, your level of experience and the fundamentally patriarchal workforce that embeds a 17% gender gap.

But there are things you can control (unless you’re on an Award or Enterprise Agreement – in which case, stop reading and go watch some Real Housewives, cos I got nothin’ for you. Soz). One of them is growing your salary.

Women are great negotiators

Of the many arguments put forward about why women earn less than men, one is our unwillingness or inabilty to negotiate.

I don’t know about you, but I long ago honed my deal-making skills – with myself. All those complex arguments about whether to eat that cake, but only if we go to the gym and if we just cut a small bit off and there are no calories if it’s off someone else’s plate and look it’s Sunday and I really worked hard this week and it’s gluten-free … etc etc etc.

A brain that spends that much time making trade-offs about the size of your butt can totally nail a pay deal.

And yet I was amazed to find out that my very grown-up, professional, confident friend who has worked in corporate for many years, HAS NEVER ASKED FOR A PAYRISE.

Wait, what?

Now to be honest I am not the best at it myself – I’m lucky to have had bosses who offer them up without asking. But if you don’t have a fair and generous manager who knows you’re pretty effin’ hard to replace, then you need to step up and ASK.

However, having sat on the other side of these conversations many times (as a #girlboss), let me make a few points.

You do not get a payrise for simply showing up. You get rewarded when you do a great job, not an ordinary job. If your performance review is a little iffy, or if you’re as committed to the job as that time Britney performed at the AMAs, then be realistic.

Your salary is linked to the business. A company’s profit has to grow in order for your paypacket to grow, otherwise it just eats into the profits (and no CEO is okay with that). So be conscious of your employer’s financial position, and temper your request accordingly.  

You should take an interest in the performance of your employer anyway (because you are a Fierce Girl), so if you don’t know, ask! Most leaders are pleased to see their team members take an interest in the business.

On a related note, don’t feel bad for asking your manager. It’s not coming out of their own pocket; it’s coming out of the business’s, which is essentially a bunch of numbers on a balance sheet.

Go in high, but don’t take the piss. Arriving at a number to ask for is tricky. You don’t want to go too low and miss out, but go too high and it doesn’t reflect well. In all the salary surveys I have worked on over the years (doing the PR for them), average payrises across the workforce end up between 3-5%.

I’ve sometimes received payrises around 10% though. My friend recently went in for 5% and got it no questions asked – suggesting she could have started higher. So, I don’t have a magic number, but I reckon 5-10% is safe.

You don’t get a payrise because you’re shit with money. ‘As if anyone would think that!’ you say. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people ask for more money because they need it. ‘Oh this city is so expensive!’ or some version of that.

As a boss, I give absolutely zero fucks about your lifestyle needs, because I am running a business. If your need for wine money is the basis of your request, don’t bother. Please see the first point above.

You only get to go nuclear once. Here’s a scenario: you speak to some recruiters, friends in similar roles and your best friend, and reach a conclusion: you are grossly underpaid.

Now, this may be true or not – it’s hard to know for sure. Also, your market rate can fluctuate depending on whether you’re in a niche sector, have in-demand skills or very specific experience, that make you ‘hot right now’.

So you come to your boss with a figure that you’re sure you’re worth. It’s pretty high. But you feel it’s fair, you state your case and are duly rejected.

So now, do you go nuclear? Threaten to leave – or even get another job and wait for a counteroffer?

In my experience, you maybe get to do this once. And the chances of it working are 50/50, so be sure it’s worth it – and you’re really ok with leaving if they call your bluff. It can also take a toll on your reputation (you look demanding) … but then it could also show you are not to be messed with. So, it’s one option, but use it with care. 

Tips from some bad-arse bossladies

That’s my take on the issue (with input from one of my mates). But because I love you Fierce Girls, I actually went an asked some experts. Jane Neale co-owns an executive search firm called Hattonneale, hiring the people who run corporate Australia. Before that, she slayed it in the male-dominated world of advertising, as managing director of the largest ad agency, George Patterson. (Take that, Mad Men!). She is also an awesome human being, and kindly gave me these do’s and don’ts of nailing a payrise. (Btw – she is far less keen on the nuclear option).

Don’t demand a payrise or give your manager an ultimatum.
Do put forward your case for an increase in a businesslike way: why do you deserve a payrise? – list your achievements in your role in a clear and measured way.

Don’t focus on hours spent on the job.
Do focus on outcomes and achievements.

Don’t compare yourself to other colleagues as a way of leveraging support for an increase.
Do focus on your own merits.

Don’t threaten to leave if you are not successful.
Do ask for feedback and seek clarity on what you need to focus on to ensure you are in line for a review next time.

Don’t have unrealistic expectations.
Do your homework and be clear about the broader market and business performance as well as your own performance. Is this an environment when increases should be expected?

Don’t blindside your manager at an inappropriate time or place.
Do schedule a meeting when you both have time for a proper conversation.

Then I asked my own boss, whom I actually called Bosslady (she calls me Bey, obvs). Philippa Honner has run her own PR agency for 20 years, so she knows a thing or two about, well, everything. She says:

“Put yourself in the Bosslady’s shoes and think about what you are contributing to the place you work. This can be a commercial contribution, but also softer stuff like being a good team player, being positive and helping make the company a better place to work.

“If the Bosslady divided the staff in to stars and less shiny people… are you making the stars list? Make sure you really understand the value of what you are contributing so when you ask for a pay rise, you can explain why you think you deserve it on the basis of your contribution now, and in the future.

“Because even if the Bosslady likes you, it’s her job to run the business and make a profit so she can pay everyone, and have a bit left over.”

So there you go ladies. Earning and you are now much closer: you’ve invited her to your birthday drinks and friended her on Facebook. Now, make sure you keep up the friendship if you want to get rich.

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The 4 best friends who will make you rich

A wise man once said “Get rich or die tryin’”. Ah yes, Fifty Cent. You fill us with ambition.

But how do you get rich? And what is ‘rich’ anyway?

I’m not talking about the richness of family, friends and emotional connections.

I’m talking cold, hard cash that makes you feel like you’re in a rap video wearing giant diamond necklaces*.  

However, most of us aren’t going to get rich by a) marrying a millionaire b) inheriting a fortune or c) inventing Post-it Notes**.

And so, I’m introducing your #squad. Actually, your #richsquad. Probably not as hot as Taytay’s girlsquad, because we don’t have Gigi Hadid.

But these girls will have your back – as long as you get to know them, respect the hell out of them and don’t sleep with their boyfriends.

Introducing: Earning, Spending, Saving & Investing

Earning is pretty hot but doesn’t always get noticed. Girls are socialised not to pay attention to her. We take lower-paid jobs in lower-paid sectors. We take time out to raise families. We ‘follow our passions’ and other bullshit.

We are told that Earning is more of a guy’s kind of girl.

But you need to take this chick seriously.

Always be maximising your earnings, and don’t apologise for it.  Don’t ignore the power of boosting your paypacket – whether by making the right career moves, asking for payrises or having a side hustle.

And pay attention to Earning when you have to make life decisions. Firstly, she’s hard to win back if you leave her alone too long – if you step down, cut your income or take time out of the workforce, it can be really hard to catch up.

I’m not saying you should let her control your whole life. I made a decision to work a 9-day fortnight, which cuts my income by 10%. Is it worth it? While I’m studying, yes. Am I conscious of the hit I’m taking? Yes, and I review it often.  

Spending is everyone’s favourite fun friend. She loves ordering shots and telling you to live a little.

But this friend is a little cray-cray; she needs to be handled with care. DO NOT let Spending take over your life or your credit card. She makes you feel good when you are out partying, but she leaves you with a hangover.

The key to a healthy relationship with Spending is to give her respect and pay attention to her. Define the boundaries of your relationship. Embrace mindful spending (read more here). Be clear on what you will and won’t do with this friend.

Because if you let Spending take over your life, you will never be rich. You will feel rich at the time you’re hanging out together. But over time, she can be a bad influence who holds you back from achieving your goals.

So if that bitch tells you that you need to drop hundreds of dollars eyelash extensions, shut her down and go hang out with your other, more sensible friend…

Saving. Your quiet but powerful friend. She isn’t as glamorous or as fun as Spending, but she really does have your back. She will help you reach your goals, be there for life’s unexpected dramas and generally be an awesome wingman.

She loves inviting your over to drink reasonably-priced wine, rather than go out to fancy bars. She makes you bring your own lunch to work, only ever buys stuff on sale and tells you to follow a budget.

But Saving is a true friend, and the more you get to know her, the more you’ll see her value. You see, she gives you choices and opportunities, and makes you feel far more in control of your life. Aaaand, she will introduce you to her smart and sassy friend…

Investing. This chick seems scary at first, because she’s so clever and uses a lot of big words. But don’t be put off – if you listen for a while, she makes sense.

And Investing is actually the one who makes you rich – or richer. She gives you money all the time. Like, for free! Just to say thanks for being friends.

Investing takes your money, multiplies it, and gives it back to you. That’s not something Spending can do. And while Saving does it a bit, she’s pretty tight – she buys you a coffee, whereas your glamorous friend Investing buys you an espresso martini.

So please don’t turn your back on this lady when she tries to befriend you. She can be hard to get to know. Ok, so she seems like a total know-it-all bitch at first.

But once you get past all the bullshit jargon, Investing is your true friend, and she’ll help you become more than you ever could on your own.

So that’s it. Your #richsquad. And you know what your #squadgoals are, right? Independence, freedom and choices. (Not flashy clothes and fancy cars. Well, maybe a few).

The thing is though, just like the Sex and the City girls, or the girls from Girls, or the Gilmore Girls, or the Spice Girls, or any other famous girl group, they function at their best when they are all together.

Cut Investing out, and you will just chug along,never really getting ahead. Give Spending too much booze and she will wreak havoc. Ignore Earning for too long, and she’ll start drifting from you. Drop Saving, and you’ll feel out of control of your life.

So, make friends with ALL of these lovely ladies, and you’ll be a Fierce Girl for life.

*(I’m thinking of the line from Ludacris’ Stand Up, where he says “Watch out for the medallions/My diamonds are reckless/Feels like a midget is hanging from my necklace”)

** That’s a Romy & Michelle reference, duh.

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