Why do Australians struggle asking for promotions and raises?

Posted on April 5, 2019
By Catherine Heilemann

Asking for raises, promotions and the right level of benefits is a difficult stumbling block for even the most seasoned Australian professional. There’s something about our culture that appears to equate confidence with cockiness and presenting a case with complaint.

Contrast that with the media we see in action. You see it all the time on American TV Shows- the person walks into the office, approaches the boss, asks for the raise, justifies why they are needed and usually gets what they’ve asked for.

Why then do Australians have such a hard time making the same move?

Here are some of the reasons why Australians have a hard time asking for what we deserve when it comes to promotions and raises 

It’s a cultural thing

Americans live on a diet of chasing the American dream whereas Australians come from the land of the “fair-go”. There are major differences in how these ideas are framed.

Many of us live with the idea that if we work hard, we’ll end up reaping rewards. Yet we have an expectation that the work will be recognised. This recognition is meant to lead to someone else offering a better deal.

In contrast, the American ideal is interwoven with going after what you’d like. You chase your dream. You move from street sweeper to CEO in a modern-day tale of Cinderella. Only Cinderella works her backside off and gets a corner office instead of (or in addition to) that handsome Prince.

The difference appears to be that the Australian way is to hope that someone, somewhere sees the efforts we make and rewards us. That way, we avoid seeming cocky or putting ourselves at risk.

Yet there’s a huge downside to this assumption. Many managers and HR departments, while appreciating the work, may not know you have ambitions. They might be so busy looking after a group of people, the individual needs aren’t highlighted as much as we think. While you assume they might see you in the pack, they may not notice you. Or they may notice you and think you’re happy where you are without noticing your hunger for the next challenge.

Proactivity about your own future is incredibly attractive. It may reduce the work of the decision-makers involved. It can pull you out of the sea of employees and identify you as someone up for the next challenge. It makes you seem hungry and willing to move forward with the company.

We worry about job security

It’s no secret Australians are increasingly concerned about job security. Anyone that has ever worked at a place where redundancies occur or have felt that sting during a career may worry.

While job insecurity is a concern all workers face, it doesn’t have to define what you can and can’t ask for in the workplace.

If you are a valuable asset to your company, they’ll try to keep you and make you as happy as possible. A happy worker is a productive worker. Indeed, better working conditions and pay rises can increase productivity by almost 10%. It also saves the bottom line through recruitment and training costs should you leave. Not to mention the lost value of your acumen and ability.

In fact, post redundancy can be a good time to negotiate other benefits and potentially even a salary bump. This is largely due to companies reducing staffing levels but increasing responsibilities to save money means unplanned loss of staff can really upset the apple cart.

Asking to be valued and to receive the correct remuneration for your role is not a sackable offence. It does not imply you have itchy feet or are disloyal. Or that you are greedy or cocky.

It simply means you know you do great work and want to be rewarded appropriately. It also means you want to create a future and a career with a company that demonstrates it understands the value you bring.

If anything, it shows a genuine commitment to an organisation and a desire to stay.

Asking feels uncomfortable

We love to think asking for what we want in life will supply us with all we need. Yet so few of us truly feel comfortable with the idea. Asking for help, for recognition and opportunity is a tough gig. It’s that moment where we feel sweaty and self-conscious. We start to notice the pattern in the floor and we can feel vulnerable. Even ashamed that we considered asking in the first place.

What is often misunderstood is there is a right and wrong way to ask for something in life. And that doesn’t mean how polite we are.

Asking someone to help, consider you in a different light or to invest more in your future is about demonstrating strength. It’s about understanding what you bring to the table but also what the other party needs.

It’s about answering that age-old question of “what about me?”

Once you realise that declining a promotion or a raise isn’t a personal event, it becomes simpler. It isn’t about you as a person. More about what benefits the organisation by choosing to give you more.

You need to get over the pride and the cringe associated with asking someone to do something for you. Or at least be able to stop it from dictating the terms of how you engage with others.

When we view asking someone to think about us in new terms and to back us through a salary bump or by awarding us a promotion as them doing us a favour, we lose confidence.

Instead, it should be a case where we know what we are capable of.

It’s about demonstrating our abilities and how to best apply them to reach a brighter future. And it’s also about recognising that it’s less about a right to have what we’re asking for and more a privilege to receive.

We’re not sure how to do it

Selling yourself is one of the hardest things to do. Even the most seasoned senior manager or sales person with a wealth of experience presenting value propositions and making a case for a business can feel awkward when the spotlight shifts.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The key to selling yourself or making a case for a salary bump, promotion or even appropriate recognition is about understanding your value. By understanding you’re worth it, you become able to see the business case for investing in your future.

It’s about knowing what you bring to an organisation in tangible and intangible ways. Once you know why you benefit a company, you can start sharing this in a language the decision makers can understand.

You are a valuable asset to your role, department and the organisation. Learning to synthesise that value and make a case for it is a skill you can take to the salary negotiation table. It’s also a skill you can translate into your sales process overall.

It’s a matter of taking that first step and gaining a better understanding of what you have on offer in the eyes of your employer, HR and invested stakeholders.

Want to gain better negotiation skills and take your career higher? You’re worth it- discover how with our free discovery call.

Why do Australians struggle asking for promotions and raises?

Why do Australians struggle asking for promotions and raises?

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