How to negotiate with your boss

Want a pay rise or more flexible work hours? It could be as simple as asking your boss. But it’s not as easy as flicking them a text message – if you want your boss to take your request seriously, you need to show that you take it seriously too. These tips will help you talk to your boss and ask for what you want – even if you’re nervous.

So you like your job and the team you work with, but you wish you were earning more. Or maybe work would be perfect, if only you could adjust your hours. The best way to go from a good job to a great job isn’t always to apply for a new role – try asking your boss for what you want first.

But what should you say, and what happens if they don’t say yes? Here’s how to negotiate with your boss and get the job you want.

Meet in person

Whether you’re asking for more money or shorter hours, always meet with your boss in person. Don’t try to negotiate by email, and definitely don’t do it by text.

By meeting in person, you’re showing your boss you take the conversation seriously. This helps ensure they give proper thought to your request.

Get your facts straight

Before approaching your boss, do some research. For example, if you’re hoping for a pay rise, find out whether your current pay is higher or lower than average. Check out websites like CareersNZ or ask other people working in your trade. This will help you work out what to ask for.

Caroline Harris from ServiceIQ says you should make sure you know what result you want before you meet with your employer.

“Be clear about what you’re trying to achieve when talking with your boss.”

If you know what your goal is, you can then clearly communicate that to your boss.

It’s okay to be nervous

Mahalia O’Conner, 25, was enjoying her job at Autoterminal in Manukau. But with a six-year-old daughter, it was difficult for her to work 7am-5pm like the rest of the team.

“My working hours were a bit long for my daughter. She was going to before-school care at 6am and I was picking her up from after-school care.”

Mahalia didn’t find it easy to ask for shorter hours, but she didn’t let nerves hold her back.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking approaching my boss – but I just had to do it. You can only ask.”

Whether you’re asking for a pay rise or more flexibility, Mahalia says it helps to remember your boss wants you to be happy in your job so you’ll work hard and stay with the company for longer.

“You need a life outside of work. And it goes both ways – you need your job, but you’re an asset to your employer as well.”


One way to deal with nerves and help you feel prepared is to practise what you’ll say when you meet with your boss, says Caroline.

“Practise before your meeting with a friend or family member. Prepare for the answer to be ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘maybe later’.”

That way, you’ll feel more ready to talk to your boss. There’s no need to memorise a script – just be clear on what your goal is and the points you want to make.

Give a reason

Let your boss know why you want what you’re asking for, like Mahalia.

“I asked my boss whether I could do shorter hours. I just explained the situation and told him it was because of my daughter’s school hours, and he was okay with it.”

If you’re asking for a pay rise, it’s better to talk about what you bring to the job than to point out how expensive your rent is.

For example, if you’ve learned new skills or taken on new responsibilities since you started the job, those are good reasons for your boss to pay you more.

What if they don’t say yes?

As Mahalia found, even if your boss can’t give you everything you ask for, they might meet you in the middle.

“At first I asked if I could work 9am-3pm, and my boss asked if it would be okay for me to start later but still work until 5pm. So it was a bit of a compromise. Now I can drop my daughter off at school in the mornings, which makes a big difference.”

If your boss says ‘no’ to your request, ask if there’s anything you can do to make it possible in the future. For example, if you’re hoping for a pay rise and your boss turns you down, ask if you can take on more responsibility to earn a raise at a later date.

Plumbing: More than just fixing toilets

Want to do hands-on work outdoors and get paid well for it? As Sam Fihaki has found during his training, plumbing is one trade that fits the bill. Find out how the 18-year-old is learning valuable skills that are already proving to be in hot demand.

Sam Fihaki knew plumbing skills were in demand – but he didn’t expect to be peppered with job requests from family members before he’d even finished his training.

“It’s pretty funny when people in my family say, ‘Oh, our toilet is blocked, can you come and fix it? We’ll pay you’. But I’m not a plumber yet. I haven’t even finished my first year!”

Sam is soon to complete his pre-trades course at Unitec and has his sights set on an apprenticeship.

“I want to get some life and work experience under my belt, and I thought learning a trade would be a good way to do that.”

Taking the plunge

Plumbing might have an unglamorous reputation but, as Sam has found, the trade involves a lot more than unblocking clogged pipes.

“People think plumbing’s just working under the kitchen sink or fixing your toilet and stuff. But there’s heaps of different things involved. I really enjoy gasfitting and drainlaying.”

Sam Fihaki, Plumbing trainee
Sam at MPTTs Whanaungatanga Day at the start of his studies

Part of the appeal for Sam is getting to do a variety of hands-on work every day.

“There’s a lot of physical work and you’re outdoors – it’s a cool job. And it’s a different job every day. You’re not stuck in an office. Every day’s a new day – you never know what to expect.”

Issac Liava’a from Skills, which provides plumbing apprenticeships and industry training, says plumbing involves a wide range of skills that are in demand.

“Plumbers don’t spend as much time working with toilets as people think. There’s a lot more to the job.

“Plumbers and gasfitters work with all the systems that supply water and gas or remove waste. So they need to know how pipes and drains work, understand building regulations and know how to identify different sources of water.”

Cash flow

Issac says plumbers have important skills that help ensure all Kiwis have clean drinking water, and that waste is taken away safely from homes.

“Unless it’s scheduled installation or maintenance, plumbing jobs are often urgent. That means plumbers tend to be in demand and can charge a good amount for their skills. Even for scheduled jobs, every task involving water, gas and waste systems is important work that needs to be done right.”

Sam says he was surprised – in a good way – to discover what he could earn once he’s qualified.

“The pay’s really good. There’s a lack of skilled people in the plumbing industry, so they’re in demand.”

“People think because plumbers deal with things like sanitary, it’s not well paid. But that’s one reason why the pay is so high – because not many people want to deal with that kind of stuff.”

Knowledge on tap

Sam, whose mother is from Rewa in Fiji and whose father is from Lau, also in Fiji, qualified for an MPTT scholarship to pay for his fees and provide ongoing coaching.

He is due to finish his pre-trades course in August and is enjoying the projects he’s working on.

“We’ve been doing a lot of practical work lately. At the moment we’re working on a hot water cylinder assignment, which is a pretty big job.”

Being one of the youngest in his course, Sam often asks for advice and insights from more experienced trainees.

“Some of the older guys have done plumbing before. So we ask them questions about what it’s like in the industry and what the work hours and pay are like – just trying to get our head around the fundamentals of the job.”

Piping up

When Sam finishes his course next month, he hopes to move into paid work as soon as possible. To start with, he’s been asking his contacts if they know anyone who’s looking for an employee.

“I know a guy who knows a lot of plumbers, and some of them have asked him if he knows anyone – so he’s recommending me to them.”

Further down the track, with more life and work experience in his toolbelt, Sam would like to join the police force.

Sam Fihaki
Sam working on a community project as part of the MPTT programme

“Ever since I was little I’ve had this thing where I wanted to help out the community. I’ve had a lot of support to do it – like my dad’s brother’s a cop, my best friend’s dad’s a cop, my mum’s best friend’s husband’s a cop. There’s quite a lot of people who’ve said I’d make a good cop.”

But for now, he’s focused on finishing his training and fine-tuning his plumbing skills.

Thinking of training to be a plumber and gasfitter? Find out more here.

What you can learn from Sam
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and help. When Sam meets someone with plumbing experience, he asks them what the industry is like. He’s also asking his contacts to help him find work after his pre-trade course. Remember, most people enjoy giving advice and will be happy to help. Don’t know any tradespeople yet? Start by asking your MPTT navigator whether they know of any jobs that might be right for you.