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.