5 steps to successfully handle an employee raise request

By Robert Half on 13th February 2024

“Can I have a raise?” The way you answer this employee request has a direct impact on team morale and tenure length. Diplomacy is key.

Many professionals who emigrated to the UAE for its career opportunities and luxury lifestyle initially accepted a lower salary in exchange for an employment visa. However, living costs are rising, prompting many to ask for a raise after a year or two of employment. Unfortunately, our data shows that 46% of companies have kept their salaries the same over the last 12 months, setting the stage for potentially tense negotiations.

Our experts are here to help you successfully traverse salary negotiations while still showing appreciation and recognition for employees. They share examples of reasons for a salary raise, how to set those expectations, and non-financial alternatives.

Read: 30 creative ideas to boost employee morale

1. Enter the negotiation with empathy

Although you may have participated in multiple discussions around salary negotiations, bonuses and pay rises, this may be your employee's first time. They'll likely feel anxious or keyed up — emotions which can quickly turn a productive discussion into something that leaves a negative impression on both parties.

As the senior staff member, it's your job to approach the discussion with empathy and emotional intelligence. As well as active listening and giving your employees time and space to state their case, it's also a good idea to schedule regular performance reviews with each team member. By making progress check-ins and formal reviews a regular part of work life, there's less pressure on salary discussions.

2. Allow the employee to state their case

As a manager with strict budgets, your first reaction may be to deny a salary raise request outright. Although many UAE companies have halted employee raises in response to economic uncertainty, creating an environment where your employees feel valued and heard is vital.

Our recruitment experts recommend facilitating a conversation where your employee can state their case, complete with goals and targets achieved, and why they feel they're due an increase.

Active listening is critical in these conversations and could help you gain greater insight into your employee's career advancement goals and feelings. Conversations like this could also be an ideal time to redefine the role remit and what is required to earn higher pay.

3. Use a Salary Guide for role-specific benchmarks

Any negotiation should start with solid research. Use an up-to-date, region-specific salary benchmarking report like the Robert Half UAE 2024 Salary Guide to learn what other professionals of the same experience earn in that role. You'll also get much-needed context for the hiring outlook in your sector and what other employers are currently offering their staff.

Reports like the Salary Guide also give a detailed overview of popular perks and benefits across the UAE in 2024, which can help sweeten negotiations if a pay increase isn't possible.

4. Use past employee performance as a guide

Employee performance is a major factor in the argument for or against a salary increase. Mutually agreeing on performance-based KPIs and helping your team members understand how to achieve them will set the stage for fair and smooth salary negotiations.

Holding regular employee performance reviews gives you solid evidence to draw on if an employee approaches you with a salary increase request. It can also help you make targeted recommendations for how that employee can increase the chances of getting that raise if they're denied on this occasion.

Read more: Rethinking performance reviews

5. Offer a non-financial alternative

In cases where a salary increase is off the table, a non-financial incentive might be enough to show your appreciation. Gift cards are an increasingly popular employee reward in the UAE, along with training and career development opportunities, and wellness programmes.

Flexibility is becoming more crucial to employees as UAE businesses call them back into the office after years of hybrid working. By offering more flexibility in working hours, time off, or work environments, you and your employee could leave negotiations feeling satisfied.

Read more: why employee recognition should be every manager’s top priority


Visit the Robert Half blog to learn more about salary negotiations, management advice, or employee recognition. For expert insights on salary benchmarks and hiring trends, download your free copy of the 2024 UAE Salary Guide.

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