Not many of us are so good at our jobs that we can walk into the boss’s office with a list of demands, throw them down on the desk, and expect them to be met without another word. You need to understand what you’re asking for and be able to justify why you deserve it.
It is imperative that you show the monetary value of the things you have done that had not been anticipated when your current salary was determined. Some people think being in a job for a long time is reason enough for a salary increase. But if you’re still doing exactly what you did when you were hired and not much more, why should you get more money? List the things you’re doing now and the value of those things that weren’t anticipated at the outset of your employment. Also, do your research. Be able to show the monetary value of what you do within your industry, in the region of the country you live in and within your company. You don’t ask for a random number. You have a specific number in mind, and you can back it up.
COLLABORATION, NOT A CONFRONTATION
The thing that many people forget about when they’re negotiating is that it’s not a win/lose scenario. In a negotiation, both parties should walk away at least satisfied if not downright happy. Sure, you can follow the “when you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds (and wallets) will follow” school of thought and perhaps get what you want. If you are very hard to replace, you may walk out the door with what you asked for. But remember, both sides should be satisfied. Your boss is likely to feel more like they’ve been extorted rather than negotiated with and you still have to work together; they are still your boss. And even if you have some leverage over your boss, they can still make your life pretty miserable.
No matter how non-confrontational you are, asking for a raise feels like a confrontation. You’ve got someone cornered, you ask for something they have not offered you; they feel pressure to give you a response (they might not, but it feels that way in your own head). And most of us prefer to avoid confrontation. You have to change your thinking. A business is in the business of making money, as much as they can. But they would not be making as much money as they are if not for your hard work and effort. (At least that should be the case, remember, you have to justify what you’re about to ask for). You have every right to ask that some of the money you bring to that business be distributed to you.
GIVE A HEAD’S UP
You don’t have to corner your boss when he or she is on their way out the door on Friday afternoon. That does make it feel confrontational for both of you. You should give them some notice that you would like to discuss your salary during your next briefing. This gives them time to find out how much you’re currently making. Depending on that number, there are two likely outcomes:
“Yes, you can have a raise.” Great, this is obviously the dream scenario and requires no more action on your part.
“We agree you deserve a raise but we can’t right now.” Okay, not the exact answer we were hoping for but better than a no and something we can work with. Ask what you need to do to get this money and what the timeline for it to be available is. You want to pin them down on this. If you walk away now and don’t revisit it, getting that money is not going to happen. You have to follow up. If you aren’t getting any cooperation, you can either go over your direct boss’s head and ask their boss, or you may have to consider moving on. There may just not be any money there.
“No, we don’t have the money.” If you get a hard no, you have to weigh any other perks of your job against the fact that you are not getting a raise. Money shouldn’t be the only deciding factor in any decision, not even when the decision is completely about money. Maybe you have a flexible schedule, lots of vacation time, a great insurance plan, or some other perks that might make leaving for more money, not the wisest decision.
IT AIN’T BRAGGING IF YOU REALLY DONE IT
If you’re really good at your job, your boss might not know it. They’re busy putting out fires set by other people and might miss that you never start any fires that they have to deal with. It’s important to show your monetary value, but it’s just as important to show how you bring value to the company and your direct boss in other ways. Did you finish the project a co-worker dropped the ball on? Always volunteer to cover if someone is out sick or on vacation? Those things are valuable too, especially if they would be your boss’s problem if you hadn’t stepped up to handle them.
There are two things you want to cover when you’re doing the research that will allow you to justify the number you’re asking for:
The first is industry research. You want to find out what other people in your industry are making. You can speak to counterparts you meet at networking events and even your own colleagues. Salary is a taboo subject so you can get around this by phrasing the question in the hypothetical. “What would someone in your position expect to make upon hiring?”
The second is within your company. This may be the hardest data to come by. We mentioned how discussing salary is taboo, but some people might feel it’s not allowed due to company policy. In all but a few situations, it is legal to discuss salary and illegal to be fired for doing so. It can be awkward to discuss salary with colleagues but be honest about why you’re doing it. It is not because you’re trying to pry into their finances but because it will help you and them to negotiate for a raise.
KNOW YOUR NUMBER
If you’re negotiating a raise with your current employer, you do want to give them a specific number that you’ve come to based on your research. Unless you’ve fudged the numbers in your research (you should not, they can do the same research), you came up with that number based on the information your research provided. You used that research to justify a number, so this is not the scenario where you want 10 so you ask for 20, and they give you 15.
When you’re changing companies, you should not offer up the first number. You should have a range of numbers in your head. You have no idea what their starting number is, and if you give them one, you may have left a lot of money on the table.
In this scenario, the way you justify your number is to be so impressive in the interviews that they will want to hire you and for the number you want. You want them to go from thinking, “What is the least we can pay to fill this job?” to thinking, “What do we have to do to make sure this person interviewing accepts our offer?”
One of the big reasons we’re fearful to negotiate when we’re offered a new job is that we think if we do, the company will say, “Our offer wasn’t good enough? Well, forget it then. We’ll just hire the next person on the list.”
That’s not really how it works. If you’ve gotten to the point in the process where you’ve been given an offer, the company has invested a lot of time and resources in getting to this point. They want you for the job. They aren’t going to revoke the offer because you dared have the audacity to ask for more. The two parties will negotiate until an agreement has been reached. Remember, you both walk away satisfied.
If you are looking for a job because you’re currently unemployed, negotiating can feel even more intimidating. If you really need a job, can you still negotiate or should you just be grateful for any offer? You can still negotiate. Remember, if you’re at the point where they offer you a job, they want you. That has nothing to do with whether or not you are currently employed.
If you have more than one offer can you play them against each other? Drill down on each offer, and you can probably eliminate some of them. When you have your short list, you should negotiate each one individually. When you get an offer, you can let the other companies know that. There are some steps that could be eliminated from the hiring process to push things along. Letting a company know you have an offer can speed things up so you can get down to negotiating. When you do get the offers, if one is better than another but not with the company you would prefer to work for, remember, there are things you can get that are just as valuable as and sometimes more valuable than money. If they don’t meet your number, ask for things like an extra week of paid vacation or the option to work from home on Fridays.
It’s hard to muster up the courage to ask for a raise so if you decide to do it, you want to do it from a position of strength. Have the numbers to back up what you’re asking for. You don’t want the opportunity to negotiate to go to waste. •