Go ahead, ask. Just take this advice from negotiation experts first.
Good. You probably should. Chances are, your boss isn’t going to walk up to you, throw her hand on your shoulder and say: “Hey, we have some extra cash. What do you say to a 5 percent – actually, let’s make it 7 percent – raise?” You’ve got to do the asking, and so you’ve got to do some strategizing. Here’s how to plan for and negotiate a raise.
Do your homework.
Head to the negotiation armed with facts. “Information is going to be your best friend,” says Robert Bordone, founding director of the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program at Harvard Law School. Otherwise, he adds, “If you’re just going to haggle, that’s going to be a real challenge.” Google and ask around to get a sense of the typical salary for your job duties and years of experience compared to what you’re making now. Check out this guide to determining your worth and websites such as Glassdoor.com, PayScale.com and Salary.com.
Ask yourself ‘what if?’
“Do an assessment of how happy you are at your current job,” Bordone says. “Would you be prepared to leave if you didn’t get the raise?” If the answer is “yes,” remember that quitting without another job lined up is risky. With that in mind, do some extra-credit homework: Evaluate the job market for your profession, and reach out to contacts who can help you find another gig if you’re turned down for the raise.
Consider alternative benefits.
f you’re generally happy at work and plan to stay with or without the raise, Bordone suggests considering other benefits you may negotiate if your raise request is denied. “One of the big mistakes people make in negotiations generally is that they overfocus,” he says. “They miss other opportunities to create value.” Consider perks such as more vacation days, better benefits or more flexible hours, each of which would likely cost the employer less than a raise and thus be more feasible.
Practice your negotiation.
Bordone suggests arranging a mock negotiation with a friend or family member. This kind of preparation will simply help you practice saying the words that form what many employees consider to be an uncomfortable, if not intimidating, conversation. Plus, whomever you practice with can give feedback on your tone and delivery. For example, the listener can tell you if you come off overconfident or too hesitant.
During the meeting, look and act like someone who deserves a raise.
Show respect and professionalism in how you dress for and act in this important meeting, Bordone says. If your office dress code is casual, no need to sport a suit, but make sure your hair is combed and your shirt is free of coffee stains. Be on time, make eye contact and speak up.
Find balance in your your tone and language.
Be assertive, but not aggressive, Bordone says. That means no tip-toeing (“Would it be OK if we talked about salary?”), because that’s easy to say “no” to. On the other extreme, “you want to avoid describing yourself and your accomplishments as incontrovertible, absolute facts,” Bordone says. “That can have an arrogant tone.” This is a conversation – not a plea or an ultimatum. Try leading with something like, “I would be grateful if we could talk about a salary increase.”
Give the employer a positive role – not a problem.
“Always give the person you’re negotiating with a positive role,” Bordone says. “They have an opportunity to assist or inform you.” With this in mind, frame the salary boost as something that would help both you and your employer. Bordone gives this example: “I want to remain a positive, productive, entrepreneurial employee, and part of that, for me, means being paid consistently with what others doing the kind of work I’m doing are getting paid.” Point out how this raise would help your productivity and morale, too, he adds.
Be specific with your request.
Tell your employer the specific figure you’re looking to make (based on your earlier homework), and then explain how you arrived at the number during your research, says Robin Pinkley, professor of management and organizations at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and co-author of “Get Paid What You’re Worth: The Expert Negotiators’ Guide to Salary and Compensation.” She suggests pointing out that your goal is to keep up with the market value of your work.
Be a good listener.
Whatever your employer has to say in response to your request, listen. Really listen, and show it by paraphrasing and restating key points in a neutral way, Bardone says. (“It sounds like there’s not much room in the budgets for raises.”) No need for parrot talk, but no flippant “yeah, but” rebuttals, he adds. Actively listening makes the manager feel heard, Bordone says. “It makes them feel like it’s not ‘me versus them,’ but that they’re actually engaged in a conversation.”
If denied the raise, try to understand.
If your manager turns you down, be respectful of his or her decision. Pinkley advises you ask why the raise is not an option and for help understanding the reasoning behind the decision. (Remember: You’re putting him or her in a positive role.) Pinkley also suggests reiterating your goal to keep up with your market value and asking to identify next steps to reach that point in the future.
Reflect on the negotiation later.
As you think what deal was (or wasn’t) struck and how that will determine the next steps in your career, consider the weight of the conversation. As Pinkley puts it: “These processes should tell you something about the organization itself and its well-being, as well as the way you’re perceived and valued in that organization.”
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