Does your salary accurately reflect your responsibilities, experience level and recent performance? If it doesn’t, below are some key tips to help you successfully negotiate a salary increase from your present employer.
- Identify the right negotiating partner
In case you have any doubts at all, the right partner when it comes to asking for a raise is your direct boss. No ambiguity about it. Not the Head of HR (unless he/she is your direct boss), not your boss's boss, not the top brass at the company you work for, just your direct boss. Bypass your direct boss and you not only jeopardize your chances of success at negotiating a raise but also your potential longevity at the firm.
- Get the timing right
Did you get a substantial raise after much negotiation as recently as 6-9 months ago? Then question the wisdom of asking again so soon. Has your performance or your team's been on the wane lately? Is the company suffering a profitability downturn or going through a period of stringent cost-cutting? Has your boss recently had a hard time justifying the costs of his department? Then perhaps this is not the right time. No harm trying of course but be aware that the best time for negotiating an increase is after a period of consistently stellar performance.
- Do your homework
Planning and preparation is key to the success of any negotiation. Know the terrain and where you stand relative to peers in the company and industry. Research salary ranges on the internet, look at advertised job postings, talk to friends and peers in the industry and tune into the industry rumor mills to determine your actual worth. Arm yourself with the maximum amount of information on what others doing a similar job are making so you can make a strong case for the figure you are targeting.
- Base your request on clear and objective criteria
Base your request for a raise on a set of clear and objective criteria that include industry salary standards and your recent performance. In addition to determining what your actual "fair and equitable" market worth is based on industry standards, be clear about the value of your recent contributions to the firm in terms of increased revenues and productivity, resources saved, initiatives taken, processes improved etc. Be prepared to walk your boss through your recent successes and accomplishments and gather all the documentation you need to support your cause.
- Be clear about the strength of your negotiating position
Be very clear about how strong your negotiating position is. At certain times certain positions or departments are less in favor than others. It may be that your whole division is being held up to close scrutiny due to poor performance or that your own recent performance has been found wanting. It may be that the whole industry is going through a downswing or your own role in the company o r industry is becoming increasingly redundant. Having no illusions about your bargaining position will enable you to plan your negotiations optimally.
- Define your goals
Never walk in to a negotiation without a clear and well supported set of objectives in sight. Define the exact raise you are aiming for and don't be afraid to aim as high as you can without being too unrealistic. There is a strong correlation between results and aspirations so shoot for the moon. Going in to a negotiation targeting an undefined, unspecific raise is not an advisable or potentially prolific strategy.
- Give yourself leeway to maneuver
Whatever raise you are aiming for, start the conversation with a figure well above that and be prepared to negotiate back to a figure closer to your minimum acceptable raise. Leave yourself plenty of leeway to give in and compromise without having to be priced out of your target range.
- Be creative
Benefits, bonuses and perks can account for a substantial component of total pay so be creative in pre-determining the types of final packages you are willing to accept. With companies increasingly opting for performance-based bonuses as a big chunk of total pay, engineer your acceptable options accordingly. It may be that you are willing to negotiate for a lower increase in base salary in return for a hefty performance-based bonus and/or other perks such as more paid time off, a sports club membership, higher car or housing allowances, children's school tuition, more training etc. Perhaps a new title will compensate for the financial ground the employer is not able to cover in the negotiation. Have a range of scenarios prepared and present your employer with a wide range of options to show you are flexible and open for discussion.
- Aim for win-win
In order for your negotiations to be effective, realize that both you and your boss need to walk away from the table feeling you have gained. Make sure your boss is aware of what the company is getting in return for the package you are commanding. Ask your boss if you can take on more responsibility or redefine your role to justify the raise. Perhaps you can work on the next exciting project or take a training course to broaden your skills and expand the boundaries of your role. Ask your boss for suggestions on what added responsibilities you can assume to further justify the raise.
- Negotiate face-to-face
There is no substitute for face-to-face discussions when seeking a pay rise, so avoid trying to have the discussion over the phone or worse, by email. A salary negotiation is often a lengthy process and chances are that it will be abruptly cut short, and against your interests, if conducted in an impersonal manner and in the absence all the non-verbal cues that facilitate effective face-to-face negotiation.
- Prepare yourself for all possible scenarios
Anticipate all the concerns and possible objections your employer may have and prepare an adequate response for all possible scenarios. Concerns may include the fact that your department is downsizing, the fact that the company is going through a period of retrenchment, the fact that you are already overpaid for your role in the company or only recently got a raise etc. Remember that your boss will also most probably have to answer to several people to justify your raise.
Don't feel pressurized to do all the talking as that will only alienate your boss and probably lead you to making unnecessary concessions. Listen to what your boss has to say and make every effort to understand where he is coming from and what his needs and concerns are so that you can try to tailor potential solutions accordingly. Your boss will feel much better knowing you are an act ive partner in the process and that his input and opinions are valued and respected.
- Turn on the charm
No reason to be hostile just because you are sitting across the table from someone whose agenda is not identical to yours. Step up the charm and be polite, courteous and respectful at all times. Chose a tone that conveys you are seeking to work together in a collaborative manner to find a mutually agreeable, synergistic solution. This will disarm your boss and take you a lot further than an argumentative confrontational posture.
- Don't get emotional
Emotions have no place at the negotiating table. In a professional environment keep the tone professional, the arguments objective and the end goal clearly in sight. Don't take conflicting goals, disagreements or strong rebuttals personally; instead be prepared with logical rational arguments that address every eventuality. Tears, tantrums and thoughtless tirades will only work against you.
- Don't burn bridges
Remember that at the end of the day you will still have to work for your boss so avoid saying anything you may later regret. Even if you decide to quit the job after an obviously unsuccessful negotiation process you will need reference letters and may well cross paths with your boss again in your future career.
- Don't fabricate
Outright lies and exaggerations or fabricating the data you use to support your request for a raise will usually be found out and are almost certain to backfire. Make sure all data points and arguments you use are accurate and can be substantiated. Employers don't want a dishonest employee so aim to sell yourself by highlighting your strengths and maximizing your present and future value to the firm.
- Avoid an ultimatum
Employers don't take well to ultimatums so issue one at your own peril. Much as we hate to admit it most of us are quite dispensable to our employers and confronting them with a threat to quit if negotiations don't go precisely as per plan may well find ourselves replaced with people who are less abrasive and more politically adept at the negotiating table.
- Get it in writing
Whatever the terms reached at the negotiating table get it in writing with the right signatures so that there is no question of commitment and no room for ambiguity or retreat.
- Take your time
Don't be pressured into making a hasty decision. Request time to think over the final terms offered, validate any new data your boss may have thrown your way and get comfortable with the offer and its implications. You can always revisit the terms armed with a new set of information and a more realistic or accommodative agenda.
- Facilitate the next steps
Make it easy for your boss to get buy-in from the chain of command. Give him all the supportive documentation he needs to make a solid case for your raise to his management whether it be details of your performance over the past 6 months, descriptions of the special projects you have been involved with, a synopsis of your plan to boost profits over the next 6 months, a description of your new increased responsibilities etc.
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