Negotiating a Salary Increase

Last Updated May 2, 2007 7:18 PM EDT

Negotiating a pay raise with your current employer can be more challenging than negotiating pay with a prospective employer. People who know you well tend to be less observant of your talents because they have become used to you and are no longer scanning for new capabilities. Similarly, they may have come to associate you with a particular role and may have not reviewed their perception of your talent and how it has developed. If this is the case, a successful outcome depends on managing the perceptions of those who will be making the decision, and presenting a strong case logically and elegantly.

What You Need to KnowI feel that I am being left behind salarywise compared to colleagues who have moved jobs more regularly. What can I do about this?

You need to put together a case so that your request for a salary increase is credible. Salary information from your external network will support your request well. If such sensitive information is not available, use the salary ranges in job advertisements to support your case. If you do not receive an increase in salary, ask what you must do to qualify for one. There may be some simple steps you can take to increase your value to the business.

Is there a choice of approaches? I don't get on with my line manager and don't want to ask her about a better package.

Other channels may be open to you, but it's down to you to find out your organization's preferred approach However, at some point, your line manager will have to get involved, especially if your superior performance and consequent contribution to the business are the bases for your request. Try to find ways in which to build a better relationship beforehand so that you have some firm ground on which to meet.

I am a woman, and I suspect that my male colleagues are paid more than I am. How can I negotiate for equal pay?

If you can demonstrate that you are doing work of equal value, involving the same level of skills and knowledge as that of your male colleagues, then you have solid legal grounds to claim equal pay. This includes benefits, bonuses, pensions, vacation and sick pay. Before you tackle this, you read more on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Web site (link below). You may want to consult with them on the best approach.

How can I calm my nerves before meeting with my boss?

Rehearse. Ask a trusted colleague or friend to be the person you will be negotiating with. Furnish your colleague or friend with all the counter arguments and get her or him to put these to you in a role-play exercise. You will be putting on a performance and much depends upon your doing well, so make sure you have had plenty of practice.

What to DoConsider Your Position

Being employed already by the organization gives you one real advantage when you decide to negotiate a raise: time to research and prepare your case. During this time, you will no doubt find instances in which people doing the same job are getting more pay than you, or perhaps receive more generous benefits. This will boost your confidence and make you more determined to proceed.

Prepare

Find out your organization's policy is on pay, how packages are put together, and what channels exist for increasing pay and/or benefits. This will help you decide on your approach and on the likely counterarguments you will need to have ready.

Consider your organization's culture. Different cultures have different preferences for how people go about challenging the status quo and, if you fail to do it properly, you could jeopardize your case.

Observe the individual you will be negotiating with in his or her work and imagine how he or she will react to a request for increased remuneration. You may have heard how this person responded to such a request in the past, what the sticking points were, and what approach might work better.

Clarify in your mind why you deserve greater reward for your work. The scope of your role may have changed; you may have taken on more responsibility; you may have come up with a way of adding value to the business; you may have earned a professional degree or developed more skills in a particular area. Try to gauge the financial value of these reasons to the business—nothing speaks more loudly than a bottom line contribution.

Find out what others are being paid for doing a job similar to your own, and check whether extenuating circumstances may have elevated their pay above the market rate. You can learn much about the going rate for specific roles in the recruitment pages of newspapers and professional journals.

Do not surprise your line manager by asking for an impromptu negotiation—the element of surprise could work against you. The proper place to have such a discussion is during the annual review. However, if one is not pending for some time, ask that it take place sooner, or request a special meeting to discuss the matter.

Negotiate

Try to be sure that you and your line manager have set aside enough time to do your case justice.

Introduce the topic in a general way and then give your reasons for thinking your performance deserves more recognition. Be rational, reasonable, and support your argument with facts taken from reputable sources. If you present your case convincingly, your line manager will have a much harder time turning down your request.

Remember to use positive body language. Speak clearly and confidently, and maintain good eye contact to show that you fully believe what you say. If your line manager has an observation or proposition that you had not anticipated, ask for time to think it through and request another meeting at which you can respond.

If you are just being hired as a new employee, it is worth negotiating a pay review after six months as part of your employment contract. This provides a legitimate avenue for negotiating a salary raise and establishing the context for further professional development and reward.

Stay Professional Throughout

Whether your meeting goes well or badly, do your best to keep emotion out of the equation and avoid a confrontation. If things are going in a direction you do not like, calmly try an alternative tack. Ask, for example, under what circumstances an increase would be considered, seeking clarification on the advancement procedure, or exploring new opportunities for development. If you drive yourself into a corner and the only way out is to threaten to leave, you may be encouraged to do so.

Keep your discussion in the professional domain and avoid the temptation to move into personal territory. A colleague may have enjoyed an improvement in fortunes, but that does not mean that you should automatically receive the same treatment.

Prepare a Fallback Position

Although you should anticipate a positive response to your request, you would be wise to prepare a fallback position. There may be other outcomes, such as improved job flexibility or opportunities for professional development, that you might find attractive. If your fallback position is another job offer and you decide to reveal this, try not to make it look like blackmail.

If the outcome of your meeting is not what you hoped for, ensure that you have not reached a dead end by requesting a salary review in six month's time. Ask what you need to do in the meantime in order to succeed in your next attempt.

Be Discreet

If you do get what you want, celebrate quietly and with modesty. Otherwise, you may encounter negative reactions from your colleagues and/or cause a flurry of requests that management will find burdensome.

What to AvoidYou Rush to Negotiate Without Preparing Your Case

This can destroy any prospect of a successful outcome. Collecting information to support your case and thinking through possible counter arguments will be time well spent. If you do not have these in place, you may be driven by your emotions, which will undermine your professional image and destroy your credibility.

You Rely on Hearsay

This is not a good basis for an argument to increase your own remuneration. Rely on factual information. Present your case calmly and confidently, and remember that not only are you negotiating for a salary raise, but you are managing others' perceptions of you. This is not a one-time meeting that everyone will forget once the outcome has been determined. If you receive the raise you ask for, people's expectations of your performance will also be raised.

You Allow a Rejection to Affect Your Subsequent Work

If your request is rejected, try not to take it personally. It is not uncommon for someone to lack motivation after an unsuccessful negotiation. You may question what you could have done differently, or blame your disappointment on the person you were negotiating with. If this affects the quality of your work, maintaining your current level of remuneration will have been justified, and you may ruin any future opportunity to revisit the issue.

Where to Learn MoreBooks:

Krannich, Ronald L., and Caryl Rae Krannich. Dynamite Salary Negotiations. Atascadero, CA: Impact Publications, 1998.

O'Malley, Michael. Are You Paid What You're Worth?: The Complete Guide to Calculating and Negotiating the Salary, Benefits, Bonus and Raise You Deserve. New York: Broadway Books, 1998.

Pinkley, Robin L., and Gregory B. Northcraft. Get Paid What You're Worth: The Expert Negotiator's Guide to Salary and Compensation. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Porot, Daniel, and Frances Bolles Haynes. 101 Salary Secrets. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 2001.

Web Sites:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: www.eeoc.gov

Salary.com: www.salary.com

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