By Codrin Arsene
It’s always been surprising to me how small is the number of people who negotiate for a salary increase. Care to take a guess at the magic number? 37% (source). Yup. That’s it. The wide majority of people in the work force never ask for a raise. Another interesting stat is that whereas 57% of men negotiate job offers and salary increases, only 7% of women do the same.
What if I told you that people who don’t negotiate salary increases will have to work 8 more years before retiring than people who ask and get more money throughout their career? Yes. That’s the sad reality. Avoiding the uncomfortable situation of asking for a raise could force you to work almost a decade more than people who have the courage to ask the much dreaded question.
In this article I will briefly cover when, how and why you should periodically ask for a raise. Read along. Learning how to do this effectively could literally mean more money in your pocket.
There’s a wide variety of reasons why both men and women alike do not negotiate for a raise. Some don’t want to upset their boss, or feel they may put their job in jeopardy by asking or think it’s not an appropriate discussion to have.
I have always negotiated salary increases when I deemed it necessary based on market conditions, work achievements or simply because I knew I was worth more. So far, I have been successful most of the time. You can be too.
Here are my thoughts on how to negotiate a better salary.
Know your value. One word. “glassdoor.com”. With the surge in popularity for websites where users submit their salaries and job titles anonymously, it has never been easier to determine where you are on the range of salaries for your position in your city/ area. So do your research. Figure out how much other people make when they are in a similar work situation as yours. Then do yourself a favor and ask yourself: do I really deserve more than what I make based on my work output? If the answer is “probably not”, your chances of getting a raise are limited. But if the answer is yes, then keep reading.
Prepare your arguments for why you deserve a raise. Your salary is a reflection of your previous experience, the market rate for someone of your skills and how much you negotiated when accepting the job offer. When you go up for a raise, you have an additional benefit: you’ve actually had the chance to show your value to your employer. That means you can now make a rational business case for why you deserve a raise and you have the data to prove it. When you go up for a raise, it is your duty to clearly show to your boss that you went above and beyond in your current role and produced more value to him/her than what was expected of you. Make them see that. Don’t expect them to know it.
Figure out how much you want to get. You don’t just go into the meeting and ask your boss for “a raise.” Various experts would tell you different things. Some say go in there with an exact number you really want, then add 30% (in case you need to propose a counter offer and negotiate a lower raise). Others say bring a range to the table as in “I’d like a raise of $3,000 to $5,000 per year.” Others say don’t come up with a raise because it shows you’re unsure of what you want. But nobody says: “go in there and simply ask for a raise.” Knowing the specific desired outcome will put you in a better negotiating position. Every single time!
Prepare your speech. Out loud. I have multiple friends who’ve gone and asked for a raise. And their speech sounded good in their head. But what came out in the end was the proverbial “beating around the bush” spiel. When you ask for a raise, picture yourself in front of a jury. You’re here to state the facts in a concise fashion and to ask for a decision in your favor. You attempt to state your case for a raise should never take more than 2-3 minutes. You make your argument, you deliver your punchlines, you state your conclusion then you wait. But if you don’t prepare well for this moment, you will not be very effective in getting the desired outcome.
It’s all business. So don’t take it personally. When you go and ask for a raise you’re asking for an objective re-evaluation of your contract with your company. As you talk about this with your boss he or she may very well be hesitant or skeptical about it (after all, very few people announce their intention to ask for a raise before the meeting!). So it’s natural to get some push back. The goal is not to get emotional about it or to think your boss is naturally against you getting the raise. At the end of the day it’s not your boss’ money. It comes from the company’s coffers. But your boss needs to be convinced you deserve a raise and that may take time and prolonged discussions. So keep your cool and continue making the case for the raise and don’t think your boss is a jerk simply because he’s not jumping at you offering money on the spot.
Know when to ask for a raise. Many companies have annual performance evaluations which is typically when people ask for a raise. But that’s not always the best case. The reality is that most bosses can give a raise throughout the year. But they need to really want to do it. You want your boss to fight to get you a raise because they know you deserve one. Finding the opportune moment is not really determined through a scientific method. You need to be able to identify the opportunity and seize it without sounding like an opportunist. A friend of mine recently asked for a legitimate raise when he was half way through a major project. He knew his employer would be in a world of trouble if he left the company at that specific moment in time. Of course, he didn’t threaten to leave or made any reference to the project itself but his boss fought very hard and got him a 10k raise. Why? His supervisor realized that finding a replacement would have been costly to the company and would have resulted in a lot more work for him in the short term. So the alternative of getting his employee a raise was the best way to deal with this situation.
Be prepared to walk away (not on the spot though!). Asking for a raise is your prerogative but it is your employer’s right to say no. And honestly, it doesn’t really matter why they’re saying no. The point is that they made that decision to turn down your request. You have three options here: accept the decision, try to continue making the case for a raise or leave. Now, you should never threaten to leave the company during negotiations. That puts your boss on the defense and will make him / her not want to help you. On the other hand, it might be that instead of a raise, your boss is proposing other accommodations – more vacation time, more work flexibility, other projects you may like – to keep you there and as a result you’ll decide to stay. That’s fine too. But sometimes the best decision is to walk away. Not immediately, of course and certainly not without having something else lined up. Ultimately, this is a business – both for you and for the company. And you should have a contingency plan and start looking for other jobs if you don’t find a mutually agreeable resolution to the salary re-negotiation. After all, you are almost always going to get a raise if you find a different company that wants to hire you. That is why walking away is something that often proves to be the best outcome after all.
There are lot of ways you can prepare to ask for raise. This list is by no means exhaustive. But it is a start. Remember that everything in life is a negotiation. And as such, anything is open to re-negotiation. Believe in yourself, do your research, and then ask politely and decisively. More often than not, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make a raise happen.
Also published on Medium.