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When Oliver Twist nervously approached the front of the workhouse dining hall to request an extra portion of gruel from Mr. Bumble, he evidently hadn’t taken enough time deliberating how best to navigate the situation. The timing was all wrong, he hadn’t built a case, and perhaps if he’d analyzed Mr. Bumble’s body language he might have gleaned the beadle’s foul mood that day and postponed that fated exchange.
Of course, that’s not to suggest asking for a pay raise will result in you being unceremoniously thrown out of your current role. This isn’t 1830s Victorian England for one thing and, with any luck, your manager is a much more reasonable person than Mr. Bumble. Nevertheless, conversations about salary increases are dreaded and often avoided altogether. We'll explain why you shouldn't be scared to ask for raise, and then we'll take a look at several tips for securing a raise.
Negotiating a Raise Is Reasonable
A 2018 survey conducted by Robert Half revealed that just 39% of workers tried to negotiate a higher salary in their last role. Why so low? Employees are often wary of appearing ungrateful, demanding, or greedy. They’re also concerned about offending their manager or damaging an existing relationship. However, that's changing. A 2022 survey by Robert Half found that, amid inflation, 62% of workers plan to ask for a raise this year.
Negotiating pay raises should be a completely normal part of any person’s career and a conversation that managers both expect and welcome — after all, they’ve probably campaigned for themselves once or twice! As long as you handle salary discussions professionally and tactfully, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking control of your career trajectory or knowing your worth.
A 2017 Jobvite study found that 84% of professionals attempting to negotiate a raise ended up receiving a higher salary, with one-fifth of those earning 11–20% more. If that’s enough to convince you to take the plunge, here are some tips to maximize your chances of success.
1. Timing Is Everything
No matter how hard you work and how much you think you deserve a raise, if you get the timing of the conversation wrong you could diminish your chances for a long time to come.
A raise within the last 12 months, being new to a role, company layoffs, or a bad performance review are all good reasons to delay the conversation. Similarly, if you know your manager has been going through a stressful or strained period, or if they’ve recently been declined a pay raise, the odds are that you’re not going to have much luck negotiating a salary increase for yourself.
On the other hand, if you’ve recently delivered a successful project, knocked your sales targets out of the park, or taken on additional responsibilities, now could be the perfect time to negotiate your salary.
It’s also important to consider your company’s existing performance management and compensation policies and procedures. Could you synchronize your salary discussion with an upcoming performance review? If employee salaries are reviewed and bonuses awarded at a particular time of the year, it might be best to wait until that time.
2. Research the Market
You might desperately want a $10,000 salary increase so you can finally book that vacation of a lifetime, but wanting something and being owed something are two very different things. According to Indeed, a 3% increase in salary is considered an average, if not generous, pay increase. In 2022, amid the Great Resignation, a survey indicated that most companies in the U.S. planned a payroll budget increase of at least 4%.
An employer’s goal is to retain their employees by compensating them with the fair market value for the work delivered. That’s why it’s so important to do your research to determine what is a competitive salary for your role in your area.
Salary comparison sites that can help you to benchmark your salary include:
Remember, while these sites act as a good starting point, they can’t offer accurate data because they fail to account for the specifics and nuances of roles. What they can do is provide useful talking points. For example, “According to LinkedIn, the average product developer in New York City is paid [X] but I’m only paid [Y] and my responsibilities also include the following…”
Don’t underestimate the value of speaking to your colleagues — or recruiters — about their experiences and current salaries. This will help you to manage your expectations and set realistic objectives. Some companies take a structured approach to employee salaries, awarding pre-determined, incremental pay increases at specific career milestones. In this case, you’ll need to re-think your strategy to align with these protocols.
3. Prepare Your Case for a Raise
You certainly don’t need to come to your salary negotiation meeting armed with a PowerPoint presentation and a script, but you do need to be prepared to make your case and make it well. Here are some key considerations:
- When was your last pay raise and how much did you receive? What factors have changed since then, how has your role evolved, and what new responsibilities have you taken on?
- Draw attention to quantifiable data wherever possible, including recent projects you’ve delivered, the value you’ve added to the company, and sales figures.
- Consider how your recent successes directly align with your manager’s, and the company’s, goals.
- Collect examples of positive feedback from colleagues, customers, or senior management, including emails and performance reviews.
- Prepare to answer follow-up questions from your manager and provide them with your desired salary.
- Write out all your points so you can email these to your manager following the discussion. They might find this useful for subsequent discussions with Human Resources.
4. Have a Backup Plan
Following an initial salary negotiation meeting with your manager, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be given an instant response. You’ll need to be prepared to negotiate your terms and have a contingency plan in place if you’re faced with a flat “no.”
Perhaps other benefits could soften the blow, such as an increased vacation allowance, flexible working arrangements, or commission. Confirm with your manager when there will be opportunities to renegotiate your salary in the future and schedule a performance review accordingly. Can they reassure you that there are opportunities for growth and career progression within the company and offer advice on what to do next time to maximize your chances?
If your boss responds with a lower, counteroffer, don’t be afraid to take some time to reconsider your options and get back to them at a later date.
Most importantly, whatever the outcome of the conversation, be sure to thank your manager for their time. If you’ve not been successful on this occasion, it’s up to you to decide your next move — will you stick it out or look for new career opportunities elsewhere?
Image Credit: Image courtesy of vgstudio / Shutterstock
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Thank your boss for the salary bump and recognition they've already given you, and then explain why you believe the number should be reconsidered. Share your big accomplishments, as well as the salary data you've gathered, to back up why you would like your manager to reconsider your raise.How do you politely negotiate a higher salary? ›
- Put Your Number Out First. ...
- Ask for More Than What You Want. ...
- Don't Use a Range. ...
- Be Kind But Firm. ...
- Focus on Market Value. ...
- Prioritize Your Requests. ...
- But Don't Mention Personal Needs. ...
- Ask for Advice.
Say you're flexible.
You can try to skirt the question with a broad answer, such as, “My salary expectations are in line with my experience and qualifications.” Or, “If this is the right job for me, I'm sure we can come to an agreement on salary.” This will show that you're willing to negotiate.
- Use specific, recent accomplishments and the value you've brought to the company as reasons for why you deserve the salary you're proposing.
- Quantify your value with data and awards/accolades so you can demonstrate more tangibly how you've contributed to your company's bottom line.
Talk to Your Boss
You can start the process by writing your own, using your knowledge of your job and by researching job sites to see what other companies are looking for in people who do this work. Explain gently why you think you're entitled to a higher pay increase, and be prepared to argue your position.
Set up a meeting to discuss your pay.
Remind them of your recent wins, and then say, "I've done some research, and it appears I'm underpaid by x percent." Then stop talking. "We always want to fill the awkward moment, but just wait," she says. This will make it clear that the next step is your boss's to take.