November 10, 2014

3 Ways to Negotiate a Higher Salary Without Sounding Like a Troublemaker

StrangleEven though we have come to the end of the Great Recession and CEOs are now earning 120 times more than the average worker, the fiscal upturn has not made its way down to most average staff members. Wage growth has been stagnant in the U.K. and U.S. for some years now, with average wages in the U.S. rising by about 0.5 percent per hour since 2009, according to this Bloomberg Report.

The recession has created a culture where workers almost expect pay stagnation, making it easy for employers to do nothing and take advantage of the malaise. Candidates wait for pre-recession pay rises to be restored and employers wait for candidates to ask. The result is pay stagnation.

If you are dissatisfied with your starting salary offer or current salary, I believe it may now be the right economic environment to start a negotiation. An added incentive should be the knowledge that 70 percent of employers leave some negotiating room when making an offer — so, in many situations, pay hikes are there for the taking. You just have to know how to ask for them.

Beware: if done the wrong way, asking for a pay rise can make one sound like a troublemaker in the eyes of management, which would be counterproductive. I have set out several steps to help you ask for a pay rise/higher starting salary without sounding like a troublemaker.

1. Demonstrate Your Worth

Prepare a simple presentation or report outlining your key achievements over the past few years. Try to benchmark yourself against your peers to show how you have achieved more than, or the same as, those who earn more. Outline any initiatives or achievements that simply would not have occurred without you.

There’s no room for padding or fluffy words: make sure to use supporting numbers and hard stats for the best effects. Make your employer feel warm and fuzzy, and make yourself seem invaluable and fully deserving of a pay rise.

2. Benchmark Your Salary — Don’t Complain

Explain why you believe you are underpaid, but never complain about your salary. This will make you sound like a moaner. Highlight the discrepancy between your salary and the salaries of equally qualified peers in the marketplace. A list of higher-salaried equivalent roles from your competitor companies would clearly make the point that you are underpaid.

3. Don’t Issue Threats, Just Illustrate Your Goals and Expectations

Issuing threats about leaving will cause panic, annoyance, or defensiveness on your employer’s part, which could get you a reputation as troublemaker. Instead, highlight your personal goals, (house, car, family, etc.) and the minimum salary levels you need to achieve them over the next few years. Explain that you would like to reach these goals with this company, but if it looks like this won’t be possible you may have to consider moving elsewhere to make your dreams a reality. This isn’t troublemaking, but lifemaking. This is a tactful way to let your employer know that, if you can’t realize your ambitions with them, you’ll sadly have to go elsewhere.

Salary negotiations don’t have to make you sound like a troublemaker. If done well, they are an opportunity for you to promote your achievements, seek recognition, outline your ambitions, and ask for the company’s help in achieving your financial and personal goals.


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Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.