Believing you deserve a raise is one thing; successfully negotiating a change in your salary or benefits package is quite another. While your priorities might be clear to you, the conflicting interests a company may be dealing with behind the scenes are often less apparent.
That said, fear of being told “no” shouldn’t stop you from asking for what you’re worth. Whether your boss is a stone-cold numbers person, your best friend-cum-colleague, or someone for whom “change” is a dirty word, negotiating is simply a matter of preparation. You need to know how to approach your boss and how to present your case in a way they’ll be receptive to. That way, you can negotiate with anyone.
Here are four tips to help you get started:
1. Don’t Assume You Know How Your Boss Will React
No matter how well you know the person you’re negotiating with, don’t go into the meeting thinking you know how they will respond to your request.
In business negotiations generally, it is important to mirror your partner to a certain extent. If they’re very detail-oriented, prepare numbers, spreadsheets, and visuals that will speak to them. If they’re friendly and personable, you still need to prepare a convincing case, but you must also be receptive to the rapport they’re trying to develop with you.
However, company-worker negotiations can have very different dynamics from general business negotiations. While your past experiences with your boss will give you an idea of how the meeting might pan out, you should never prep solely based on past behavior. Instead, let your boss’s behavior at each meeting guide you toward the most effective approach.
2. Demonstrate Exactly Why You Deserve It
Companies try to keep their costs down; it’s a simple fact of running a business. Unfortunately, that priority can make getting a raise much tougher for you.
This is where preparation will really have an impact. Not only should you be ready to showcase a list of your accomplishments in your current role, but you should also plan to demonstrate how being given a financial boost will allow you to increase the bottom line of your department or company.
3. Know Your Worth
When you’re negotiating a raise, you’re essentially making a case for yourself. Don’t be afraid to use your powers of persuasion.
One particularly useful angle to adopt is that of talent retention. Retention is one of the biggest challenges companies face, with turnover costing billions for businesses around the world. If you have been performing well in your role, then you are one of the people your organization should want to hold on to.
If you’re negotiating a raise with someone who is resistant to the idea, try explaining — without coming across as if you are threatening to leave — that the company could actually save money by giving you a raise. If you were to leave for another position, the cost of replacing you could be much higher than what you’re asking for. This fact, alongside all of your accomplishments, should clearly demonstrate why you’re worth the money.
Be persistent, but also be very careful not to come across as arrogant. This isn’t a bragging exercise, but a reasonable request based on your hard work and effectiveness. An arrogant attitude will undermine the authenticity of your claim and could even damage your reputation within the company.
4. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture
You are not negotiating in a vacuum. For example, if you’re asking for additional PTO, this could be a tricky request for the company to grant if many of your colleagues have families and need PTO to spend time with them. In situations like this — where your request could make operations more complicated for your company — it is best to be flexible to show that you’re a team player. For example, if your extra PTO is granted, try not to use it when your colleagues are using theirs.
If your negotiation is unsuccessful — and perhaps you do decide to look elsewhere for the next step in your career — maintaining a good relationship with your company is important. If you’ve made the best case possible for yourself and the organization has still said no, you should accept the decision as reasonable, just as the company should respect your decision to leave for greener pastures.
Negotiating a raise isn’t so much about knowing who you’ll be negotiating with. The most important part is being confident in the case you’re making for yourself. By preparing well and knowing exactly what you bring to the table, you give yourself the best chance of getting what you want.
Denise Louise Jeffrey has 17 years of expert specialization in negotiations, leadership, and communications, which she delivers to her corporate, business, and aerospace and defense clients via international seminars, keynote speeches, and coaching.