It’s Negotiation November! Every Wednesday day this month, we’re publishing an article with advice and inspiration on negotiation.
By Robin Madell
Negotiating for higher compensation can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. But in times of economic uncertainty, broaching the subject of a raise from your employer can feel even more daunting. You may feel lucky to have a job at your level, or in your industry, at all.
But just because the economy is suffering financially doesn’t mean that you must do so too. With companies short-staffed and tightening their belts, each employee becomes even more valuable. The trick is in getting your employer to recognize your worth and reward you accordingly.
“Traditionally, women are better at negotiating for their companies than for themselves,” says attorney and mediator Cynthia Pasciuto of legal consulting firm True North Business Consulting. “They do not ask for as much money as they should.” To help you avoid that problem and improve your chances for a successful outcome, keep the following five tips in mind the next time you negotiate for a raise.
1. Do Your Homework
There are a few things you need to determine before you ask for a raise. “You must establish reasonable and thoughtful justifications for your request that you will share with your boss,” says Jessica Beckett-McWalter, General Counsel and VP of Human Resources at ChemImage Corporation.
A first step toward doing this is to find out what your position is worth. How much are others in comparable positions at comparable organizations earning? Online research can provide average, high, and low salary expectations for many positions in most industries. “To find survey results for your industry, consult your trade association, a human resources association (like the Society for Human Resource Management), or a general Internet search,” recommends Linda Swindling, JD, author of Get What You Want: Harness the Power of Positive Influence, Persuasion & Negotiation. “However, make sure that the data you receive is accurate for the geographic area you are in.”
Next, you should investigate what the employment outlook is in your region. If you live in a metropolitan area with higher costs of living, you need to ascertain if your salary has kept up with those costs.
Consolidating this information will give you an idea of the new salary amount to request. Pasciuto recommends printing out this comparative information and bringing it to your negotiation meeting, as backup support to help justify your proposal.
2. Know Your Value
Your value to the organization is a more complex equation than simply calculating average salary levels and cost of living. Your value encompasses everything that you bring to the table, from education and accomplishments to idea implementation and industry contacts.
“Prior to the negotiation, analyze what you have contributed to your organization and the value that you add—you probably have more leverage than you think you do,” says Beckett-McWalter. In your analysis, she suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- What role do you play in your organization?
- Who relies on you in your organization? How and why do they rely on you?
- How have your job requirements increased in the last 6 months?
- Have you been asked to handle more or manage additional people?
- How have you grown in your position?
- Have you taken on more responsibilities?
- What positive contributions have you made to your organization in the last 6 months?
Your answers to these questions can help to provide you with leverage through concrete justifications for a raise.
3. Plan Your Pitch
Once you feel solid about the amount of salary increase to request and your evidence to support requesting it, you should prepare for the negotiation meeting itself. Practice what you plan to say, and then schedule a face-to-face meeting with your supervisor.
“Asking for a raise is not a negotiation that should be made over e-mail, instant messenger, or Facebook,” says Pasciuto. “Make an appointment to meet with your superior, and point out that you would like to talk about a raise.”
Pasciuto points out that if you have time to take a class to learn specific skills, there are specific negotiation methodologies and processes that can serve as invaluable preparation. If not, she recommends reading a book on the subject prior to your meeting, such as Getting to Yes. “I had a friend who had to deal with a difficult client,” Pasciuto says. “I recommended Getting To Yes and he said it made a huge difference in the next discussion with the client. You will gain insight into a negotiating process—the collaborative method—which works well for most women.”
4. Ask with Confidence
You’re as prepared as you can be, and it’s showtime. Once you’re in the meeting with your supervisor, the approach that you take to negotiating a raise can make or break your proposal. “Women can diminish their emotional intelligence advantage if they allow themselves to be intimidated,” says executive negotiator Layne Kertamus of NegotiGator. “No one will take you seriously if you do not already take yourself seriously.”
“Make your request with confidence and a thoughtful sense of entitlement,” suggests Beckett-McWalter. “Even if you don’t feel very confident about your request, fake it!” Beckett-McWalter says that women often do not feel entitled to ask for a raise, so they can benefit by giving themselves a pep talk before having the conversation. “Meet with a friend or mentor beforehand who will boost your confidence and help you to feel entitled to the raise you request,” she says. “If you don’t convey a sense of confidence, then it will be difficult to convince your supervisor that you are entitled to a raise.”
Another strategy for asking with confidence is asking for more than you actually need or want. “Consider what you think you deserve and would like to be paid, and then consider whether you can reasonably justify asking for more—you might just get it!” says Beckett-McWalter. “If you ask for more than you want or need, you give your supervisor room to negotiate down to a middle point that hopefully will be close to the number you originally had in mind.”
“I always tell clients that Warren Buffet has it right when he says ‘Never be afraid to ask for too much or offer too little,’” says Kristen E. Prinz, founder and principal of The Prinz Law Firm. “The worst they can say is ‘No.’”
5. Prepare to Counter
No matter how compelling your evidence and how invaluable you are to the company, your raise request may be countered or blocked. If this happens, you should set the stage for future possibilities by coming prepared with a next-step action.
“Have a B-plan backup if the raise is not granted,” says Business Coach Joyce K. Reynolds. “For example, you could leave agreeing that the discussion will be continued in 90 days. Be prepared to diplomatically counter resistance.” Attorney Demitrius Evans, CEO and founder of Chicago business law firm TEIL Firms, emphasizes the importance for women to be persistent and unapologetic. “Be prepared to have multiple conversations about the topic,” says Evans. “This is a negotiation that may take several meetings to make progress. Getting the conversation started is just the first step.”