How to Negotiate a Raise Like a Pro

employees celebrating after a successful salary negotiation
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Being paid fairly for the work we do is important to all of us. But what do you do if you feel that the pay you receive in your current job isn’t reflecting your hard work? You try to negotiate a raise. If, like most of us, you are not trained in high-level negotiating, read on for the best tips and tricks on building the case for the higher salary you deserve.


Know Why You Want a Salary Raise

Research shows that feeling underpaid is the top reason for worker dissatisfaction. But at the same time, we also tend to overrate the happiness that we assume we will obtain from more money.

Think carefully about why you want a higher salary. Do you feel like your work is worth more? Do you know your colleagues at a similar level are getting more, or is it simply an economic desire to stabilize your financial situation? There are no right answers here, but it is worth reflecting on, as your response will influence how you prepare for your meeting.

Salary Negotiation for Women

Salary negotiation for women is an even more complex challenge. While women ask for raises just as often as men, they are much less likely to get them.  According to the Harvard Business Review, women are given their requested raise just 15 percent of the time, while men’s salaries are increased after asking 20 percent of the time. The HBR study asked 4,600 randomly selected employees across 800 workplaces questions about their experiences asking for better wages and the reasons they had or not pursued a raise. The results shatter the myth that women don’t get because they don’t ask. Sadly, the study, which you can read in full here doesn’t have any concrete answers why women aren’t rewarded as much as their male counterparts, but it does mean if you have both X chromosomes you’ll need to work (as usual) just that bit harder. 

There are some great women-specific resources to help you not only calculate your salary but also provide advice on workplace equality and activism. Check out:


Preparation is Key

The only way to successfully manage a raise request is with data-driven preparation and a focused drive. Don’t rush – you’ve probably already been putting it off for some time. Taking the time to understand your market value through researching average salaries for your type of position and preparing any other necessary information will certainly pay off in the long run. It’s much harder to fight data than emotions, so present your case as logically as possible.


Know Your Worth

Figuring out exactly what to ask for when you will negotiate a raise might seem daunting. Starting with too high a number will likely get a rejection, but not asking enough could leave you feeling like you sold yourself short and wasted an opportunity that will take some time to arise again. 

Luckily, there are lots of options and resources out there designed to help you identify your target salary. The first way would be to approach HR in your company and ask for the salary range for your job level. This might seem intimidating, but that is at least partly what HR is for. They should also keep your request confidential so you don’t need to worry about your boss being informed. If you don’t have an HR department or it seems too risky, take your research online.  

First, look for similar jobs to yours in your local area. Job descriptions and postings may indicate a salary range. Otherwise, get creative and dig into jobs and company review websites that list salaries as well as sites like LinkedIn that have salary calculators. Other good options include:

Another tactic would be to use your network.  Money is still an awkward topic for many, so don’t go right in and ask people exactly what they are earning. Instead, ask them what they think people at your level in their current company might be making.


Know What Your Company Can Afford

It’s crucial that you have insight into your company’s financial position before you start the negotiation process. It may be hard to get the full picture halfway through a financial year, but use data from last year in addition to paying attention to any water cooler gossip that will shed light on the company’s position. Lookup reports from the head of sales, note any recent press releases and investor news that might provide insight too. 

It is also critical to understand your companies’ policies and rules on performance reviews and pay increases before you request a meeting. Some companies might have a very clear procedure that doesn’t allow employees to make individual requests. Your HR department should also be an asset to you here. 

This is also a good time to reflect on who exactly you are going to ask. Take a look at your company’s structure and decide who the correct person is in the hierarchy to discuss your future salary raise with. In most cases, it will be your manager plus an HR representative.


Build Your Case

Just walking in and asking for money isn’t likely to cut it. You’ll need to present a well-prepared argument to back up your case. Develop a file of your achievements and successes in the last year or another relevant time frame. Gathering data and evidence of where your work has contributed to team success, growth, and company morale will be useful in showing your worth. Use a variety of metrics and resources to tell the story. Use anything from hard data to personal feedback you may have received from our colleagues. 

In addition to what you have achieved, prepare a future performance plan. Show what you are going to bring to the company in the next 12-24 months. Not only this will show your boss that you value your current workplace and want to continue to make an impact there, but it will also remind them of what they might miss out on if they don’t take your request seriously. Use the language of value here. Demonstrate how you can provide a great return on investment for the raise they are surely going to want to give you. 

This is a good time to include how your salary increase will have other benefits to the company and to your manager as well. Brainstorm to identify ideas that are harder to quantify, such as loyalty and team morale.

Practice Makes Perfect

Try out your pitch on a friend or confidante. Get feedback on everything from your presentation to your posture. If you aren’t used to 1:1 meetings with your supervisor or if you rarely make public pitches, practice will be everything. There isn’t any need to learn a speech by rote, but get comfortable with the numbers and make sure you have the answers to any obvious questions ready.

an employee during a salary negotiation with her boss

Try out your pitch on a friend or confidante. Get feedback on everything from your presentation to your posture. If you aren’t used to 1:1 meetings with your supervisor or if you rare

ly make public pitches, practice will be everything. There isn’t any need to learn a speech by rote, but get comfortable with the numbers and make sure you have the answers to any obvious questions ready.

Timing is everything

Be strategic about when to make your meeting. Think both big picture and small. First, consider the annual cycles of the company. Don’t ask for the raise just as the new financial year begins. It is better to wait until halfway through the year when there is less budget pressure around.

Second, consider your manager’s personal schedule. Friday at 4:30 p.m. probably isn’t the best time to have a super productive meeting – unless that’s when you know your manager is most relaxed.  Request a meeting through the usual channels and be clear about the content without giving too much away.

Choose Your Words Wisely While Negotiating a Raise

You have done all the thinking and comprehensive preparation, but what exactly should you say when the moment of raise negotiation arrives? Try a combination of assertiveness and open conversation. Begin the conversation with something like “after reflecting on my performance, years of experience, and achievements over the last 12 months I believe I deserve a raise.” Follow that up with a question that invites them to share their thoughts such as “what is your take on that?”

Be objective. Getting a salary raise or not isn’t a reflection of how much your boss likes you. So try and keep emotion and personal relationships out of it. Use objective language that keeps you cool and professional. 

Listen to your manager and be ready with your responses. Don’t try and get all your facts and figures out if they aren’t needed. Listen carefully and follow their cues to in setting the conversation pace.

To Compromise or Not to Compromise?

A friend recently asked for a pretty significant salary increase in line with a big jump in responsibilities. Her manager made a counter-offer that still seemed generous but she turned it down. Her reasoning? Never compromise. “If I take their offer they will always think I overvalued myself and in turn will undervalue me,” she explained. “I’m better off sticking to my pay grade, proving myself through actions and then returning to the table. It’s not ideal but I know I’ll get the best outcome in the end.” The logic is sound but not everyone has the insight or strength to take such a hard-line approach.

The bottom line is to that you need to know what you are willing to walk away with before the negotiation process starts.

an employee shaking hands with her manager after successfully negotiating a raise

Alternative Ways of Compensation

Let’s suppose the timing was not right in the end, and the company really doesn’t have the money at the moment to increase your current salary. Think: are there other things aside from more money that you can ask for that will potentially increase your job satisfaction as well as help your manager and company reward your efforts? Brainstorm a list of perks you could request before the company is able to honour your work with an actual payraise.  Here are some examples that may inspire you:

  • The ability to work remotely
  • Paid training or further education
  • Increased vacation time
  • Company shares
  • Access to new technology 

Getting creative here will both leave you feeling like you really achieved something while demonstrating to your manager your incredible negotiation skills.

Got Rejected? What’s Next?

If you get a flat rejection after all your hard work with no explanation – it might be the time to consider moving on to a new job with another company or even a complete career change. Use the tactics described above to negotiate your salary for a new position. 

If you do get feedback on your performance, ethics, or attitude, try to use it to your advantage. Spin the sting of rejection into a chance to re-evaluate yourself and grow for the next opportunity. If the job search is overwhelming, reach out to us for some support and personalized career advice.

Success? Lunch is On You

Congratulations, your hard work has paid off and your salary increase has been approved! Sadly, this isn’t the time to rest. Take the performance plan you took into the meeting and figure out your next moves to ensure you are absolutely on track for your next raise. Now is also a great time to reflect on your larger career goals and set yourself a five-year plan.

woman employee celebrating her salary raise
Lensa Insights
Lensa Insights
Work is changing faster than an angry retrovirus. For jobseekers, that means one thing: adapt or die! Lensa Insights is your survival guide, offering actionable career tips to keep your future in focus.

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