How to Negotiate a Raise

If you are anything like me negotiating your salary is scary and occupies your mind quite a lot. The beginning of the yeat usually marks the time of performance reviews and hence salary negotiations.

Especially when you are new to the whole thing it can be difficult to develop a strategy and determine your personal worth for the company and what you should ask for. So based on some things I learned during negotiations classes in university as well as during two successful negotiations in the past (10% the first time and 15% the second time), I have compiled a list of my tips:

Do your research

Probably the most important thing is to have your information ready and do your research.

While everyone would probably love a 50% raise it is highly unlikely so make sure you figure out what the industry average is for someone in your position and with your experience. Once you have a good idea, consider the specifics of your company: if it is smaller and maybe not as established in the market chances are it cannot pay as much as some of the big players in the game (and also those that elevate the average). So be realistic with the salary expectation you then form.

Once the initial research is over, talk to people in the company. Maybe you have a mentor or some colleagues you are very close with and that are willing to share some information. Some companies for example have limits on max. raises per employee based on seniority etc., others just provide a raise equal to the increase in living expenses unless you showed an outstanding performance. This information can help you to determine what to realistically expect.

Compare the two ideas with each other and arrive at a realistic target salary you would like to accomplish.

Have three prices in mind

Once you have determined what raise you want to achieve you should have three prices in mind:

  • maximum
  • ideal raise
  • minimum

The maximum should be over your ideal raise. While this should still be a realistic number you can put it  a couple of percentage points over what you feel you can actually accomplish during negotiations. This is the price you will enter negotiations with.

Your ideal raise is the amount you actually want to get. Since it is below your starting price there is some room for negotiations where the other party can feel like the have accomplished something by bringing down the price.

The last price should be your minimum. What is the least amount you want to get? For some it might actually be a 0 increase for others there might be different limits. However, if you have a minimum and communicate such or want to take action it is important to do so (as it will be discussed later on).

Have your arguments prepared

When entering negotiations you should have arguments ready to justify why you feel you deserve that raise. Be as specific as possible as your boss might not be aware of your tasks and accomplishments. List accomplishments/ tasks where you have excelled, show how your duties and responsibilities have increased in the past year, and list anything else that might help you make your case (for example my willingness to put my life on hold for an international assignment).

Don’t compare yourself to others

We all have probably thought at some point when hearing what coworkers make that they shouldn’t be making more since we do xyz. Some people actually enter negotiations by stating this person makes that much and hence I want it as well. This is not only bad sportsmanship but is likely not getting you the raise you want.

First of, usually two people are not comparable 1:1. Things such as working experience, education and skills vary from person to person as well as soft skills or other transferable skills such as analytical thinking. Maybe the person was also better at establishing their worth for the company.

Second, while it might be true that you perform more tasks than the other person, your boss might not know this. If making such a statement you need specific examples.

And lastly, it might be plain and simple: others might just be better negotiators. Negotiating is a skill that can be learned and maybe others are better at it, for example resulting in a higher starting salary or higher increases.

Whatever the case may be, make sure to focus on your accomplishments and show initiative rather than putting others down as this might show some characteristics employers are not looking for.Focus on yourself and don’t be afraid to show off a bit: you are establishing your worth!

Be willing to back threats up

Another common occurrence is that people state threats during a negotiation such as “if I don’t get x% I will leave”. This can be a dangerous route to go down for multiple reasons:

You might enjoy your job and your bosses might be happy with you but some people are more important than others (maybe because they have a unique skill) and based on your importance to the company you worth is established. By threatening to leave you maybe play into the cards of your employer We had a case where someone wanted a promotion and threatened to leave the company if he wouldn’t receive it. Well, he did not get simply because he is not at the level of the next career level. However, his boss wasn’t too upset about the threat. While he is a dedicated and motivated employee, he lacks in certain other areas which wouldn’t make him leaving a huge loss for the company.

Whatever the case is, if you decide to use threats in your negotiations, be willing to back them up, otherwise you will not be taken seriously in the future and weaken your position.


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