Is it really possible to negotiate for better pay in today's job market?
If you're apprehensive about talking dollars and cents, you're not alone. A recent survey by LinkedIn showed that globally, a full 35 percent of people report feeling "anxious" or "frightened" about negotiating.
Some professionals may worry that pursuing their request could cast them in a negative light or worse, damage the relationship irreparably with their boss. Others second guess themselves by asking, "Shouldn't I be grateful for what I have?" or "Do I really deserve special treatment?" These collective doubts can drive people to ask for too little--or prevent them from getting to the negotiation table in the first place.
But employers may be readier than ever for you to ask for more. PayScale.com recently released its quarterly index on compensation trends and found that average salaries are increasing, not decreasing. What's more, employee confidence may be improving when it comes to fattening paychecks. According to a survey by Glassdoor, employee optimism in pay raises rose to its highest level since 2008: 43% of employees expect a pay raise in the next 12 months, up five points from Q411, while 38% of employees do not expect a pay raise. This marks the first time the number of those who expect a pay raise exceeds those who do not.
Despite encouraging trends, many people continue to sidestep negotiating for better pay. Using the following seven negotiating techniques, however, you can learn to negotiate from a position of confidence and strength. Yes, it takes some focus and preparation to make requests persuasively and to get "yes" answers from others, but negotiating is very much a learned skill. Below are some of my favorite tactics for stretching your skills and making a hard-to-refute case for your raise:
Selena Rezvani is the author of the new book"Pushback: How Smart Women Ask And Stand Up For What They Want" [Wiley, John & Sons, $26.95]
There's an old saying in the HR community that still rings true today: "Managers have short memories." In order to effectively persuade any busy authority figure, you'll need to take it upon yourself to first do your own self-evaluation. You can compile a list of accolades, duties you've assumed outside your role, and projects you've personally spearheaded, including the extent to which others depend on you. If you're someone who worries you'll look like you're bragging, you can keep your self-promotion fact based. For example, if you brought in $20,000 in repeat business, ten new client projects, or saved the company 3 percent of operating costs, assemble those facts and be prepared to stand behind them.
When you ask for a raise, your boss will likely wonder, "How do I know if he/she is underpaid? How are we paying him/her relative to the market?" and "What are the potential upsides or downsides of granting this request?'' Squarely responding to such questions before they arise will show that you've done your homework and have a credible argument. Be creative in amassing facts: use PayScale's Instant Salary Report for LinkedIn users to learn your true worth as compared to peers in the business. You can also consult industry insiders in your digital and in-person networks to learn the going rate for a professional of your pedigree. Beef up your argument with industry-specific forecasts and trend reports regarding salaries.
There are timing circumstances that can serve to advance your cause and others that will weigh it down--and even torpedo--your ask. Don't wait until review time when raises have likely been decided. Instead, one of the very best moments to time your request is when you have the most leverage: for example, right after you've finished (and hopefully over-delivered on) a critical project. The same thing goes for repeat business you brought in, accolades you brought the company, or efficiencies you created to save money. You should also consider when your boss generally experiences the least stress in a given workday, also factoring in time-of-day realities like hunger, grogginess, or general distractedness.
Many professionals wonder just how ambitious they should be in requesting a raise. If you recognize that most people suffer from low expectations when negotiating--a dynamic which makes them aim low and get too little or paralyzes them into not negotiating at all--you are more likely to aim higher. Always start with an outcome that would delight and thrill you, not simply satisfy you. If, for example, you understand that you should be paid in the $60,000 - $65,000 range for your work, start at the top--at $65,000--so that you have room to negotiate downward if you must. The amount of your raise request should be the highest you can possibly ask for, while being able to offer a grounded rationale.
You can prepare for the possibility of resistance by creating a list of multiple options that would satisfy you rather than just one. If for example, you want a 10 percent raise and have tried unsuccessfully every maneuver you know of to get it, you could go back to the list of alternatives you prepared. Working your way through your sets of options, you might suggest, for example, an 8 percent raise and tuition reimbursement for a $1,000 course instead of your original request. Yet another option may involve less money but more vacation time. These alternatives are particularly important because we often don't know when there's a surplus of money in one areaas compared to another.
Purposely seeing your negotiating counterpart in an equal, peer-to-peer type of way can help to drive positive outcomes in a negotiation. While at the bargaining table, get comfortable drawing out the conversation - or even postponing it - if need be rather than nodding your head in agreement or surrendering with "Okay." You can experiment with being silent for a few seconds to level the power and collect your thoughts, particularly after you make your request and right after you hear your answer. You can also ask questions that open up dialogue. These questions deepen conversation and often resemble, "Can you explain how you arrived at that solution?" and "How could I help you feel more comfortable with this request?"
Nothing makes negotiators quite as uncomfortable as having their proposal rejected. Yet one major mistake many people make is to believe that when someone says "no," the matter is closed for discussion. More often than not, the timing just wasn't right the first time so a second ask (timed better or under different circumstances) will do the trick. The very best negotiators are tenacious and willing to ask again - in fact, if they find their request rejected, they insist on a second meeting to discuss the matter again in 2 to 3 months. Whether you're an entrepreneur or a member of the traditional workforce, if you never hear "no," you're probably not asking for enough.