Many people find themselves working in the same job for several years at a pay rate that does not reflect what they truly think their work is worth. While there's nothing wrong with waiting a while for your employer to give you a raise, at some point it may be necessary for you to directly ask for one. If you find yourself in the position of needing to negotiate a salary raise, here are the steps you should take to ensure the process goes smoothly and creates as little tension as possible with your employer.
Make Sure You're Worth the Raise You Want
One of the biggest mistakes anyone can make in the workplace is to request a raise he or she has not actually earned. It can be easy to get an inflated sense of your own value in the workplace, but you need to take a purely objective view before walking into your boss's office and asking for more money. As you're getting ready to ask for the increase in salary, you should be doing everything you can to prove your value to your firm. If there are elements of your job you know you're weaker in than others, begin trying to improve in those areas. Requesting a raise is difficult enough without the handicap of not actually deserving it.
Have a Specific Number in Mind
If you're going to ask for a raise, avoid generalities at all costs. When you approach your boss, you should have a very specific number ready to go. You shouldn't start by asking for an unreasonably high salary, but you should also give yourself a little bit of room to negotiate and still come out ahead. To get a better idea of the average salary for someone in your position with your level of education and experience, consult a good salary guide before deciding what pay rate you're going to ask for. Remember to keep your initial request a little above what you really want, as your boss will likely try to talk you down from your original request.
Approach Your Boss at the Right Time
If you want to negotiate a salary raise, approaching your boss the right way at the right time is critical. Don't try to have a conversation about increasing your salary while your boss is trying to get half a dozen other things done. Instead, schedule a meeting with him or her in advance at a time that will be convenient for both of you. According to a study conducted by Cornell University in 2011, most people are in a better mood early in the morning as opposed to later in the day, so try to schedule your meeting early in the workday. If you can find a day when to work volume is likely to be light, that's even better.
Make Your Pitch Firmly, but Professionally
Begin your conversation by clearly stating that you have come to talk about an increase in salary, rather than beating around the bush. Then, begin explaining why you believe you deserve to be paid more. Highlight contributions you have made to the company and any particularly important projects you have been involved in or in charge of. At all times, be firm and self-confident, but remain professional. When you've explained why you believe you deserve the raise, put forth the number you have decided to initially ask for.
Give Your Boss Time to Think
Once you've made your pitch for a higher salary, it's important to let the ball sit in your boss's court for a while. He or she will have to give your recent performance and overall contributions to the company some thought before getting back to you. If you haven't heard anything within a week, however, it will not be inappropriate for you to gently remind your boss about the topic. Remember, he or she may have to consult with the next level of management, so be patient.
Start the Negotiations
Once your boss does get back to you, one of three things will happen. The first, and most likely, (if your request is legit and you are recognized as a valuable asset), is that you will get exactly what you asked for. The second is that you will be denied a raise altogether, and the third possibility is that a much lower offer than you originally asked for will be presented to you. In the third case, it's time to start negotiating, since both of the baseline offers are now in place.
Don't offer to split the difference right off the bat. Instead, reduce your original request by only a small amount and see what your employer comes back with. This process may take a long time, but stick it out with the goal of ending up with something closer to what you want than what your employer wants.
Know Exactly How Far You're Willing to Go
One of the hardest parts of asking for a raise is knowing in advance how far you're willing to press the issue. Some people may feel so undervalued at their current pay rate that they are willing to begin looking for opportunities in different companies if their raise is denied. Some will give in as soon as a denial or a counter-offer is presented to them. Ideally, you should try to reach a healthy medium between these two extremes. How far you are willing to go, however, will depend entirely on your personal situation.
Trying to negotiate a salary raise is a process that requires both tact and professionalism, but which will also demand that you be firm in your assertion that you deserve more than you are getting. Remember to frame your request in the context of how much you have contributed to your firm during your time there and to treat the matter delicately. With some luck and a bit of perseverance, following these steps will allow you to successfully negotiate a higher salary for yourself.
Karl Magnusson is a former recruiter, turned career coach. He specializes in helping people better themselves to achieve career fulfillment. He is always up-to-date with the job market’s trends and analyses them to offer the best advice.