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BY Jill L. Ferguson

How to Ask For a Raise: 20 Strategic Tactics

By Jill L. Ferguson

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Photo credit: Pixabay

Asking for a raise is easier said than done — but following these five simple tips will increase your chances of getting what you want.

1. Treat it like any other business meeting.

This means you go into the meeting prepared, you keep it professional, and you ease into the discussion.

Katie Donovan, salary negotiation consultant and founder of EqualPayNegotiations.com, wrote, “At its core, the pay raise conversation is the same as telling your boss about any other broken tool. You don’t sweat for one month about saying the Internet is down, the printer is broken, or your chair is uncomfortable. Instead you expect action to fix it… Borrow that mentality and the pay raise conversation just got less nerve-racking.”

Donovan recommends starting off the conversation by talking about your performance before tackling any numbers. Once your boss compliments your work, then you can say something like, “I’m glad you think I’m doing a good job on x. It has come to my attention that I’m making less than the industry average, though…”   

2. Build a business case.

As Laura C. Browne and I write in “Raise Rules for Women: How to Make Money at Work,” your employer doesn’t care if your rent has increased, your car has broken down, your partner has been laid off, or you’ve run up credit card debt — unless, of course, these life events affect the way you're working.

Personal events have no place in a raise negotiation. Instead, focus on how your work has impacted the bottom line, gotten the company more clients, saved the company money, or made the company look outstanding.

3. Provide a written summary of your accomplishments.

Harvard Business Review says, “Lay out your contributions, then quickly pivot to what you hope to tackle next. Assure your boss that you understand his (or her) pressures and goals, and pitch your raise as a way to help him (or her).”

Have a summary of this written down, because the fact is that many managers will need their boss’ approval and need to have a discussion with HR before granting your raise request. Handing your boss the highlights in writing will help jar her memory when she makes your pitch to others.

4. Talk. Pause. Stop.

When butterflies are flitting in our stomachs, we sometimes talk too much. The last thing you want to do during a raise request is ramble or accidentally say anything that can be considered a threat (i.e., “f I don’t get this raise I may need to leave”).

Dononvan writes, “Know the problem, state the problem, and then sit back and wait for a solution to be suggested.”

While you may have been planning for a month or more to talk to your boss about a salary increase, this request is new for her. Give her time to process and sit with the request so that she can understand the evidence you’ve provided on past contributions and how your further plans to contribute will make her and the company look good, which makes the idea of paying you more easier to swallow.

5. Ask questions.

The end result of your meeting will probably go one of three ways: you’ll get the raise, you’ll have to wait for an answer, or you’ll hear a “no, not at this time.” If your raise is granted, you may need to ask about when it will go into effect, or if there is any paperwork to be signed for HR.

If you are told to wait, ask when your boss might possibly have an answer.  Sometimes raises must be decided by a committee or come at a certain time in the fiscal cycle.

And if you are told no, ask about ways you could improve your performance, how you can support the team and the boss better, and when you might be able to discuss your performance and salary again in the future.

Basically, you need to understand why the raise isn’t possible right now, what you can do differently, and if there’s potential for one in the future (and how to best position yourself for that). Some raises are the result of a series of conversations that take place over months. At the end of this meeting with your boss, regardless of the outcome, be sure to thank him or her for his time and for meeting with you. Gratitude never goes out of style.

If your aim is to increase your salary as part of accepting a job offer at a new company, Fairygodboss also has some negotiation tactics for you:

1. "I love what I'm doing, I'm devoted to company success, and I believe the company has really grown/benefited/changed because of the way I've contributed to X and Y. These improvements are one reason I'd like to talk to you about getting a salary increase or job title promotion."

This type of sentence is standard fare in negotiations, but that's not why we start here. We start here because this — or something similar — is what you need to say to yourself before you say it to anyone else.

The best way to convince someone else to give you more money is to believe you deserve it. This is quite a serious and practical piece of advice, despite sounding "touchy-feely.” Studies show that women commonly suffer from a confidence gap that hurts them at work regardless of their actual competence and qualifications.

Many recruiters say that confidence is very important in the negotiation process. So what do you do if you have doubts about whether you actually should get a higher salary? First, realize that most people do (with the exception of a handful of completely narcissistic egomaniacs). Nobody is perfect, but that shouldn't stop you from believing you deserve a raise or a higher salary.

Second, attack each doubt head-on. Make a list of every reason you think you may not deserve the raise or higher salary. Then, go through the list and provide a counter-argument for each issue. While you're doing this, you may end up creating an even better affirmative statement than the one you first started with. It may also help you to put yourself in your best supporter's shoes when you provide these counter-arguments. What would your best friend, spouse, and/or strongest advocate for you say?

Studies show that women tend to feel more comfortable and are judged by others more favorably when we negotiate on others' behalf rather than our own. The phenomenon has been described as the "Mama Bear" stereotype. Well, if you make a conscious effort and add some imagination, you may be able to turn that strength into something that works for yourself.

2. "I'm considering a new position. Do you know how much a [X title] typically makes at [Y kind of company]?"

Yes, doing your research means you will have to talk about money.

Most women are very uncomfortable talking about financial matters. To make things easier, try to talk to people whose job it is to have that information. Recruiters are one good source because they have a comprehensive view of an industry and are often trying to be viewed as thought-leaders in the space. They will sometimes publish annual salary reports.

Human resources employees in your network are another source of information when you're in the negotiation process. You may have to ask for introductions to their connections, if they don’t know the answer or much beyond a large salary range. It may still be helpful to hear what they have to say.

3. "Hi Mark, my friend Beverly said you might be able to help me out. She told me you're a fellow Marketing Director. I'm in the advanced stages of interviewing with a company for that role and I'm wondering whether you think a salary range of $X-$Y is competitive in the marketplace."

One way to reduce tension when asking for salary information among friends and acquaintances is to share your own information, however vaguely.

4. "What do you think a Communications Director at a mid-sized, growing tech company in the hardware space should make in Silicon Valley? I'm looking for a new job and it would be great to get some ideas."

To virtual strangers within discussion boards, you can simply ask questions about salary with reference to the size of your company, your prospective or current title, and any other information you think is pertinent, such as location. There are many specialized professional communities online (e.g. ones for doctors, hedge fund analysts, pharmaceutical salespeople, software engineers) and many provide a forum to pose questions like these. Sites like Salary.com, Payscale, and Glassdoor also provide useful salary information.

If your job role or job title is unique, you're an executive, or you work at a smaller company where salary information is harder to come by, you will have to do a deeper investigation. For example, if you're evaluating an executive or management position, or very high profile role, consider comparing it to jobs whose salaries are reported in the public domain.

Public companies require officers and director compensation to be reported and filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Even if you aren't working at a public company or in a C-suite position, you can still use these compensation figures as a benchmark since its fair to assume many of those individuals did research on their pay. Find comparable job responsibilities or similarly sized companies or divisions to the one you are joining -- especially at competitors.

5. "Hey Joe, I'm about to try to pitch my manager on a promotion and it would really help me out if you could let him know what you thought of how my recent project for Client X was received."

In other words, asking others to put in a good word for you can play a big part in negotiating salary.

While you should aspire to be your own best advocate, the reality is that sometimes someone else may be more influential than you simply because they are already are a trusted friend, colleague or acquaintance of the person with whom you're negotiating.

Say you are negotiating with your current employer for an increase to your current salary. Perhaps a colleague in a different department or a close client is the right person to ask for a recommendation. You can ask someone you think your manager will respect to put in a good word for you, and you don't have to over-explain.

6. "I'm so thrilled [about your offer]. We've discussed so much about the position and my background and I've gotten really excited about it. Since the only major thing we haven't talked about is compensation, I just wanted to make sure we're roughly on the same page."

If you think this dialogue looks strange, that's because it is. Most people wait until they are given a salary offer before they react, much less negotiate. Our advice is the opposite. We think you should ask for the pay you want and be clear about your own salary requirement before you receive a numerical offer from a potential employer or your current employer. This will ensure you control the "anchor" figure in your negotiation for a salary increase.

Anchors are well known to be highly influential in negotiations. Studies show that one of our cognitive biases, i.e. tendencies that are beyond conscious, rational control, is to complete a negotiation around the first number put forward. It turns out that we illogically fixate on the first number and it ends up looming larger than any number that's subsequently raised during the negotiation.

Simplistically speaking, there are generally three possible "anchor" figures for any salary negotiation: (a) your most recent salary, (b) your employer's offer, and (c) your salary request, or what you tell your employer you want. If you control the anchor, you get to pick the number that has outsized influence in the final outcome.

This may not always be possible. But if your prospective employer calls you to say "Hi Amy, we're really excited to be able to extend an offer to you" and then pauses -- this is your chance to jump right in!

7. "The salary I'm asking for is directly based on my salary history, education, training and qualifications. So you can consider $Z a guide."

One of the reasons most job candidate don't get to put forward an anchor figure of their choosing is that they have previously answered a recruiter or hiring manager's question about their most recent salary or salary history.

So our advice is guarded about this information (assuming that the answer is not to your advantage, of course). You have no legal or moral obligation to share your salary history and though it may seem unreasonable to not provide it, here are a few different answers we think are better alternatives to answering the question directly.

8. "My most recent salary was much higher than the one you're offering. In fact, sharing it seems unfair because the company was experiencing major growth at the time. For this role and given my skill set, I think $X is appropriate."

9. "The pay in my last role isn't very relevant here because it was for a pretty different role and set of responsibilities. I'm really focused on how important this job's deliverables are, which is why I think $Y is a reasonable salary."

This statement can also come in handy if you already gave in to persistent questions (or previously disclosed) your salary history. It allows you to explain why it may not be relevant to base your current offer on your salary history alone.

10. "I think $X is fair and I will accept that offer. I think $X is fair and I will accept that offer. I think $X is fair and I will accept that offer."

No, we don't literally think you should repeat yourself. But our (belabored) point is to practice. Very few people are good at negotiating because very few people practice. You should enlist the help of your partner, spouse, friends and family (or at a minimum, your mirror).

Rehearse some of the lines you anticipate using, and say them until you're very comfortable. Practice will make the awkward moments feel just a bit more comfortable, and we've found that saying numbers aloud really does make the real conversation feel easier.

11. "You realize you're hiring me to run our deal teams, so you want me to be good at this."

These words are taken straight out of Sheryl Sandberg's mouth from her negotiation with Facebook. In other words, Sandberg made it a point to emphasize why it was legitimate to be negotiating in the first place. This is something that negotiation experts say is particularly important for women who can be socially penalized for asking for more.

Studies show that women can be viewed more negatively than men for negotiating for the same things because of social perceptions and unconscious expectations that women should be "nice" and not "too demanding".

12. "This is the last time I'll be on the other side of the table."

This is the second thing Sandberg made a point to say. As a result of the social stigma women can experience when they negotiate, this statement is meant to encourage women to pursue negotiation in a collaborative manner. In other words, it may sometimes be helpful to explicitly point out that you don't generally hold a "me against you" mentality.

13. "Look, I don't mean to create an awkward situation but I really think I'm the best person for the job and I hope we can get to a number that will be a good foundation for a great, long-term relationship."

Sometimes you simply need to acknowledge and diffuse a conversation that's gotten too heated for your liking. Saying something like the above can make everyone relax. It also acknowledges the fact that negotiation is typically uncomfortable for everyone involved and that it's a short-term issue for the sake of a longer-term equilibrium.

If you've reached this point, sometimes its best to simply take a break and let the message sink in. Plus, you should have already decided whether you have a "walk away" number and whether you would accept "no" for an answer.

14. [Repeat the number.] Say "Hmmmm." Or say nothing at all.

Silence can be golden. One of our favorite practical tips from salary experts is to be silent when you need more time to react, or think. Or perhaps, you simply don't know what to say.

Silence can play to your advantage. Nobody likes uncomfortable silences and you can use this type of delay tactic to buy you time to think.

15. "Thank you very much. I need to take some time to consider this."

If you think you need more than just to consider an offer -- or to prepare to negotiate it -- don't feel the need to respond and nod, or say "OK". Being agreeable too quickly is something that can cost you thousands of dollars, and you're not being disagreeable simply by asking for more time.

A new job is a big decision that may require some more research and thought. Most recruiters agree that employers will not think it odd for you to take some time to consider an offer so long as you express enthusiasm for the role and have provided some reasonable timeline for getting back to them, or a reason for your request.

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Former professor Jill L. Ferguson is an award-winning author of seven books, including co-author of Raise Rules for Women: How to Make More Money at Work, and thousands of published articles. She is also an artist, business and higher education consultant, entrepreneur and founder of Women's Wellness Weekends

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