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Negotiating Salary

August 14, 2017

 

 Very few people look forward to a salary negotiation whether it be as part of a job offer or asking for a raise. Some would say it is because it has to do with our sense of value, pride or the fact that some simply don’t like talking about money. Others firmly believe if they do great work, fair pay will follow. 

 

Many employers view this as a difficult conversation as well. So we have both parties negotiating in spite of themselves on what can be a very important issue to their relationship.

 

Negotiating a job offer is different from asking for a raise however they do have some things in common. In both cases research and preparation are key. Thankfully salary information is much easier to find through increased salary transparency in many sectors, websites like payscale.com and salary.com (to be used with caution and grains of salt) and by accessing people’s networks of friends in similar jobs. 
In both job offer and pay raise negotiation viewing the exercise as one where a package comprised of many components is being discussed is much more advisable than strictly negotiating pay. Talking about the entirety of working conditions is a much better approach with more focus on time off, responsibilities, benefits, flexibility, educational opportunities etc. 

 

Also common to both is the notion that the discussion needs to be focused on adding value, on why you deserve a certain amount and on past and especially future contributions.  I urge extreme caution when leveraging other outside opportunities or drawing comparisons to other employees or worse using ultimatums.

 

In any negotiation the ability to put oneself in the other party’s shoes is paramount. What are the constraints facing the employer, what are the labour markets like and what is the financial state of the employer? It is critical to know in order to understand which traded offs may be appropriate. 
 
When negotiating with your boss over a raise, timing is of the essence. Performance review time (if such a process exists) may or may not be the best time depending on your performance and the performance of your team and the entire company. Some key principles of “managing up” also come into play such as understanding what the boss’s current challenges and preoccupations are and how you can help? How is the boss’s job changing and where are the opportunities within the department or sector? Why should the boss do this and what are their interests in the negotiation? Doing a bit of appropriate networking with the boss’s boss never hurts either.

 

Opening statements that seek a “fair outcome”, explaining why it is legitimate in your view to negotiate in the first place and approaching the negotiation collaboratively to maintain positive working relationships is of the essence for both men and especially women. There is much evidence to support that women negotiate less frequently, ask for less than they should and are very concerned about the “social cost” of any negotiation. This underscores the importance of establishing why the negotiation needs to takes place in the first place and paying appropriate attention to being assertive and collaborative.  Both men and women need to be able to assertively state what they are looking for when asked how much they want or have a strategy for answering the question. Referring to past earnings or asking about the employer’s range for the position are common practices…but you still need a number. 

 

For managers who get the knock on the door and the request for a raise, I have a few suggestions. Firstly understand that this in all likelihood is a difficult conversation for your staff person to have and even if they have prepared, researched and rehearsed they are probably uncomfortable and may not be at their best. Secondly and most importantly use the request as an opportunity to have a broader conversation about their performance, the role and their job satisfaction. You will likely learn something whether or not you can respond to the request in the affirmative and remember that how you respond will make a difference on the relationship and ultimately their performance. 
 

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