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Want to get an edge on a raise at work?
You probably know you should , but what’s the best way to do that? Here are six surprising facts about negotiation that will help you walk out of your boss’s office with a raise in hand:
1. You actually have to ask
Negotiation is a conversation. But your manager is probably perfectly happy with things as they are, so to start that conversation, you have to ask.
Leaving things as they are saves your manager time and money, and she doesn’t have many incentives to give you what you may deserve or even initiate a discussion with you about what you want and need. You are the only person who’s motivated to change the status quo, so if you don’t ask for a change, it won’t happen.
2. Not asking means leaving real money on the table
We often don’t appreciate how much we might be leaving on the table over time by not asking or not asking for enough.
To illustrate this, consider the case of two 30-year-old candidates who are offered the same salary. Susy negotiates for $6,000 more, and Grace takes the original salary offer. If Susy stashes away just the additional $6,000 a year, she will have more than $350,000 more in savings than Grace (assuming a savings rate of 2.5 percent) at age 65. That’s a decent chunk of additional change Grace is missing out on!
See how much more you could be saving if you got a salary increase . When you don’t negotiate, you’re leaving real money on the table.
3. You don’t have to assemble a broad array of arguments
Remember the phrase “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit?” While you don’t want to get yourself in that situation, this is a perfect example of how to get the result you want in a negotiation. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to come up with 20 reasons why you deserve what you’re asking for. One or two strong arguments are actually more effective than throwing out four or five.
Do some thinking about the strongest reasons why you deserve what you want, and keep the focus of the conversation on those reasons.
4. The process itself is often negotiated
Some workers don’t realize that getting to the negotiation may itself be a negotiation. Learn to recognize when higher-ups are negotiating the process. Have you had a boss who brushed you off for weeks or months when you tried to set a time for a ? Or maybe that manager wanted to have the discussion at that exact moment, even if that happened to be in the hall after the group meeting?
These are actually negotiation tactics—one of delay, the other of hurrying you. It’s important to remember that you can negotiate when you’ll negotiate. You can also respond to this tactic by asking for a more appropriate time for you. Similarly, for the brush-off, ask for a fixed date when you can meet.
5. The secret is, your boss hates negotiating, too
Believe it or not, your manager or boss may dislike negotiating far more than you do. Her dislike could have a wide variety of origins, including not liking to say “no” or disappoint people, thinking she is bad at negotiating or worrying she’ll “lose.” Avoiding conversations often signals the former, while being combative or aggressive indicates the latter.
Approaching the conversation as a persuasion exercise and highlighting a win-win option—or at least showing it won’t hurt your manager—will make the process easier for your boss, which means it’s easier for you, too.
What else can help? Consider how your boss or manager likes to be approached and what gets her to change in other settings. When is she most relaxed? What makes her uptight? Use that knowledge to make her feel comfortable so that you’re more likely to get what you’re looking for.
6. It doesn’t have to be only about money
We tend to focus on asking for a higher or a bonus and may miss asking for other perks that can be helpful in our career and life. Would additional (paid for) training or courses help you on to greater opportunities? Would flex time or telecommuting allow you to spend more time on non-work interests or obligations? How about more vacation? What about taking on a different role or getting to do something you’ve always wanted to try?
These asks have tangible benefits to you and sometimes to your company. And, as a bonus, it can be easier for managers to give them than money.
Does negotiating at work make you nervous? What’s the scariest part?
Katie Slater is a recovering finance attorney who now coaches people on their professional development and leadership. Find out more about her and read more of her thoughts at and on Twitter @careerinfusion.