Take The Fear Out Of Negotiating A Raise

Do you get yourself in a bit of a panic at the thought of asking your manager for a raise? You aren’t alone.

I had a client call to say she was feeling really anxious about negotiating her salary. She was wondering if I had a trick up my sleeve to calm her nerves.

Her company had a new CEO and she liked him but he was making changes.  It impacted my client because he wanted her to take a new position with more staff to manage and a bigger piece of client business. All that sounded great.

Then they told her there wouldn’t be a raise.  It’s not uncommon to get more responsibility without a raise these days.  Everyone seems to be expected to “work up” before they are compensated for the role.  That said, there needs to be a motivator and she wasn’t seeing one.

At the point she called me, she’d gotten stuck in a mental rut of “It’s not fair.” Of course she explained it in more grown up words.  She said they expected her to double her responsibility, take on a challenging client and a bunch of new staff without any benefit to her.

She was seeing it from a fight or flight perspective.  She saw her options as battling for a raise or walking away from the new role.  She’d almost convinced herself to say “no thank you.”

I asked her to talk me through the CEO’s plans for expanding the agency.  Her tone shifted from resentment to enthusiasm.  He was intent on building their digital expertise, something she had experience in.  He wanted to cut some of the old fashion work and concentrate on innovating new ways to motivate consumers.

I asked how her clients would respond and again she was positive.  She’d built a good relationship with her biggest client, the account was growing and they would be open to trying the digital work.

All this sounded like a good foundation to build a proposal for a salary increase.

Get the rational part clear in your head
Then we shifted gears and discussed the rational part.  She had already listed her responsibilities and pay for the last three years. This is a great place to start because these are tangible facts.

Then we talked about the figure she wanted to be paid in this new role with the added responsibilities. She’d done a bit of research and had a figure in mind.

Consider a menu of trade offs
Like all good negotiations, we talked about how much she was willing to give on her ideal figure and equally, what else she could ask for if the negotiations went well.

With a bit of brainstorming we came up with several options, some more exciting than others.  The two she liked best were taking a little less of a raise for the new role, if she could work a 9 day fortnight. Alternatively, if the negotiations were going well she could ask for a parking space.

That was the rational bit out of the way.

Adding in the emotions
Emotions play a part in negotiations.  In this case she recognized that several other staff members would be approaching the CEO in that defensive, “it’s not fair” frame of mind. There were several of them that had been asked to reshape their job without an increase.

Going in on the defensive becomes a battle of wills, which potentially could put your job at stake and doesn’t leave a great impression with the boss.

This wasn’t her style and was causing some of her anxiety.  She wanted to build a relationship with her CEO.  She wanted it to be positive and respectful, a win-win for both of them.  She hoped it would feel collaborative.

Thinking through the emotional tone she wanted to set helped her move out of the “flight or fight” sensation.  Recognising that she could control the tone of the meeting and that she could set that up with her approach gave her confidence.

Use your empathy – walk in their wingtips or stilettos
Having defined where she wanted to be emotionally in her negotiations, we worked out how to get there.

The CEO was new and hoping to bring in a new direction.  To make that happen he’d need advocates, people who shared his vision.  He’d need people he could trust and some early wins to show his digital proposition would work.

At that stage I asked if she could picture her salary negotiations with him as a creative pitch.  I got her to talk me through how she’d persuade a client to spend more.

She had a lot of success over the years getting clients to put some additional budget into their campaigns. She’d start by clarifying that she understood their goals, budget and their point of view. Then she’d offer them a couple of options and help sway them in the direction she thought would be most effective for their campaign.

I asked how she did that swaying.  She said she’d talk them through the basics they’d get with the lower budget, then take them through all the added benefits they could get by investing more on their work – “Ahh, I see the correlation.”

She had it from there.  She was off to make the CEO feel like she was part of his team and talk him through how her client could be an early win for him.

Then she’d walk him through her current pay and responsibilities and move right on to the new role and the new responsibility she could shoulder for him.

She’d discuss how she could help him achieve his vision, the approach she’d take to do that and how it would benefit him and the agency.  When she had set that up, she would be in a good position to discuss what she’d like to be paid for that new part of her job and why it would be worth it to him.

A quick summary
1.  Put together your facts before you go in, don’t try to wing it.  What have your responsibilities been, what are you most proud of achieving and what have you learned over the last couple of years.  Jot down any added responsibility you’ve taken on since your last pay review, what you are currently paid for that and how long you’ve been at that level.

Then list any new areas of responsibility you are willing to take on.  Decide what you want to be paid, how flexible you can be with that number and what else you might ask for if things go well.

2.  Think about the emotional tone you want to set.  You are building an on going relationship so set the tone that will carry through in your work.

3.  Use your empathy – what does your boss want or need to further his or her role?  How can you help support that so you both look good?

4.  Build your salary proposal with these components. Take your boss on the journey so he can see where you’ve been, what you are bringing to the party and why that increase is worth it for him.

With a bit of prep you can walk into that meeting with your boss looking like the polished professional that you are and hopefully, walk out with a spring in your step.




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