If you’re an employee, as many of us are, you should know how to negotiate a raise with your employer.
Many of us shy away from raise negotiations though because it makes us nervous, we worry we’ll sound greedy or entitled, or we don’t know how to go about doing it.
The good news is that by following a few key steps, you can take the intimidation out of making the ask. The better news: global factors like inflation, an ongoing pandemic, and a shortage of workers make it the perfect time to negotiate your salary.
Before we dive into the how and when of salary negotiations, we’ll cover why it’s important to ask your employer for a wage increase.
Why you should negotiate a raise
The question of how to negotiate a raise is a critical one if we look at it from the standpoints of career advancement and lifetime earnings.
Negotiation is an integral part of career development. As you grow professionally, contribute positively to your employer, seek opportunities to develop new skills, and take on new responsibilities, you’ll naturally find yourself in a position to negotiate your compensation.
A higher title, an increased salary, or added benefits are all perks that will help you feel valued, engaged, and motivated at work. This in turn will further boost your confidence and help to advance in your career.
How to negotiate a raise to boost your lifetime earnings
Brokering a deal to increase your salary won’t only help advance your career but will also boost your lifetime earnings.
Unfortunately, we avoid conversations about what we make because in Canada, talking about money is a taboo subject.
This sealed lip approach to finance makes salary negotiations feel foreign at best and anxiety-provoking at worse. The result: people avoid it completely.
The only one this avoidance hurts, though, is you. More specifically, it hurts your earning potential. By not entering into salary talks you risk losing out on, by some estimates, hundreds of thousands of dollars in income over your lifetime.
We’re here to encourage you to leverage your lifetime earning potential by making the ask. Without exaggeration, getting a raise is one of the most powerful ways to improve your future financial position.
This brings us to our 9 tips that will help prepare you to ask for a raise.
1. Request a raise, don’t demand one
The first thing to remember when thinking about asking for a raise is that your employer doesn’t owe you one.
Yes, you may be due for a salary increase and yes, you may have taken on oodles of more work recently but that doesn’t mean you’re due more money. At least, not from your employer’s perspective.
With this in mind, enter into a discussion from the perspective of a negotiation rather than from a demand. If your intent is to demand more money, not only is this in bad taste, it demonstrates you’re not a team player.
It’s best to consider a salary discussion as exactly that: a discussion. It’s a conversation between two parties about what they can offer one another.
Create a win-win situation, or one where you both get what you want. For example, in exchange for a higher salary or more vacation time, you pledge to take on a new project or greater responsibility.
2. Understand your employer’s needs
An effective negotiation should include a deep understanding of the other party’s motivations.
Take the time to reflect on what your employer wants. What are your boss’ priorities? What goals does the company have for growth or development?
Keep these in mind when you head to the negotiating table and craft your argument for a raise by including these in the discussion.
Consider your company’s current situation
Before asking for a salary increase, take note of your company’s current financial and human resources position.
Have there been recent layoffs? Did they recently land a huge project? Have there been recent cost-cutting practices taking place?
By assessing your company’s situation, you do the following:
- Time your negotiation right,
- Identify potential obstacles that could affect the discussion, and
- Adjust your expectations by lowering your ask or switching gears to ask for something other than pay increase, e.g., more personal days.
3. Know your worth
Before sitting down with your manager to discuss pay advancement, know your worth. How do you determine your worth? Do your research.
Research the comparable salary range in your industry. Why? Without this information, you’ll appear unprepared and be at the mercy of someone who does have this information.
Empower yourself by:
- Researching the salary range for your job position. Use Glassdoor, Indeed, and Payscale as starters, plus check out Randstad’s most current salary guide.
- Taking into consideration geography. A graphic designer based in Toronto won’t earn the same as one in Winnipeg.
- Asking professionals in similar roles, both male and female, what they earn.
- Talking to recruiters.
Assume you’re entitled to top pay, then negotiate from there
After you’ve done your research, you’ll be left with a salary range that represents your value.
You may be tempted to pick the number in the middle of the range as your new target. This would be a mistake for two reasons:
- You’re not assuming you’re entitled to top pay, which you are, and
- This doesn’t give wiggle room to negotiate down.
Pick a number at the top of the range to show your value and confidence in your abilities and to allow for a buffer for when your boss wants to negotiate, which they most likely will.
One last tip about knowing your value: when you go to the table with a number, make it specific. This will lend (even more) credibility to your argument when it comes to pitching for a raise.
4. Do a performance review on yourself
Before you head to the bargaining table, take some time to assess your performance since your hiring date or last review. You’re your best advocate. Make the argument that you’re worth the additional investment.
Do the following in preparation for your meeting:
- Come prepared with examples of how you’ve successfully managed your recent projects, exceeded expectations, saved the company money, and took on extra responsibilities.
- Detail your track record of high performing, quality work since we’ve been with the company.
- Include your soft skills. As much as managers want to keep high performing employees they also want to keep team members who are motivated, bring up team moral, and are easy to work with.
5. Prepare your ask
You’ve done the research, you’ve completed a performance review on yourself, and you’ve assessed your employer’s needs. It’s time to prepare your ask and what you plan to offer in return.
Prepare for several scenarios:
- Plan A: Your dream ask is accepted,
- Plan B: Your rebuttal pitch if Plan A isn’t accepted, and
- Plan C: If both Plan A and B are rejected, your final step is to request a follow-up meeting at a later date to continue the conversation.
When negotiating a raise, consider more than salary
When compiling your wish list, consider other benefits aside from a salary increase, like:
- Vacation Time: It’s been shown that working less and resting more improves productivity. If you don’t think a salary increase is in the cards, ask for more time off instead.
- Tuition: Tuition reimbursement for programs and degree requirements relevant to your position can be appealing to those who want to further their education.
- Professional Development: Like tuition, if there’s a certification program, course, or another training program that would boost your value to your employer and boost your work enjoyment, then ask if your company would cover the cost.
- Mentorship: A benefit that can lead to professional growth and better interpersonal relationships, mentorship shouldn’t be overlooked as an added benefit of employment.
- Childcare: Depending on your family situation, asking your company to help cover the cost of childcare, or agreeing to a more flexible work schedule, could do wonders for your quality of life, your work efficiency, and your sanity!
- Flexibility: As with childcare flexibility, working from home, having flexible work hours, and being on a slightly different work schedule than your peers can be worth more to you than more money.
- Bonuses: Negotiating a bonus shows your employer you’re invested in the company. If the organization does better and you’re there to play a role in that success you’re rewarded for this contribution.
6. Practice your negotiation
You’ve put time and effort into preparing your salary negotiation. It would be a waste of a good pitch if you didn’t practice it first.
The best presenters practice practice practice. We highly recommend you rehearse what you’re going to say. Not only will it help you work out the kinks in your request it will also help you to feel more relaxed and confident when it comes time to have the conversation.
7. Mention you expectations early and often
No one likes to be surprised in a negotiation. As much as it’s important for you to plan in advance, your boss deserves the same courtesy; it’s also the polite thing to do.
Plus, you’ll benefit from your employer having the chance to think things over ahead of time. You never know: they might make you an offer so good you can’t refuse.
By letting your manager know you’d like to discuss your position with the company ahead of time, your bargaining may end up being more fruitful, and way shorter, than you could have imagined!
8. Present your pitch
When it comes time for you to make the ask, it’s important to start by expressing your commitment and gratitude to the company. You can do this in a few ways:
- Be optimistic and express your commitment to the organization
- Mention your excitement for where the company is going
- Talk about how much you enjoy working with your teammates
- Highlight the projects you’ve enjoyed working on and your role in helping them succeed
- Comment on how much you enjoy your job and express enthusiasm about where your work and company is going.
Aim to show you’re engaged in your career and the company during the negotiation. This should mimic your usual work attitude and will go a long way to helping you achieve your goal of a salary increase.
Things to remember during your salary negotiation
A conversation about compensation can be nerve wracking. Here are nine tips for keeping your cool and enjoying the process:
- Stay calm: Taking deep breaths, talking slowly, and pausing between points can make a huge difference here.
- Be gracious: be polite, prompt, and prepared. Show your appreciation for your boss’ time and attention.
- Be confident in the delivery of your pitch and in the negotiations that follow.
- Stay flexible: You’ve done your homework, now it’s time to listen to what you manager has to offer. Stay open-minded here. You never know what may come your way as a counter-offer.
- Ask for feedback: Everything is a learning opportunity. Show your willingness to get feedback and to learn.
- Be thankful: And above all, don’t forget to thank your employer for their time!
9. Schedule a follow-up meeting
The end of the first meeting isn’t the end of the negotiation.
Your last to-do is to schedule a follow-up meeting. Never accept the first offer. Instead, sleep on it. This gives both you and your employer the chance to think about what was presented and the various options.
A final word on how to negotiate a raise
According to global staffing firm Robert Half, in 2020, only 36% of Canadians attempted to negotiate their salary during their last job offer negotiation. Of those who didn’t negotiate, 19% said the reason why was because the ideal made them uncomfortable.
If you were one of the 19% when you accepted your last job offer, all is not lost. Through this post, we hope we’ve encouraged you to build the confidence you need to ask for a raise.
Remember: no one is going to look after you and your financial situation more than you. This includes your salary and lifetime earnings.
At Backbone, we’ve built a community of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and team members who support one another, boost each others confidence, help grow each other’s careers.
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