Here’s another sign of a changing – improving – job market: The experts are talking about how negotiate a starting salary or a raise. Much of the advice is good. However, I think any kind of negotiation with an employer can be broken down to two basic questions:
- What do you want?
- Why should your employer give it to you?
Too often we as employees are resentful of co-workers who work less and make more money. Or we tell ourselves that we are working that we deserve better pay because we are working so hard. These points may be true, but they won’t help you get a raise or better starting salary. Focus on two people: the person who can give you a raise and yourself.
First, know what you want. Here it is important to know how other employees are paid and how similar companies pay people in similar positions. If you don’t have this information, you can do research using online salary websites. The problems with these sites is that they make broad estimates. Salaries vary from region to region and company to company.
Establish a clear goal for negotiation and a salary range. If your currently making $50,000 and want a $3,000 raise, give yourself and your boss room to work. I’d recommend asking for a raise between $2,500 and $4,000. This range will let you negotiate up or you might get what you want with any kind of dickering. If you ask for $3,000, expect your employer to offer less.
While you think about what you want, you also need to put yourself in the employer’s place: Why do you deserve a raise? Think about what you have done over the last year. How have you contributed to the company? How have you made a difference? Make a list of your achievements, quantifying them if possible. Know you worth and be ready to help you employer understand why you deserve better pay. Keep your tone professional at all times. Focus on what you are doing for the company and what you expect in return.
Some employers are still very hesitant to give raises. They might offer a much lower number than you want or say they can give no raise at all. Just a few years ago, your options would have been limited. Now, the good news is that the job market has changed and hiring is up. If your current employer won’t give you the salary you want, it’s time to look for a new job with better pay or better working conditions. Know your value and find an employer who is smart enough to pay a fair wage and value your skill.
I’m coaching a client whose been offered a job as a tutor. The employer offered $15 per hour, but said he is open to negotiation. My client is currently making $20 an hour at a part time job, and she works an extra job she will have to give up to take the tutoring position. She wants the job as a tutor, but wants to make at least $18 an hour.
We practiced role playing for a negotiation session. My client, speaking in a muffled voice, said she really needed $18. Playing the employer, I responded that the best I could was $16, and my client meekly replied, “O.K.” That’s not a good negotiation style or strategy.
The first thing we worked on was sounding calm and confident at all time. Even if a negotiation doesn’t go the way you want, it is important to sound like you are in control, the equal of the person you are negotiating with. Practice your negotiation pitch, and listen to yourself. Keep practicing until you sound calm and natural.
The second step is to develop a strategy to obtain the wage you are seeking. When my client started by asking for the wage she wanted, she was setting herself up to get less. What should you do? If you want $50,000, ask for $53,000 or $55,000. These amounts will give you room to negotiate down. I practiced with my client so she would ask for $20 per hour with a goal of going no lower than $18. If she’s lucky, the employer will pay the higher amount.
The third step is to develop reasons why you are worth what you are asking for. The employer really doesn’t care about what you need. They need to know why you are worth what you are asking for or why you have something now that will let you walk away from the offer. My client currently makes a little more per hour (at a part time job). She also has training in an area that few other tutors have, which is another reason she should be paid more. Before you negotiate, have some reasons why you are worth what you’re asking for.
Finally, know your limits and risks. If you negotiate in a way that is disrespectful or out of line with standards for salary, an employer could pull an offer. Do homework on salary rates before negotiating. Be respectful, but focused on your goals. If you negotiate in a strategic and professional manner, the employer will respect you and accept some or all of your terms.
Last Sunday’s USA Weekend featured an article on negotiation by Jeff Wurorio that was entitled “Let’s Make a Deal.” Wuorio makes a simple point: Anything can be negotiated. He gives examples of a man asking for a raise, a woman trying to get her teenagers to work around the house, a couple deciding what to do on the weekend, a woman trying to get a hotel to waive fees, and a family deciding where to spend its vacation. All of these situations involve decisions about which people can disagree – and compromise.
The obvious question behind any negotiation is: How do I get what I want? Wuorio makes a good point that applies in all of these situations: “Keep the conversation positive and focused, and great things can happen.” I agree about tone. It does no good to be confrontational or bullying. Know what you want, but it’s equally important to know what the other party wants and what you have to give.
Rather than asking what you want, let your first step in negotiation be to ask: What am I willing to give up? What does the other party want? Once you answer those questions, you will know what leverage you have to negotiate. The more the other party wants what you have, the more power you have to negotiate. Conversely, the less they want what you have, the less they will be willing to deal. If you don’t have something they want, you are not negotiating. You are begging.
Take the time to ask the right questions, and your ability to negotiate will be much stronger.
Workers often end up in situations where they feel forced to make an instant decision: a job offer, salary negotiation, performance reviews, or signing a disciplinary document. One of my clients is involved in a negotiation that might not go his way. I gave him this advice: If you feel yourself getting angry or tongue-tied, ask for 24 hours to think about the situation. Taking a day will let you make a clear decision and express yourself more clearly.
Some employers will demand instant action. In those cases, do not assume good will. Ask what the consequence will be if you do not make an immediate decision. Or ask why the employer will not give you a day to think about your decision. Asking such questions will at least give you a few minutes to think about your action. They might even change the employer’s mind.
If you are forced to act immediately, know that you have the right not to accept what the employer is offering. It might cost you a job, but, in the long run, that could be a good thing. Bully employers will keep asking for more and more. Don’t give in to such people.