Race for a raise: conversation prep tips

I think I deserve a raise. I have worked very hard this year!

The above statement is sincere and, probably valid. But, it may not yield the results you’re looking for. Conversations around salary negotiations are always awkward. Even if you are a natural negotiator, this topic comes with a hint of nervousness. Hence, it calls for finesse, sharp inter-personal skills, thorough planning and what author Selena Rezvani calls ‘the art of asking’.

Most of us would ask for a pay hike when we realize the value we bring to the organization. But how do we define that value? Y Combinator’s founder Paul Graham is of the belief that getting paid more is a matter of measurement and leverage: “You need to be in a position where your performance can be measured, or there is no way to get paid more by doing more. And you have to have influence or leverage, in the sense that the decisions you make have a big impact.”

When your job is output based, like the number of products you design or the number of websites you create, it’s easier to ask for a raise by increasing your output. But if you really want to establish value, take on projects that increase the impact of your work on others. That is why, senior management has it relatively smooth, when seeking a raise. The work culture of Amazon emphasizes this practice – own a project, deliver, accomplish, and state your worth.

Another pre-requisite to this conversation is the evidence. Selna Rezvani says, “Knowledge and preparation give you a huge advantage but there’s an art to unloading that information.” Peel the onion layer by layer, as you exchange views, calling only on what you need, when you need it. You decide what to reveal when, and give your counterpart time to digest each point. This information can be about industry-wide salaries, or unique contributions that bolster your case – money-saving efficiencies you implemented, results from a project you’ve just overseen, positive customer testimonials, or praise from higher up.

Also, remember that this conversation is not about grievances. Kathleen McGinn, professor at Harvard Business School highlights the importance of staying positive – “You’ll just put your boss on the defensive if you share what makes you unhappy. Avoid comparing yourself to colleagues or complaining that you make less. You should also avoid implicitly or explicitly threatening to leave as a negotiating tactic.” Never makes for a pretty picture!

All said and done, these conversations can go either way. Don’t get disheartened if you hear a no. You can always revisit it in a few months, with more accomplishments/data under your belt. But, if you still wish to persist, choose a different time than the review cycle, to ask for a raise. Your manager will be less overwhelmed. And, remember to let us know how it goes.

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