I’ve given out hundreds of raises, and I’ve seen every possible mistake people make during this process. Everyone should be paid fairly according to his or her skills, experience, and contribution. But most people have NO idea how to best negotiate for a raise. My mission these days is to make work dramatically more transparent and rewarding. As part of that, here is a simple but full-proof guide you can use to get a raise.
1. Always Make It a Win-Win. Most people don’t tie their raise request to the value they bring to the business. They treat raises as a matter of expectation (“I deserve this raise because I deserve this raise”). Framing it that way puts you at odds with the company. Your best bet is to connect what you’re doing to the company’s most critical metrics. If you are meaningfully driving one of those metrics, an employer is going to do whatever they can to pay you more because there’s so much value for them on the backend.
2. Catch Your Manager at the Right Time and Place. Timing is critical. If you approach your manager when she’s stressed out or in the wrong headspace, a “yes” or “maybe” could very easily become a “no.”
3. Use Data In Your Negotiations. Have the facts on your side. Be able to have an informed conversation with your manager where you can show what the market comps are for your position. Use Comparably to break it down by location, years experience, and size of company. And use a Fair Pay Report in your conversations with your manager to make it about the facts.
4. Be Honest About Whether You Have Leverage. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: If you were to leave your company tomorrow, would there be any meaningful disruption to the business? If the answer is no, you don’t have any leverage to get a raise. If the answer is yes, you’re in a position where you have leverage. Take an honest and objective look at your value to the business and negotiate accordingly. Often, the people who are most vital and critical to the organization don’t realize it, while other less critical team members overplay their hand.
5. Don’t Box Yourself In. When it comes to the actual negotiation, don’t automatically go for the highest amount you can think of. Keep your expectations vague to start and let the company be the first one to make an offer. They may be in a position where they’re going to value you even more than you do yourself. See where they start, and calibrate from there.
6. Think About It from the Employer’s Point of View. If you’re more empathetic to the company’s needs, you’re going to have a better chance of achieving your goals. For example, you may be underpaid versus the market, but the company may not be in a financial position to pay you your market value. Instead of trying to negotiate a salary increase immediately, say to your employer: “I know I’m not in a position to get a raise right now because the company doesn’t have money, but if and when the company raises $X more, can we agree to raise my salary to X?” You may not be able to get what you want in the short term, but by being empathetic to the company’s needs, you may be able to get what you want in the long-term.
7. Don’t Make Your Raise All About Comp. There are going to be times when a company can’t or won’t give you more cash, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get other benefits. Consider asking for more equity, more vacation time, new responsibilities, a better title, more flexible hours. Be fluid in your negotiations.
8. Don’t Surprise Your Boss About the Ask. Employers will generally hold yearly, bi-yearly, or quarterly performance reviews. As an employee, set the expectation that you want to talk about compensation at those meetings. In the weeks and months leading up to that talk, have pre-vetted conversations with your manager to make sure you’re meeting expectations. Reiterate the fact that you are going to have a conversation at certain date and time about your compensation so that it’s not a surprise to either side. Give your boss or manager time to think through and prepare how they want to handle the raise request.
9. Negotiate a Bonus Instead. Employers know that salaries are going to get out, no matter how much they try and keep them a secret. That’s why they’re sometimes reluctant to raise a team member’s base salary — they don’t want to create inequity in the workplace. When it comes to bonuses, however, employers tend to have more flexibility. When joining any company, ask for a signing bonus — the company may not be able to pay you the $130,000 you were hoping for, but they may be able to pay you $120,000 with a $10,000 signing bonus.
10. Avoid Being Penny Wise and Pound Foolish. One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they look for the opportunity that will pay them the most now instead of the opportunity that will help them earn dramatically more over time. When you’re 23 years old, whether you get paid $42,000 or $46,000 isn’t going to make a meaningful difference over the course of your life. The average typically hit their highest earning potential in their late 30s to early 50s. Bottom line: don’t get blindsided in the short-term about making the absolute highest compensation if it’s taking away from opportunities that can position you for longer-term success.