It’s happened to almost all of us – or will: In casual conversation, you learn that your coworker is getting paid 15% more than you are for doing the same job. You’re incensed and are about to march into your manager’s office to right this wrong.
Not so fast.
To increase your chances of getting the raise you ask for, follow these guidelines:
Timing is everything
If the company has just announced a layoff, or if its stock price plummeted yesterday, or [insert favorite catastrophe here], put off your compensation discussion until the waters calm a bit.
Similarly, if your manager just got off the plane after a 27-hour flight home from Asia, defer the conversation.
You want both the company, in general — and your manager, in particular — to be calm, focused and feeling benevolent during your comp negotiations. You can’t control all of the environmental factors, but use timing to control the ones you can.
Focus on how your work has benefited the company
Spend the bulk of your comp discussion answering the question, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ Recap for your manager the successful projects you’ve handled since your last salary review. Translate the results of those projects into dollars –- how much revenue they helped create for the company or the costs savings they produced.
If you can’t quantify your work monetarily, at least tie it back to the company’s larger business objectives. (For example, your work on the acquisition of a Chinese distributor may have helped your company achieve its stated goal of entering Asia by the end of the year.)
You want to show that, through your performance, you are helping the company meet its larger goals. This makes you look like someone who puts the company’s interests first — and increases your chances of getting that raise.
Point to your ‘morphing’ job responsibilities
If you’ve assumed more responsibilities, taken on significant special projects or started managing more people since your last pay raise, by all means, play the ‘above and beyond’ card in your negotiations.
Do not mention the details of your coworker’s compensation
First off, you don’t know the circumstances that surrounded your coworker’s salary negotiations — nor are you entitled to know them. Secondly, you’ll look whiny, petty, prying or all three. (‘Mom, you’ve always liked him best!’)
You can, however, indicate that you know the general range of salaries the company is paying people who do the job you’re doing — and that you believe you are at the low end of the range.
Come armed with general market research
Although you shouldn’t bring up the details of your coworker’s comp during your salary discussions, you should feel free to bring up information you’ve gathered about going market rates for jobs comparable to yours.
This requires doing research: Study well-regarded salary surveys for your industry. Supplement this with reliable information you’ve gathered through your industry’s ‘grapevine’ or by taking calls from recruiters.
The more data and documentation you have to back up these salary ‘comparables,’ the more credibility they will carry. In other words, three salary surveys are better than one.
Aim for specificity: If the surveys you’re using allow you to narrow in on companies comparable to yours, your salary range data will be more compelling. Try to find data for companies similarly situated to yours in terms of geography, ownership (public or private), geographic ‘footprint’ and number of employees.
In other words, comparing MacIntosh apples to MacIntosh apples will be more persuasive than comparing the world of apples generally.
You’re about to have an important discussion. Just as with any presentation that matters, you need to rehearse. Your points should be concise, your delivery well-paced and your voice friendly but firm.
Anticipate what your manager is likely to say back to you, as he listens to your points. Prepare your responses.
Use your smartphone’s video recorder to critique yourself. ‘Rinse and repeat’ until you’re happy with what you see and hear.
Be aware of your body language
Strike a pose that looks relaxed but powerful. Remain at eye-level with your manager (if you’re below, you look like a supplicant; if above, you look threatening).
The non-verbal signals that you send out during this conversation are as powerful as the words themselves. Practice your body language as part of your rehearsal.
Using an offer from another employer to negotiate your pay raise is playing with fire. The tactic only rarely works, and it requires you to reveal that you’re job-shopping. As a result, those plum assignments and other career opportunities that have been coming your way may well dry up. This can happen even if you get the raise you asked for.
Likewise, don’t threaten to quit if you aren’t given a raise. Your manager may just take you up on that offer. If you think it’s worth changing jobs for a pay raise, then conduct your search discreetly and professionally.
Employers hate to be held hostage — and have long memories.
Don’t play tennis with yourself
And, to fill the void, that other person would often start talking about compromises that might be acceptable to both sides. Mind you, this was before my CEO had responded to the other person’s first proposal!
Don’t negotiate against yourself. Make your salary request, then wait for your manager’s response — even if it involves braving the silence.
Don’t be apologetic
If your presentation includes even a whiff of apology or insecurity, you’ve become your own enemy. Believe you’re worth the money. Then show it.