The Goods

How to ask for the raise you deserve

A negotiation specialist lays out the best ways to broach this tricky topic.

A negotiation specialist lays out the best ways to broach this tricky topic.

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Talking money can be a daunting task, especially if when it comes to asking for a raise at work. If the thought of bringing it up makes you anxious or you're wondering if you're earning your fair wage, negotiation specialist, coach and speaker Fotini Iconomopoulos stopped by The Goods to share her advice on how to broach this tricky topic. Here's her take on negotiating your salary and maybe even get that raise you worked hard to earn.

Most people can improve when it comes to negotiating

There's an inherent fear when it comes to negotiating. When you're under stress you don't want to face your fears, and lots of people are afraid because asking for money doesn't "feel" nice. Everyone wants to be liked, and people fear that they won't be if they talk about money. And women are even more hesitant to ask for what they want or deserve in the workplace. According to a study done at Carnegie Mellon University, only 7% of women and 57% of men negotiate their first salary. Compensation for those who did negotiate regardless of gender increased their compensation by about a wake up call.

Accessing what you deserve

Before you decide on your ideal salary, do some research on what people with your skills and experience level are actually paid. You need to prepare – websites are a good place to start but you really need to speak to your network and a wide range of people. Not everyone will be comfortable (or truthful) about divulging their salaries so be sure to ask questions like "what do you think someone with my background should expect salary-wise?" List out everything you bring to the table and how it benefits the company so that they know what they're getting. Fotini suggests you can even practice role playing with someone to get comfortable talking about yourself, making proposals and asking questions.

What to do if they say no

No is just the start. Put out your proposal and assume they're going to say no before talking with your bosses. What does that mean? Put a number on the table that you don't expect to get. When you settle for less you'll be perceived as a more agreeable team player. Most people think negotiation is like a tug of war with winners and losers. Know your worth but know that an arrogant attitude won't get you far. Be pleasant and build trust and people are more likely to want to make you happy and work with you on a daily basis. One way to do this is by proposing a salary range instead of a hard number, which makes you appear more flexible. However, don't make the top end of the range your true aspiration or you're likely to be disappointed.

What to do if won't meet your salary expectations

Don't walk away! There are lots of other avenues to consider. Get creative. It's not just about salary – salary budgets might be tapped out, but consider asking for phone, car, benefits, retirement matching, or the chance to work from home as part of your compensation package. Think about parking or transit fees you have to pay every day to get to work.

If you can manage to negotiate on one of these costs, you will be putting money back in your pocket and getting valuable time back every day you work. Of course, know your priorities, as that extra vacation time is nice, but it doesn't pay the bills.

Find out when the next raise might be possible

Fotini says it's totally fine to ask when you can expect the next salary increase to come. It gives you a chance to ask what criteria you need to fill or what evidence they need to see to move you up to the next salary level. Find out what would they recommend you do until the next salary discussion. Take the time to tee up your next opportunity to negotiate now. Getting these answers now is essentially giving you the guidebook on how to handle the next discussion. Try saying something like, "So that I can plot out my future, and because I've been thinking long-term about my role in this organization, when is the next opportunity for us to revisit this discussion?"

Final tips

Get it in writing! If they promised you something make sure you capture it, preferably in an email summary that you can remind them about to make them accountable. Don't let anything slip through the cracks after all of your hard work.

Fotini's other favourite piece of advice is to pause. When things get stressful and uncomfortable all rational thought goes out the window. Simply take a pause and give yourself the mental space to figure out what to say or do next. Buy yourself time to think in a conversation by saying something like "Interesting… I'll need a minute to think about that" or "I'm going to take some time to consider this and/or discuss with my family or accountant (just don't say negotiation consultant) and get back to you by xx." Be sure to take your time to edit any email responses or get a second opinion before hitting the send button. And finally, if they're putting some intense time pressure on you, question why that might be.