How To Ask for More Money the Right Way

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Research shows that about half of workers have never asked an employer for higher pay. Why is it so hard to negotiate salary?

It may come down to our cultural discomfort around discussing money. In a PayScale survey, 28% of respondents who said they had never negotiated salary said they were uncomfortable asking for more. Nearly a fifth of respondents said they didn’t want to be perceived as pushy.

But asking for what you deserve doesn’t have to come off as aggressive. There is a right way to negotiate salary. Here’s how to ask for more.

Remember That You’re Negotiating Partners

Asking for a raise or negotiating a starting salary can feel like a confrontation. But your boss or hiring manager isn’t your adversary. You share the same goal: to get you paid appropriately for your skills or experience.

Why should they care about your salary (other than making sure that your compensation fits into their budget)? 

Research shows that workers who feel that they’re paid fairly are more productive, more engaged, and stay at their jobs longer than those who don’t. You’ll work harder and produce more if you feel like you’re being treated fairly.

In addition, you are expensive to replace. Research shows that employers can expect to spend about 30% of a departing employee’s salary on recruiting and hiring their replacement.

Do Your Research

Salary ranges can vary widely from employer to employer, but it’s still a good idea to get a sense of a reasonable salary for the job.

Use free salary calculators from sites like Glassdoor, PayScale, and Salary.com to find ranges for your job title. Don’t forget to add skills and certifications where applicable and to note standard benefits and perks. Depending on your situation, it may make sense to take a lower salary for more time off or better health insurance. But you won’t be able to make that determination until you have all the data.

Rely on that data, and not your emotions, when you negotiate salary. Money is personal. It can be tempting to vent your frustrations or share your personal circumstances during the discussion. Resist that urge. Make your case based on the facts.

Prepare for Bias

In a perfect world, your skills and qualifications would be the only thing that mattered during a salary negotiation. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Everyone has bias and, unfortunately, this includes your employer.

In practical terms, this may mean that you have to negotiate differently, depending on who you are. For example, research shows that women pay a higher social cost for negotiating and are often perceived as more demanding and less “nice” when they ask for more.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t negotiate if you’re likely to experience the effects of this bias. But it does mean that you may need to be aware of that bias and take steps to get around it. For instance, women may choose to tie their request to the team’s mission, especially if negotiation is part of the role.

Sample script: “We’ve talked about how the ideal person for this role will be aggressive about sales goals. Given that, is there room in the budget for [X amount compensation]?”

Understand the Culture

Networking has value beyond helping you find job opportunities and get referrals to open positions. It can also help you get the dirt on how things work at a prospective employer. 

If you have contacts at the company, tap into their insight. If they will share their salary range, so much the better. But if they’re reluctant to talk numbers, you can still get their perspective on the company culture around salary.

Capitalize on the Right Moment

When it comes to salary negotiation, it’s important to choose your moment wisely. Some times are better than others for getting what you want.

When You Have a Job Offer

For example, 70% of hiring managers say they expect candidates to negotiate a job offer. So, it’s almost always a good idea to ask for more when you’re offered a job. Even if there’s no room in the budget, there’s little risk of offending the hiring manager.

When You Want a Raise

What about when you’re negotiating a raise at your current job? Timing is important then, too. Keep in mind that a number of factors need to align in order for your manager to be able to plead your case. Choose a time when the company is doing well financially and your work has been recently recognized as a valuable contribution.

Be prepared to lay the groundwork: Contrary to what you might assume, your year-end review isn’t always the best time to get a big raise because budgets are often set by that point. But it is a good time to let your boss know that you’re eager for new challenges (and the rewards that come with them).

Be Honest

In one survey, 39% of respondents said they’d lied about having another job offer to get a higher salary offer. For obvious reasons, this is a bad idea.

Even if you’re not caught in a lie, you’d be starting a job on false pretenses if you made up a competing offer. You don’t need to engage in trickery to get a better salary. 

You deserve an employer who will pay you fairly based on your merits. By doing your research and learning how to talk about money with greater comfort, you can achieve your goals with honesty.