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Negotiating a Raise That Pays

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You’re most likely reading this article because you have a performance review coming up and feel under-appreciated and probably underpaid at work.

The reality is it’s very rare for any company to automatically give out generous raises and bonuses, but it’s up to you to ask. What usually happens is that with all the deadlines, you get buried in the “weeds of tasks” and by the end of the day there’s no time left to assess your future and the future of your paycheck.

You’re not alone.

According to a recent LinkedIn survey of more than 2,000 professionals, 39 percent of Americans report feeling frightened about the thought of negotiating their next raise, and it’s even harder for women. Within that same survey, Forbes highlighted that only 26 percent of women were comfortable negotiating a higher salary compared to 40 percent for men.

So, what do you do about it?

RocheWe caught up with Barbara Roche, a professor at The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an executive coach and public speaker, who was able to help us understand how women can achieve their career goals.

According to Roche, women have the tendency to think they are either not ready, not knowledgeable enough, or need some extra training allowing  them to feel prepared for the next best thing.

“We all have to learn the key to being well-liked and excelling in our careers. Generally, the majority of women hesitate when men say, ‘Okay, what’s next? I’m ready.’ This shouldn’t be the case. Despite the fact that we like to be cooperative and part of a team we should stop believing that in order to excel in our careers we have to keep our mouths shut,” she explains.

Practice Makes Perfect

“Consistent with what I have found and the research I have seen, learning how to negotiate is a skill set just like anything else. It’s just like a muscle. If you want to tone those thighs, you have to do the right exercises, don’t you? It takes some practice.”

When you first begin the journey toward becoming a successful negotiator, Roche believes the best thing you can do is to join a women’s group within your organization or start one with friends. In the beginning, you’ll want to have a safe place to practice your skills.

“One of the things that cannot be overstated is the degree that practice can turn someone who is essentially risk averse  into someone who is willing to give it a shot,” she said. “All that matters is that you have a safe place.”

The First Sentence

Start with preparing what your first sentence will be when you’re presented with an offer.

“Next time you have an opportunity, do what chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg did, she listened to her husband and brother-in-law about how to strategize when talking with Mark Zuckerberg before she even met with him.”

For example, if a company were to come back to you and say, “We are gonna give you x amount of dollars and we’re hoping you can start on the first of the month,” how would you react? What would your next sentence be in reply to that? And how comfortable are you at saying it?

“Once you figure that part out, the discussion almost always turns into a conversation that we’re all used to having versus something that we’re so unfamiliar with. After you do a little ‘friend raising’ i.e. thanking them for the offer, you’ll want the first sentence out of your mouth to be something along the lines of ‘Is that your best offer?’ or ‘Is that your final offer?'” suggested Roche.

This will not only make you sound interested and engaged, but you’ll leave out all the disappointment and frustration. Your tone of voice and word choice are crucial to the outcome of the negotiation. Using some version of “I deserve a raise” or “I believe it’s time to discuss my getting a raise” is far better than saying “I need a raise”. You’ll have to adjust your words because “need” is not the right word to use. Your boss isn’t thinking about attending to your particular needs. Instead, they are focused on the needs of the organization.

“Those two factors are what will make the first sentence out of your mouth truly shine. It will also let the person making the offer think that they are dealing with a professional,” encourages Roche. “Using neutral language is very helpful in this situation because when you include needs, wants and shoulds you are being judgmental.”

Timing Is Everything

Another important factor is timing. You’re probably well aware that the best time to go into your boss’s office isn’t after you’ve been out on vacation or have been tardy all week from a few heavy nights of drinking.

“The best time to approach your boss is either during a performance review or after you’ve just hit it out of the park on a particular project. This is the best time considering that your supervisors won’t be caught off guard by the request. But these things are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Nonetheless, you’ll always want to sound curious, open and neutral,” said Roche.

If you have been in a position long enough to have excelled, it’s probably time you ask for a raise.

“If that’s the case, don’t worry about scheduling a talk around your quarterly or annual reviews. After you have your yearly review, which is standard, it doesn’t have to be based on that annual calendar but it has to based on something other than your preference, whim or needs,” she asserts. “It could be that you noticed within your industry your position is being paid higher or that you’ve taken on a second job within your organization, including completing more tasks than when you first got hired.”

Many times, your organization may not have the proper budget to accommodate your raise, but hopefully they still acknowledge your hard work. In other instances, if you get a “no,” maybe that’s the time to start reassessing what you’re doing with your career.

What Happens if the Answer Is “No?”

“I feel like I come at this from experience but also from helping my clients over the past five years with this issue and sometimes the answer is not what you want. Then you have to decide what to do. Do you love your job? Do you enjoy your co-workers? Your commute? What do you really like about your job to make it worth staying if you get a NO?” Roche asks.

“First, you need to decide right away in your heart of hearts whether or not you want to stay with the organization and the job. If the answer is “yes,” you have to go back to your boss and say, ‘Thank you for having that conversation with me. And while it didn’t go the way I had planned, I want you to know that I’m committed to this organization and this job.’ Your  boss needs to know either way, because they will begin wondering if that conversation will begin a lack of commitment to the organization or that you’ll start searching for a position elsewhere.”

Lastly, if getting a “no” changes your perspective on the job, you have to be ready to leave and move on.

No one can advance or manage their career but you. So if you have the gut reaction that something isn’t right, you need to have the confidence to go out, take a risk, and  “test the waters”.

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