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When negotiating a raise, navigate carefully

Coach's Corner--March 9, 2009

The Client
Name: Elise
Age: 40
Title: Manager, Business Operations
Industry: Insurance
Issue: Negotiating a raise

Q. I'm up for a promotion, and this is my chance to negotiate a good raise. I'm concerned that I'll undersell myself, especially with the economy being poor. Any suggestions?

A. Knowing your own relationship with money and being clear on your value to the company will help you plan an effective salary negotiation.

The inner game
Know what you want. Many people, especially women, ask for too little and undervalue their contributions. As you consider how much to ask for, look at what you'd expect someone else to be paid in the same circumstances. If there's a gap, think about the reasons you'd ask for less for yourself. Transform any internal messages that may be limiting you so that you enter the negotiations from a position of inner strength.

Identify your contributions. You need to be ready to talk about your value. List your skills and accomplishments, and remember, this is no time to be humble. If you're stuck, imagine that you're describing a co-worker you admire or ask someone you trust to help create your list. Consider intangibles, including communication and relationship skills along with technical accomplishments.

Understand your fears. You might worry that if you ask for too much, the promotion may be withdrawn. Do your research, and the chances of that happening are remote, since you've already been approached for the position. You may be concerned that your salary request will be rejected, which may feel personal. Identify what you're worried about so that your fears don't blindside you later.

Tune in to your boss' needs. It's critical that you understand your boss' position and the overall needs of the company. Being able to link your contributions to your company's strategic plan and to your department's goals will strengthen your case and also will help you anticipate concerns that might be raised during your negotiations.

The outer game
Plan your negotiation strategy. Take control of the situation by creating an outline to guide the dialogue. Include the salary request you're entering with, your lowest acceptable offer, and your leading selling points. Think about the objections you'll encounter and prepare responses. For example, your boss may counter that budgets are tight. Be prepared with knowledge of your company's pay scales and with research on salaries for comparable positions in other companies. Have alternatives in mind, such as a raise that is staged over time as economic conditions or profits improve.

Practice. Make your pitch out loud, over and over, until you're confident about it. Ask someone to role-play with you, especially the tough parts. Find the balance between stumbling over your words and sounding over-rehearsed.

Prepare yourself. You may be tense going into the discussion. The day before, get some exercise, even just a walk, to help you sleep well. Before going to bed and when you wake up, visualize the conversation unfolding as you'd like it to. Have something to eat, and don't overdo it on caffeine. Then, before you walk in the room, take three deep breaths to center yourself and get extra energy.

The last word
Addressing your inner concerns and careful planning will prepare you for a successful salary negotiation.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted March 8, 2009
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