Negotiation is a key part of many interactive relationships, including the one that exists between employees and the managers to whom they report. Regardless of one's position, it's always possible to negotiate from a position of strength. Fortunately, negotiation is a skill based on timing, proven competence, opportunity, and practice that can be cultivated to your best advantage in the following ways:
By Valerie Perry
First, be absolutely certain that you deserve a raise. Before you approach your boss with a "persuasion plan," make sure your performance is beyond reproach in every conceivable way. Handle all of your duties and responsibilities professionally. Communicate with others clearly and effectively. Make sure you understand the scope of your current position and work toward improving any areas of weakness. Review past performance appraisals to make sure you've resolved any former problem areas. Grasp all opportunities to strengthen your skill set by taking advantage of training or assuming higher levels of responsibility. Look for ways to be more valuable to the organization, and discuss these ideas with your boss. Be punctual. Once you're confident that all these details are in order, it's time to win your manager's support in this endeavor.
You may be able to surprise your boss with what you know about the finer details of how your organization runs. Practice any significant jargon you hear bandied around, and back it up with some astute observations of your own.
When you've decided to ask for a raise, regard your boss as neutrally as possible to avoid seeing him or her as either friend or foe. Don't be overcome by his ability to grant your raise or refuse it. Take some time to understand your boss's behavior as much as possible, and use your observations as a basis for knowing when and how to approach him regarding your desire for a raise. When you have a handle on this behavior, your first negotiation should be to take control by scheduling a meeting to discuss the reasons you deserve a raise. You may want to time this meeting with your next performance review if it's due in a reasonable amount of time. If you have a sound reason for feeling that's too long to wait, go ahead and set up a special meeting. Consider your boss's schedule and current workload. You want to catch him or her on a good day or at a good time; so, if you know they're not a morning person, for example, ask for a meeting in the afternoon. If you know he needs to pick up his kids at 4:00 every other day, factor in that detail. If she travels a lot, try to set a time when you feel you'll have her complete attention.
You'll probably be able to tell a lot from your boss's reaction to your request for the meeting. Regardless of whether that response feels positive, negative, or neutral, there's no turning back at this point, so begin to prepare for all possible outcomes.
Prepare for the meeting to discuss your raise as rigorously as you would plan for a job interview. Pull out notes if they will help guide the logical case you want to make on your own behalf. If fortune shines on you, you'll be able to get your boss to focus on aspects of your work that he or she is taking for granted. While this meeting should be cordial and not confrontational in any way, consider it a success if your boss ends up thinking, "What would I do without you?" If you're as important as you believe, your boss is aware that you have a good chance of getting the money you want elsewhere. You want him to think twice about the consequences of denying your request.
Negotiation is a two-way process that requires significant energy. So, make sure there are no other major thorns in your side before you ask for more money. Also, consider sticking with the company for a while if things go your way.
Here's the best case scenario: You say, "Show me the money!" (not verbatim, of course) and your boss replies, "Here it is!" Pat yourself on the back—you've done your homework and it's paid off. However, you may do your homework and still end up with hesitation, resistance, or outright refusal from your boss. If you meet with hesitation, there may still be hope for closing the deal during this initial meeting. Your boss may confidentially mention budget cuts or restraints that are preventing a big "yes" right now. In this case, you may want to ask if there is a good time to revisit the subject, and determine if you feel that time frame is acceptable. If you meet with resistance, make sure that you understand exactly what is standing in the way of your boss's enthusiasm. Depending on the reason, determine whether there is a way for you to overcome the resistance, or whether it's time to pursue other alternatives such as a transfer to another department or leaving the company altogether. If you meet with outright refusal and, in your heart of hearts, see some truth to your boss's objections, you weren't as ready as you thought you were. So, you can either work toward resolving issues that your boss raises, or you may want to use this feedback positively when you seek employment with another company.