Holding successful salary negotiations

Are you one of the many workers who believe your boss should have offered you a raise long ago? After all, he should notice how committed you are to your job. Certainly, your supervisor has to see how much more you achieve than was originally agreed in your employment contract...

Wrong! In reality, it’s very rare for a manager to spontaneously decide to adjust or even raise salaries for his employees. That’s why you need to take the initiative on your own terms. To be sure your salary negotiations have a realistic chance of success, you need to prepare yourself as thoroughly as possible. This includes the following steps:

  1. Prepare by writing down your line of argument 
  2. Prepare mentally
  3. Practice the dialog and the situation 
  4. Hold the salary negotiations

 (1) Prepare by writing down your line of argument

Most managers value clear facts. That’s why preparing your arguments in writing - for both yourself and your boss - is an absolute must. Be sure your thoughts are clearly arranged, and organize them into just a few different points. It’s a good idea to build your line of reasoning as follows:

1.   Your current salary: write down your current gross wages.

2.   Your duties: gather a list of tasks you are expected to fulfill according to your employment contract or your position or job description.

3.    Make notes on other duties or functions you’ve taken on, as well as their usefulness for the company.

Your goal is to collect a catalog of tasks you’ve accepted responsibility for, even though they’re not named in your employment contract or your job description. You can also list additional qualifications you’ve gained over time through continued education or training. It’s important to not just name the task itself, but to also make another column where you can list the ways this task is useful to your team, your division, or your company.

If this feels uncomfortable to you, just think of it this way: you’re selling your job performance. Modesty isn’t going to get you anywhere, but documenting your performance with cold hard facts will!

4.   Your salary demands in relation to your qualification profile

Write down what you imagine as your ideal future gross salary. Assess whether you can mentally stand behind this number. It won’t do you any good to shoot too high, or to be too modest. Your conversational partner will be watching you as you talk, evaluating your body language. He’ll know if you don’t fully stand behind what you’re asking for.

Don’t just write down the number on the page all by itself. Support it with an adapted job requirements profile or job description that matches your expected salary. You should add at least one important duty to your previous list of tasks.

5.   Facts

Name facts that reinforce your salary demands. You could, for instance, include comparable salaries for your industry and your position or salary surveys. This allows you to demonstrate where you stand in comparison to others in your market.

6.    Your usefulness to your supervisor

Describe the use your supervisor, your team, your division, and your company can receive from your ability to expand on the skills expected in your current position. Some examples might include: You want to help relieve the burden on your boss, so that he gains more free time for an upcoming project. You want to improve collaboration with other teams to make sure business processes run more smoothly.

You should never demand more money in a salary negotiation because you’re planning to buy a house or a car or to make another private investment, or because you want to provide financial support to a family member. These kinds of arguments are totally taboo in salary negotiations!

Only when you’re satisfied with your line of argument should you set up an appointment with your boss. It’s best if you can ask your boss for an appointment personally. If this isn’t possible, write a friendly e-mail. Be clear that you want to talk to him about your salary – it’s only fair!

A positive employee evaluation is a good way to segue into a salary negotiation – if you’ve met and exceeded your targets and taken on additional duties, you should use this as a point of reference. When you’re choosing the right time, be sure you select a quieter part of the day or week, and make sure your boss carves out enough time for you to present your case. It’s not helpful to have your boss come out of a meeting stressed out, or have another important appointment directly after your discussion. Times when your boss is holding emergency discussions, preparing semi-annual or annual financial reports for the company, or starting another important project are taboo. It’s better to ask if you can push back your appointment. You can also ask your supervisor to suggest a time that would be best for him.

 (2) Prepare mentally

Once you’ve set an appointment, focus on mental preparation. No athlete goes into a competition without the right preparation – you shouldn’t do it either! You should let the following movie play in your mind for at least three days before your salary negotiation:

Imagine every detail about how you’re going to go and meet your boss, and how you’re going to greet one another. Paint a picture of the office in your mind. Imagine how you’re going to lay our your line of reasoning, and imagine that both of you have a copy of your written arguments lying on the table in front of you. Keep going, imaging how you’re going to explain each one of your points in a reasonable, calm, and confident manner. You’re confident about your salary request, and you don’t have to think twice about the number. Now imagine your boss agreeing to give you a raise. Try to imagine how he will answer you, and feel the positive feelings you will experience.

Consciously control your thoughts as you play this movie in your mind. Ban any destructive thoughts by clearly saying “Stop!”

 (3) Practice the dialog and the situation

Another way to prepare yourself for the meeting is a classic role-playing exercise. Ask a trusted friend or a coach to take on the role of your boss, and act out the situation together. Be sure that both of you stay in your roles during the whole discussion. When you’re finished, analyze the meeting based on the following questions:

  • What kind of impression did you make?
  • Which of your arguments were strong, and which of them seemed more weak?
  • What, concretely, could you improve on?
  • What were your body language and your posture like?

 (4) The salary negotiation

If you’ve thought through the last three points thoroughly, you’ll be well prepared for your meeting and have a good chance of convincing your supervisor with your arguments. Here are just a couple more tips:

  • Give your supervisor a copy of your entire line of reasoning. Your copy can be more complete, of course, than the one you give your boss. 
  • Ask for the chance to present your arguments all the way through to the end. This will allow you to avoid interruptions so you can focus on your key message. 
  • Use the line of argumentation you’ve prepared to structure your talk, starting with point 1, then point 2, etc. This will help you seem clear and decisive.
  • After presenting your line of reasoning, ask your boss: “What do you think of my request?”
  • If you get approval, be thankful and don’t add extra comments – don’t talk yourself out of your success!
  • If you aren’t able to achieve your goal right away, show that you can be persistent and ask follow-up questions:

- Does your boss believe that, in principle, you deserve a raise?

- What extra information does your boss need?

- What kind of performance does your boss expect for you to fulfill the requirements for a raise?

- What exactly can you do to be considered for a raise?

- Is right now a bad time?

If, despite your good preparation, you weren’t able to achieve your goal, it could be a good idea to look for alternatives. Ask whether there are other benefits your supervisor could talk to you about, such as:

  • A continued training program?
  • A company car?
  • More flexible working hours?
  • Additional vacation time / holidays?

Don’t demand an answer right away - instead, ask whether your boss can think about some possibilities, and set up a follow-up appointment.

No matter what happens, you should end your discussion by saying “thanks” for the opportunity to present your thoughts.