Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

How to Negotiate for a Raise & Understanding Your Own Value

Could it be that the biggest reason why you haven’t received a raise in the past year or more is that you haven’t asked for it? This topic comes up in my workshops often because many women, and some men as well, fear coming across as greedy or demanding.

I can tell you from conversations I’ve been a part of, across diverse geographies and cultures, that this is a common thought and “reason” to avoid asking for those things that directly benefit our economic and career growth.  The key is to know:

  • It’s a common thought, so you’re not alone
  • Avoiding the conversation can be more of an excuse (a story you tell yourself) instead of a reason
  • You have the ability to change this

Whatever story you’re telling yourself about why you haven’t had that conversation with your supervisor yet – note it and set it aside. Then work to put a plan into place, and take just one small step to act.  This will set you on the path to eventually address it and even overcome it. What small steps can you consider taking next?

Not Sure of Your Value? Just Ask!

I understand this fear innately because I deal with it too at times. I know that when it comes to negotiating, I can sometimes be generous to a fault.  (Per a “Persuasion Matrix” we use in our Confident-Self Advocate programs, I fall in the Martyr quadrant of offering a lot and asking for less, although I am actively working to improve, as I write this).

However, I’ve dealt with that uncertainty and discomfort by reaching out to people I trust, such as colleagues and mentors. I ask their opinions about what I should be asking for financially, and talk through things I wouldn’t have otherwise considered asking for that are not necessarily monetary, but still of great value. 

For example, when I was an Adjunct Professor for an MBA Leadership Program at The Ohio State University, I found out from a colleague that she had negotiated to secure a Teaching Assistant to help with grading for her 70-person class.  I had the same class size and yet did everything on my own.  Imagine the number of hours she saved by negotiating that resource.  Truthfully, it never dawned on me to ask for a T.A. even though I coach women to ask for additional resources and headcount.  Ironic, no? 

Why did I make this mistake?  I didn’t vet my ideas on what could be negotiated through trusted colleagues, asking them what else I SHOULD be and COULD be asking for as part of my contract.  I haven’t made this mistake since.

Apart from leveraging my community of trusted sources to vet anything I could be leaving on the table, when it comes to potential or current clients and entering into contracts, rolling out programs, and providing proposals, I also do extensive research about the state of the industry before submitting an offer. You may not fully understand your true value in dollars and cents, or the constraints your negotiating partner may be facing.

Many people end up working for years in the same position, earning less than they deserve, and with fewer resources or benefits (financially, educationally, and developmentally). That’s why I strongly recommend that you research what other people in similar positions earn and start asking people who you trust what they feel would be a fair compensation – monetary or otherwise. 

Be Ready to Answer Questions

Do this homework before walking into the decision maker’s office to ask for a raise. This goes with my next piece of advice about how to negotiate for a raise: Plan, plan, plan, and then plan some more. This is not a wing-it, by-the-way kind of conversation. Then rehearse the actual conversation.

You should think ahead of time about what specific factors motivate your boss or decision-maker to say yes to requests. Also, keep in mind: Is there someone higher on the food chain required to approve what you’re asking for?

More than likely, your decision-maker will express at least three major concerns about granting you additional monies right now. Those concerns center on time, money, and resources.

How will your ask impact any resources available to the team? What is the monetary impact on budgets? How quickly are we talking about a change? You should have answers to these concerns ready to go.

Stay Positive & Say “Yes, and…”

My third piece of advice is to enter that meeting prepared to be as positive as possible. Leave out words that can disengage someone, such as “but.” Instead, try to respond to concerns and questions by starting with the words “Yes, and…”

And if you hear a “no?” Ask about when would be a good time to revisit the discussion. For example, say that you’d like to discuss the possibility of a raise in another 3 months and get a date on the calendar to hold the conversation again. The important thing is to keep the dialogue going and demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about your own value by citing facts and measurable data as examples.

Reality check:  You may be told “no,” but you’ll never get the raise unless you ask. And if you aren’t receiving a deserved raise and you have done the work to prepare, hold the conversation, and still aren’t getting results, then you need to have an honest conversation with yourself about how much you are willing to put up with and whether you are willing to walk away from the company for a better opportunity elsewhere.

Last bit of advice, which can be a clincher to the conversation moving forward and hearing a “yes”, is to clearly define for yourself WHY this ask matters to you. WHY should it matter to the decision-maker, and to your organization or even clients?  By capturing your passionate “WHY” and clearly articulating this, it can be just as powerful, if not more, than the data, during your conversation.

Regardless of the outcome, congratulate yourself for pushing beyond fear and demonstrating courage by even holding the conversation. 

Go to my Facebook page and share how you chose to push yourself to act, and what you learned as a result, so we can celebrate this courageous act!

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