Salary Negotiations: The Lie of Leverage and the Pursuit of Gain

A pay hike or a salary increase is something every professional eagerly looks forward to.

Many professionals, however, wait to renegotiate their salary with their existing employer until after they have received an offer from another employer, using it as leverage. This is generally not the best idea, as many people who accept a counteroffer and stay at their current company inevitably leave within a matter of months. This stems from a number of factors:

  1. By even contemplating another offer, you have shown disloyalty and the company will treat you accordingly going forward.
  2. If your company knows you are entertaining other offers, they will likely build their plans for the department and organization without you. They will utilize the time they bought by giving you a raise to find your replacement.
  3. You will likely find yourself at the end of the line when it comes to future pay increases and/or promotions, which will encourage you to leave on your own.

The fact is that employers do not want to lose experienced, talented, and loyal employees to rival firms and thus it is not generally necessary to obtain that sort of leverage. A salary negotiation discussion can commence with either a direct conversation with your boss or with the human resources department, depending on your company’s structure. Here are a few tips to take your salary negotiation forward:

  1. Be clear about what why you think you deserve the increase. HR managers are used to salary increase requests coming in from employees at all levels. They will not necessarily be inclined to give an increase unless it is justified (and having problems paying your mortgage will, unfortunately, not be sufficient; neither will complaints about other workers making more than you, for whatever reason). It is important, therefore, to provide concrete examples of your achievements, typically, though not always, through a direct employee evaluation.
  2. Be aware of your own worth and do your best to invest in its increase. Build your skill set via training, education, and certification, acquiring skills that may be transferable to other jobs in the future. This will not only help you become more indispensable to your current team but also to your company as a whole and may provide you the background to transition into a new department or into a manager role in the future (bringing with it an increase in salary).
  3. When entering negotiations, do not start off by giving a specific number or percentage. Employers will often ask for this information upfront but it’s generally best to avoid the temptation to provide it. Instead, begin by showing what you have done in the past year and what you plan to do in the coming months and years for the company and ask the employer what he or she believes those past and future achievements are worth. This will get the negotiations started and by then bringing in industry figures, past salary history, etc., you will be in a firm position from which to negotiate the best possible increase. Be polite but firm. This isn’t Oliver Twist asking “Please, sir, may I have some more?”; you deserve it.

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