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Negotiating at work isn’t easy. Employees commonly say the thought of having hard conversations with bosses about salary and other day-to-day issues is stressful and they lack confidence. Unfortunately, that means that most of us aren’t negotiating higher salaries or promotions even though it’s one of the best methods for career advancement. But negotiating doesn’t have to stressful. Follow these five tips to negotiate like an expert, whether it’s for a higher paycheck, more vacation days, or the ability to work remotely.
What are you asking for? Do you want a raise? More vacation days? Want to take over as lead on an important client project? Be clear on what you want and provide specifics. If you want to make more money, you need to state an actual dollar amount instead of saying “I want a raise.” If you want more responsibility or feel like you are ready for a promotion, be crystal clear about what you want to add to your plate. For example, do you want to manage a project? Be the client lead? List out the specifics parts of the project you are ready to own and have a conversation with your manager about how you are prepared to take over new roles, and any kind of backup plan you have for when a project goes off the rails. They need to hear that you are prepared for the good and the bad!
Understand the other side
Spoiler alert, your boss has bad days, too. Understanding the pressures your manager faces will help prepare you to negotiate in a way that shows empathy for their situation and position yourself as someone who understands their goals and the overall goals for the department or company. Listen in during meetings or take note of what is stressing out your manager. Are they being asked to “do more with less?” Are their deadlines tight? Is there executive pressure to increase sales or other metrics?
Position yourself as a problem solver
Now that you understand what makes your manager tick (or cringe), you’re in a better position to come to them with solutions during a negotiation. If you want more vacation time, show them the research that it helps increase productivity. If you want a promotion, demonstrate how the work you take on in a new role will help to lighten your boss’s workload. If you are negotiating with a client, for example, to increase your monthly retainer, use data to demonstrate how additional work your agency performs with help the bottom line of their company.
When it comes to salary negotiation, do your research
What are others in similar positions making? What is a typical pay salary within your company or the company you are considering working for? While the later is often harder to pinpoint, broad salary information, sorted by region and experience level, can be found on sites such as PayScale or Glassdoor. Go into any job interview or salary meeting with a clear understanding of what you are worth from an industry perspective, and how that translates to your specific job. Perhaps you are the only one who can perform a certain function or you regularly fill in to boost under-performing co-workers. In those types of situations, where you know you go above and beyond a job description, ensure that you find a way to match that work with a data point to justify the salary you are requesting.
Have a backup plan
Unfortunately, even being super prepared won’t guarantee you’ll get what you want. In that case you need to have a backup plan and a clear understanding of your limits. If negotiations for a raise fail (perhaps the company had a bad quarter and announced pay raises are on hold) what else can you come away with? In lieu of more salary, can you negotiate more vacation time? Perhaps you can work from home an additional day a week (cutting down on transportation costs). If you and your manager can’t agree on anything, are you prepared to walk away? If so, do you have other offers lined up?
Kristin Amico is a career and business writer who spent more than a decade managing creative teams at digital agencies. She has written for The Muse, The Independent and USA Today.