Few people look forward to the annual performance-review process. But if you had a good year (you did, right?), you can emerge from the big meeting smiling — if you skillfully navigate the choppy waters and understand how to negotiate a salary increase.
Asking for a raise requires some delicate footwork: You need to present yourself as upbeat, loyal, steadfast and high-achieving ... and yet you want to create the impression that, without a raise, you may well be less upbeat, loyal, steadfast and high-achieving. You want your boss, and her boss, to want to keep you happy or risk losing you — if not to a competitor, then to a different department.
These tips can help you when negotiating for a higher salary:
Don't lecture your supervisor
You want this to be a conversation rather than a presentation. The last thing a supervisor wants is to have to sit through an unexpected lecture, so don't come in with a PowerPoint deck cued up on your laptop. A few talking points should be sufficient — you can drop off or email supporting information after the meeting. Be prepared to convey what's most important to your cause in just a few minutes.
It's also important to know how to negotiate a salary before you get hired, another delicate task. Read our tips to avoid alienating potential employers.
Remember the context
Context is important. As the annual process begins, whether via a formal from-the-CEO memo or via the grapevine, you should try to gain a sense of how to negotiate a salary increase based on how the company is doing and how this year's raises may compare with previous years'. That will help adjust both your expectations and the tone you set in negotiating.
Be prepared with figures
Before your meeting, you should look up comparable compensation figures for people in your same position using tools for salary comparison, such as Robert Half's Salary Calculator and Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance. This will help you make your case with objective facts and figures serving as supporting material.
Sing your own praises
Definitely bring a brief summary of your kudos file, with praise you've received, along with what's presumably already listed on your annual self-assessment: projects completed, benchmarks met, added responsibilities taken on, etc. You can always print out copies of emails and documents to give your supervisor later.
It takes confidence to ask for a raise, so check out these six suggestions for getting yourself in the right frame of mind before you start negotiating a salary increase.
When thinking about how to negotiate a salary increase, remember that your supervisor probably cannot give you a definite answer immediately. No matter how convincing your case, she may have to check with senior management or crunch the numbers when it comes to the department budget. Also keep in mind that there's almost always a finite pool of money available for increases. So you'll need an airtight case.
Be ready to talk again later
If, as is always possible, you get a regretful "no," ask to revisit the salary negotiation question next quarter or at the six-month mark. Few managers will deny such a request, and knowing how to negotiate a salary increase is also about knowing how to recognize when the timing isn't right for further discussion.
And what if you're told there is simply no more money available for raises in the foreseeable future? What if the CEO has already informed the entire workforce that everyone is getting a 1.5 percent increase, and that's it? In that case, come to the meeting with a few perks in mind. Things you can ask about include greater flexibility in working from home to improve your work-life balance, a meaningfully better title, more vacation time, a better slate of projects and even a promise to send you to an industry conference. After all, having the confidence to inquire about these other perks is as important as knowing how to negotiate a salary increase.
Read the Robert Half Finance & Accounting blog for more insight into the latest salary trends.