Getting paid what you're worth is an important part of any job but negotiating a raise can be both stressful and uncomfortable.
If you think you should be better compensated, it's up to you to make a convincing argument for it. Proper research can help you go into the conversation prepared, which will better your chances of presenting a strong case to your manager.
Think about timing
Before you initiate a raise conversation, think about the bigger picture and what's going on at your workplace.
When a company is having financial difficulties or is in the midst of a major transition, it's probably not the right time to ask for a raise. If your boss is dealing with things like layoffs, a restructuring, or outside scrutiny over company scandals, you'll want to wait until things have settled down a bit.
"Perhaps this is a time where you empathize with him or her, building a little bit of a trust cushion," said Olivia Jaras, founder of Salarycoaching.com. "That could set the stage for a negotiation in a couple months down the line, which can be more auspicious for you."
Do your homework
Whether you get a raise or not is going to be determined by a couple of different factors. Some will be out of your control but doing your research will better your chances.
Before going into a conversation about a raise, you should keep a finger on the pulse of your market value. Figure out how your current pay compares to your market value, how you're performing relative to your peers, and what your company's compensation philosophy is.
Career sites like Glassdoor, Salary.com, or Payscale are a good starting point for salary data on positions similar to yours.
Reviewing your resume and looking at the position description you were hired for can also give you an overview of your work performance and career development. Your responsibilities may have increased since the day you were hired, or you might have had training or gained other skills.
"If you've gained skills and qualifications that are meaningful to your position, how do those get valued by your company? Those are kind of check marks in favor of getting a raise," Jaras said.
Understand your boss's perspective
Once you're armed with all the information you need, you may feel like you're set.
But now is the time to take a look at your achievements from your manager's perspective. What reasons might your boss have to say no to giving you a pay bump? And how do you address them?
Your boss hates you. What do you do?
Understanding where the other person is coming from and what their reservations might be will help you counter them. One way of doing that is to think of your manager's top five reasons for saying no.
"If you think they're really good reasons to say no to you, you're probably not going to get it," said Deborah Kolb, author of Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains. "But when you anticipate what's going to happen, you come in prepared to deal with it."
Keep it professional
Your argument should always be a rational one, so avoid getting too personal. Coming into the negotiation reasoning that you have to put five kids through college or that you found out your colleague earns more than you, aren’t good ideas.
These things may be the reason why you want a raise, but they're not tied to your work performance.
It might get you a pity raise, but it's probably not going to maximize what you can earn. What you should do is tell your boss about the ways you've contributed to the bottom line of the company.
Negotiating salary doesn't always go as planned, and you should be prepared to handle an outcome that wasn't what you wanted. But getting a "no" doesn't have to be a defeat and handling it the right way can set the foundation for a future raise.
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You may be disappointed by the bad news, but always end the conversation on a positive note. Reinforcing the idea that you are excited about continuing your service to the company and expanding the contributions that you make, can keep the door open for future dialogue.
"You have to be strategic about how you conduct that discussion," said Alex Twersky, cofounder of Resume Deli, a resume and career services firm. "You can't be too demanding or too insistent. You want to be professional, patient, collaborative and constructive."
This could also be an opportunity for you to ask for feedback and think about what skills you can improve to make a stronger case for a pay bump.