This story was updated in January 2019.
It’s commonly said that work for the satisfaction, not the remuneration. But let’s be honest, money matters. One of the most motivating factors to get up and go to work is the salary you are paid. After all, that’s how you pay the bills. So it is important that you get a salary you deserve.
This importance of salary is what makes salary negotiation such an important skill to have. Your employer will want your cost to the company to be minimal but the onus of proving that you’re worthy of more money lies only on you. In fact, this skill is so crucial for all professionals, that there are actual coaches in Silicon Valley who teach people how to negotiate their salary with their employers. See, it is that important to be good at it. So, we've covered everything on how to negotiate your salary.
A gender pay gap is a commonly accepted corporate evil. It means that a woman with the same skill set and the same working hours, as a man, is paid lesser. In India itself, there was a gender pay gap of 20 percent - that means, women in India get paid 20 percent less than men in the same position. That is the exact reason why women need to up their game and have better-negotiating skills.
We’re not the only ones endorsing this. A lot of women in power have said that women need to be better negotiators. Michelle Obama has constantly maintained that women need to “negotiate hard and know their worth.” Even Sheryl Sandberg, in her book Lean In Women, Work And The Will To Lead, has said that women who negotiate well and ask for a higher salary tend to face a backlash and are disliked by their co-workers but the same doesn’t hold true for men.
But the main factor that sets women back is the lack of expectations. Women expect less from their bosses and that’s what makes them unprepared for salary negotiations. They constantly think that they need to ask for a raise but they rarely prepare for it because they fear ruining their reputation, something that never happens to men BTW, and their lack of expectations is a hindrance.
To do away with all this, what do you need to do? Well, simple, correctly access your worth and negotiate better. And that’s exactly what we’re here to help you do!
Here are a few other things apart from salary negotiation, that is totally acceptable. Read on to know more.
Let’s start with the basics. Salary negotiations are formal discussions that happen between you and the representative of the company you work for or hope to work for, to secure a higher salary.
Even if it is a new employer and you feel like you aren’t being paid well, it is your right to discuss your salary. After all, motivated employees make a successful company. However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before you get into a negotiation.
1. Build A Case: Before you initiate the discussion, you need to build a stellar case for yourself. After all, you need them to pay you more, so they need to know why you’re a great investment for them.
2. Face Resistance: Don’t expect an immediate ‘yes’ to whatever you ask for. They may not agree with the number you put up!
3. Be Too Flexible Or Rigid: Don’t say yes to a basic minimum increase or no to a good increase. The compromise the two parties reach needs to be acceptable to both!
Well, you know it is. There is no doubt about that. Not only is your current salary a determining factor in your quality of life, but it also determines the advancement of your career in the future.
It is not just a number that is credited into your bank account, it is how the company shows it values you and wants to retain you.
So yes, negotiating your salary is very important.
While earning the salary you deserve is important, so is saving it. Here are tips on how to save some of your salary for your future.
For every employee, it is very important to know how much someone in their position, with their skill sets, their experience and their responsibilities is earning. This should be a ballpark and objective industry estimate and not an ‘I wish I was paid three lacs’ kind of situation.
A talk with your peers outside the company is a safe way to do it. Another way to get a ballpark estimate of your income is to refer to websites like Glassdoor, Payscale and Paycheck which will help you get an industry estimate. You can also get to know exactly what you should be paid based on your personal qualifications with the Glassdoor Know Your Worth tool.
Let’s take an example. If you are a software developer and the industry estimate for your position is from Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 per month and your personal estimate is Rs 44,000, then a realistic range for your salary negotiations can be from the range Rs 40,000-48,000.
Before you sit in the negotiation, you need to be clear and prepared about what you’re asking. You can’t go into the meeting thinking you’ll wing it or you’ll ask for a certain amount without even knowing if it is the correct estimate or not. That'll leave you with no credibility and no backing. So decide on a range in your mind which you need to stick to. But when in the negotiation, reveal a particular amount.
For example: You could decide that your range is 38K to 44K but when quoting the salary, quote a little higher, at probably, 42K or 43K and decide that you won’t go lower than 38K.
If you don’t practice your points and arguments, you are bound to fumble in the meeting. The person sitting on the other side of the table will be well-prepared and you need to convince them that you’re worthy of the amount you’re quoting.
So sit down with a friend and practice this discussion. Let them ask you questions that might get asked in the meeting. This will prepare you well for what is about to come.
Just because you’re going in to demand a raise does not mean you will be rude or unprofessional while doing it. Walk into the meeting confidently, state your points with conviction but don’t be cocky. Have your game face on but at the same time be thankful and polite while pitching your points. That will definitely get you some extra marks.
It is of utmost importance to know your leverage and worth. By that, I mean, know what you’re worth to the company. Your negotiating power will vary with your employment situation. If you are an old and valued employee of the company who has stuck through in hard times, you are more likely to have a higher negotiating power than when you are unemployed and looking for opportunities.
In the discussion to come to the right amount, don’t forget to discuss the extra perks too. Talk about things like medical insurance, paid leave, travel expenses and other things that matter. Also, if you have a special situation and need a little bit of freedom when it comes to things like timings or personal health, make sure you mention them in this meeting itself.
Listen to what the other person is saying. This is so very important. When you’re attentive, you’ll understand what they are actually pitching to you. The crucial thing is to find a balance between your needs and the company’s. That way you’ll be able to reach the best conclusion.
Instead of doing a lot of talking yourself, let your work do it for you. If you’re going in for negotiation, you’ll know why you deserve it. So back that with facts they cannot deny. Show them your invaluable contribution to the company that only you could have done. If you’re taking on extra responsibilities, that is an extra point for you. Prove to them that your unique combination of skills, talents and hard work is irreplaceable and they need to pay you more to retain you. Nothing can do the trick as well as proof of your work, whether big or small, especially not your words.
As per Oxford Dictionary negotiation means, ‘Discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.’ In fact, negotiation does not start actually until one party says no. So if they deny you the first amount you’ve quoted, do not be disheartened. That is the start. You cannot expect an easy yes, that almost never happens. Take the ‘no’ as the beginning and not the end of discussion.
Even if it sounds like they’ve quoted the final amount, don’t just give up yet. It may seem daunting and disrespectful to go on but it really isn’t. The bottom line is that the more you negotiate, the more money you’ll end up with, as long as you sound reasonable and polite. That’s the truth. Don’t be a walkover who agrees to whatever is put on the table even if it is completely unacceptable to them.
You’re asking for more money because you deserve it. So make it sound like that. Statements like “the petrol prices have increased” or “I need it to cover my shopping expenses” sound frivolous and not valid because everyone has these needs. It is obvious that your salary needs to cover your basics but that’s a different topic of discussion and you need to know the thin line between the two. Statements like “I love working for the company but my salary doesn’t match my responsibilities” are more impactful. Makes sense?
There are various modes of communication and ways you can negotiate a salary. We have a few tips for you for all of them.
Salary negotiations are all about confidence. To feel more confident at your workplace, here are a few handy tips!
Negotiating in person and over the phone are very similar but here are some extra tips to help you nail this discussion!
We’ve mentioned this enough times but this is very important. Schedule the call in a way that you’ll have time to prepare for it. Have a plan in mind to know what you want to achieve by the end of the discussion. Also, if you’re going to be having more than one discussion over the call, don’t give them a reason to believe that the negotiations have come to a stand-still.
2. Be Active But Relaxed
Don’t be passive in what is a discussion of your own future. But also remember that while you need to be active, you cannot be uptight. A conversation that is held in an open but friendly manner has more merits attached to it than a discussion that was too formal. Something to keep in mind is that your tone, voice modulation and word choice, all have an effect on the discussion.
3. Follow Up
Just like a face to face discussion, follow up your telephonic conversation with an email concluding the discussion. Write about the main points discussed as well as the salary decided. Having things in writing formally is always better!
Emails can be an effective form of negotiations too, even if they lack a direct, face to face approach. When negotiating over emails, it is important to keep in mind that you need to sound polite and professional. A direct approach will show the person that you’re serious and you respect their time, so be organised and have a clear thought process when writing the mail.
1. Thank Them For The Opportunity
You want to sound thankful for the opportunity given to present your case and not entitled or pushy. It will work in your favour and they’ll be more receptive to what you’ve written. Talk about your excitement to work together at this particular company. Establish that you’re happy with the opportunity but the salary is a bone of contention.
2. State Your Counter Offer & Back It Up
If they’ve already sent you a number, it is acceptable to send them a counter offer. Something on the lines of ‘While I appreciate your offer, can we discuss the compensation plan further’ sounds polite as well as confident. They do expect you to negotiate that number, you know, so don’t be scared to negotiate. Also, backup your counter offer with facts. Recruiters and bosses are more likely to give you a raise if there is a why that supplements your offer.
3. Make Sure It Doesn’t Sound Like An Ultimatum
You need to make sure that this email does not sound like a threat or ultimatum. Like I said before, arm twisting does not help much. So avoid using phrases like ‘I won’t accept less than X amount’ or ‘I demand a higher salary because I deserve it’. It is an ineffective tactic.
To know how to write an impactful work email, you can read more here.
1. Do Your Research
We’ve mentioned a few websites that will help you decide your market worth. Use them to find out the salary you’re being offered is acceptable or not. Also, it is common for most people to expect a salary hike from their previous jobs but you need to ask for a 10-15 percent higher of what you’re expecting. They will negotiate it to a lower amount, and if they don’t, you just end up with more money.
2. Talk About The Additional Benefits
Additional perks are just as important as the basic salary. So talk about them in your negotiation itself. If they’re offering a lower salary but supplementing it with a wide range of perks and benefits, it may be a very good offer worth considering.
3. Ask Your Employer
What most people forget to ask or avoid asking in an interview is what the employer is ready to pay. Let them put out a number which you can counter with a higher pay you deserve, thanks to your credentials. Informed candidates are really respected by the industry.
Are you in demand and fielding multiple job offers? That means the employers are clearly impressed by your work and know that you are an asset they need to have in their company. You can leverage this offer to get the maximum salary. We’ll tell you how!
While it may sound counterintuitive, it will actually work in your favour to disclose the fact that you have another job offer in the pipeline. If a company is serious about hiring you and values your talent, it will prompt them to increase their salary offer and you might actually get what you want. While it is a risky move, it’ll also tell the company that you are in high demand.
Express your happiness at receiving the job offer but don’t jump the gun to say a yes to it. Being too prompt may make them think that you’re too eager to take the job and the salary they then quote may be lower since the ball is in their court. If you have other options too, do not react impulsively even if this is the best one.
Ask the employer to give you time to make a decision. This will help you weigh the pros and cons of each job offer you have and you will be able to reach a more informed decision. And you never know, one of the companies could send you another offer with a higher salary if they are really interested.
It is extremely easy to become a little emotional in these situations but you NEED to stay calm. A ‘no’ is not a reflection of your work or your skills until explicitly stated. Don’t take things too negatively and react unfavorably. This will do nothing to help your case and in fact, will make it worse. Be passionate, not temperamental. You are in a professional setting after all.
Don’t accept the first offer that comes to the table. Just like you’ve quoted higher than you’re asking, they might have quoted lower than what they’re willing to pay. Keep that in mind and don’t be afraid to negotiate. A healthy discussion will see you end up with more than what they first offered, in most cases. Don’t give up just yet.
Being too rigid might not work in your favour either. You know the range and you’ve set a walk-out point. What I mean is, if your range is, say, Rs 45,000- Rs 50,000, Rs 45,000 should be your walk-out point. You shouldn’t accept anything less than that. But if you quoted Rs 49,000 and they’re ready to pay you Rs 46,000, it is an acceptable amount so think about taking it up. It is still higher than the lowest point of your range.
Formal discussions are all well and good, but you need it in writing as a proof. Have the HR send you a mail of the conclusion you reached in the meeting. Not only will it back your claims, if anything goes wrong in the future, it will also give you peace of mind because they have to honour this agreement now.
The salary shouldn’t be the first words out of your mouth. It just sounds unprofessional. We’re not asking you to approach it in a roundabout way but the first words out of your mouth in a meeting ideally shouldn’t be “Let’s discuss the salary.” It is an important conversation so get all other matters out of the way before touching the topic.
Once your boss, or you, initiate the conversation, don’t be afraid to be the first one to quote the number. If they quote it first and it’s much lower than your expectations, it will only dishearten you and put you on the defensive side.
Women are, in general, more apologetic and less confrontational. So it won’t work in your favour if you supplement your arguments with statements like ‘I’m sorry this is happening’ or ‘this is as awkward for me as it is for you.’ You’re only asking to get what you deserve and that is everybody’s right. You aren’t offending anybody’s sensibilities by doing that and the only thing that happens if you apologize too much is you don’t sound convinced by your own offer.
If you say something like “I need a raise of X amount but I’m willing to settle for…”, you’re only undermining your own offer. You don’t need to negotiate against yourself, leave that to them, please. You need to present the offer, not have a single person deliberate where you’re proposing the raise and you’re only negotiating the amount. Let them do some of the work!
With a raise comes more responsibilities but it shouldn’t be a disappropriate match. They can’t increase your salary by only 50 percent while increasing your responsibilities by 75 percent. It’s not fair to you and you shouldn’t accept that.
Every case is special and every employee holds a different value to the company. Quoting your co-workers salary or that of somebody from another firm in the same position may not help you too much. You’re here to make a case for yourself based on your merit. This does not apply in the case of discriminatory salaries of two employees in the same position with the same experience. In that case, you need to ask for a salary correction.
This is, by far, the most common mistake that most people make. Threatening your manager with a resignation never works in your favour. It might offend them instead and make them less likely to work with you on this discussion. Arm-twisting your way into getting a raise works less than you’d expect it to. Also, if you are going to make a threat, be prepared to follow through with it in case your boss does not accept it. Otherwise, your standing with him/her might take a serious hit.
It is possible for your negotiations to fail even after you did everything right - the preparation, the discussion and the presentation. It is okay and you need to take it in your stride. But another thing you need to do is evaluate what you want to do next and here are some pointers that will help.
Re-evaluate your current role and responsibilities. Do you need to stay where you are or do you have other options? Are you okay with quitting or do you love your job despite being underpaid? Are there extra perks that may supplement the salary and make it okay for you to stay where you are? Are you really doing as much as you thought or do you need to up your game? These are important questions to answer and once you do, you may understand if what happened was fair or not.
Constantly looking back to the past will affect your present work. You need to concentrate on working hard enough to get noticed and improving your work. That will give you more leverage in any future salary negotiations you have and that is where your mind should be.
When it comes to picking up the discussion again, there is no right time. It actually varies from case to case and depends on your situation. The success of a salary discussion depends on how well you’ve prepared your case over why you deserve a raise. If your case is ready within six months and sounds convincing enough, you follow-up on the last discussion then itself.
In any place, it is important for your superiors to know that you are a respectful team player. You need to make it very clear to your boss that while you may disagree with their decision, you respect it.
Ultimately, your goal is to exceed expectations so that when you go to ask for a raise again, your work has already convinced them of your worth. That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for feedback so that you know what you can do to make your work better. Sit with your manager and put together an actionable plan to finally get the compensation you deserve.
This one is a bit obvious. A salary increase will come with more responsibilities, even if you’re not promoted. After all, they want you to prove that they were right in increasing your remuneration. There will be more expectations placed on you and exceeding their expectations, this time around is just as important.
An easier way to do that is to ask them to outline, in a formal email, what is expected out of you now. Once your role and responsibilities are clear and well-defined, it’ll be easier for you to match up to the expectations placed on you too!
Since you stepped up to your role and confidently asked for the salary you deserve, you’ll find your boss now respects you more. A salary negotiation will show your boss two very important things - first, that you’re not afraid to ask for or take on more responsibilities and second, that you’re confident of your place in the firm and plan to stick around for long.
It’s never one and done when it comes to such conversations. Salary discussions are an ongoing process and there will be a next time as well. So don’t let your work quality drop or become complacent thinking now that you’ve gotten a raise, you’ll get it the next time too. You need to prove it every time and that’s the hard truth.
This situation may seem daunting but you cannot escape it. Negotiating your compensation is an art you need to perfect and that can only be done with practice. In developed countries, this skill is taken so seriously that there are actual coaches who work with people to help them. And for women, who are already underpaid or face pay disparity, it is even more crucial to nail this art. So don’t be afraid to ask for what’s yours and prove that you deserve it. You work hard for that pay, after all, now don’t you?
Images: Giphy, Shutterstock
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