You’ve been at your job for nine months. In that time, you’ve not only worked very hard in the office, but you’ve also rewarded yourself for your efforts. You bought yourself a sleek new apartment, went on a few vacations — you’ve even hit up the local casino for a gamble or two (or five).
Now, you’re out of money. And you want more.
“I’ll just ask for a raise,” you may think. You figure your boss might have some sympathy for your personal issues — he’s been there before. You’ve been doing a good job at work. It doesn’t hurt to ask. What’s the worst that can happen?
Well, a few things, actually. You could get demoted, or worse, fired, if you don’t ask for a raise in the proper way, says Jim Camp, negotiation coach and author of “NO: The Only Negotiating Strategy You Need for Work and Home.”
“Saying things the wrong way in any negotiation can create barriers that can never be overcome,” Camp says. “How many times has someone said the wrong thing to you in the wrong way and you just decided they weren’t worth the effort? It is unfortunate, but it happens all the time.”
Asking for a raise requires preparation, skill and timing. Many employees take this issue lightly, assuming raises are based on work ethic, time commitments and even personal issues. Workers are almost never aware of the dynamics of the workplace, how others qualify and how others are paid, all of which play a role in how raises are distributed, Camp says. “There are a number of requirements [for raises]. First, the job and what it produces,” he says. “Do you make it rain money or do you support someone who does?”
To build your case for a raise, set an agenda when you’re first hired, Camp suggests. If achieved in a timely fashion, you get a raise and repeat the process. Camp says it’s “shocking how many people don’t do this and become very frustrated when raises don’t come freely.”
When you’re ready to ask for a raise or promotion, here are 10 major pitfalls to steer clear of, according to Camp.
1. Avoid telling your employer you hope the answer will be “yes”.
Instead: Start by inviting your boss to say no. Tell him or her you’re comfortable with a no answer and you won’t mind if the answer is no. This puts him or her at ease and clears the air.
2. Avoid being emotional.
Instead: Turn your mind into a blank slate. Have no expectations, hopes or fears. Above all, overcome all neediness, the No.1 deal-killer. Not needing this raise or promotion gives you power.
3. Avoid going into the meeting unprepared.
Instead: Research what people in your position get paid. Find out what obstacles stand in your way. Has the company just fired employees? Is there new management in the wings? Know all the issues that might keep your boss from giving you a raise. State each problem clearly and ask your boss how these problems might be solved.
4. Avoid trying to impress your boss.
Instead: Let him or her feel completely at ease with you, and perhaps even a little superior. Never dress to impress, brag or be pretentious.
5. Avoid giving a presentation.
Instead: Talk as little as possible. Ask your employer a lot of questions so you can find out his position, issues, concerns, needs and objectives.
6. Avoid asking yes or no questions.
Instead: Get your employer spilling the beans by beginning all of your questions with an interrogative: who, what, when, where, how or why.
7. Avoid thinking about the outcome.
Instead: Don’t think about, hope for or plan on getting the raise. Focus instead on what you can control: your behavior during the negotiation.
8. Avoid believing that your mission is to get more money.
Instead: Your mission and purpose in this conversation is to fulfill your employer’s business needs and objectives. Every decision you make in the negotiation process should be focused on helping your employer see that giving you a raise or promotion will further her business interests.
9. Avoid presenting your current salary or position as a problem.
Instead: Present yourself as the solution. Don’t be afraid to give specific examples of challenges you faced and the solutions you provided. Special assignments that fit the employer’s vision should be explained and discussed. The more examples you can provide the better.
10. Avoid giving an ultimatum.
Instead: Continue to negotiate with no need. Never threaten or posture with another offer or a take-it-or-leave-it stance. Use a calm, slow voice. State problems clearly and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to solve those problems. The more effective you appear at discussing her problem as you see it, the better.