Whether you’re seeking more than a standard cost-of-living bump or have seen your job responsibilities increase over the past year, this may be a great time to open salary negotiations with your boss. The holidays are over and everyone’s settling in for the year ahead—so why not do everything you can to increase your bottom line?
1. Pick your timing
If your company’s year-end financial report just came out and it’s bleaker than an outdoor swimming pool in January, know that this might not be the best time to approach your boss about a raise. It’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, but definitely be wary that your request might not be met with an open checkbook.
Knowing how the company is doing in general can help you frame your request. If things are a little lean, open with an acknowledgment that you know things are tough, but that you’d like to open a dialogue on your salary for [reasons xyz].
2. Be realistic
Before you even bring up a salary change with your boss, do the legwork by researching what the salary range is for your role within your industry. This can help you figure out a reasonable dollar figure, but can also show you where you stand on the compensation scale. If your salary is currently on the low end of the standard range for your job title and experience level, that gives you leverage when you talk to your boss.
3. Don’t make threats/demands
Salary negotiation is a dialogue. Just as you’ll have a preferred outcome in your head, so will your boss. It may take some time to get to a middle ground that works for both of you, so you won’t do yourself any favors by going in guns a-blazing and asking for a particular number or else. That will only put your manager on the defensive, and will not make him or her likely to accommodate your request, however overdue or reasonable it might be at heart. At this point, the company holds the power—being overly aggressive at the start gives you fewer options later on.
4. Don’t forget benefits
While this is a chance to increase your base salary, it’s also a chance to revisit your benefits and perks, as well. If you seek more vacation time, comp time, or a flexible work-from-home arrangement a certain number of days per week or month, it puts more chips on the table. It could also help provide some middle ground if your employer is unable to meet your top salary goal.
5. Document everything
When you ask for a raise, you’ll need backup to help justify the increase to your employer. Before you start any kind of negotiation, get these in order. Have a list of specific bullet points ready that you can bust out either in an email or in conversation with your boss. Successful projects that you’ve spearheaded, revenue increases, times when you’ve gone above and beyond…get ‘em all in that list. Remember, you’re offering a case as to why you deserve more. General comments like “I’m a hard worker” or “I’m good at my job” don’t offer specific enough reasons to give you more money.
6. This time, it’s (im)personal
Keep personal relationships and needs out of it. This negotiation process is about getting compensation you feel you deserve as a worker—not about how you need more cash for your speedboat down payment. Make sure you limit the discussion to your professional accomplishments, your worth in the workplace, and your relationship to the company.
Also, if you’re friendly with your boss, remember that during your salary talks he or she is no longer the friend with whom you share cat videos. This is the professional colleague who likely wants the best for you, but also has to keep the company’s best interests in mind, too. It’s unfair to expect special treatment based on personal BFFness—not only unfair to your boss, but to your other colleagues as well. You never want there to be even a hint of impropriety, so keep things straightforward and professional. Then celebrate together later with a cat video.
As with just about everything else, the motto for salary renegotiation is “be prepared.” Knowing your worth and having as much information as possible at your fingertips once you open the dialogue will give you a strong platform. You may or may not get the exact dollar figure you want, but going into the process with confidence and concrete reasons is the best way to start.