How to Negotiate a Salary Raise with Your Boss?
Do you want to be an underpaid employee? Would it be fair if you are worth a lot more to your organization but they are not paying you enough?
You should be paid a fair amount for your contribution and if you think you are getting paid less than what you deserve, then you should read this article fully, word by word.
Everyone wants a raise in their salary. One of the easiest ways to do that is to move from one job to another.
When you have branded yourself as an expert digital marketer, and when there is enough demand in the market for digital marketers, it is relatively easy to get a raise by switching jobs. But it is not always recommended to switch jobs every one or two years because you will not create an impact with your work in such a short time.
Unless you work for 3-4 years inside an organization, you will not be able to do work that can be a massive value addition for the company you work for. You should build a process, build a team and make sure that there is some momentum before you decide to move on.
One of the biggest challenges you will face when you are working within an organization is getting a good raise every year while working in the same company. It might feel like a very difficult conversation to have with your boss if you want to ask for a raise. You might be afraid that you will hurt their feelings if you say something wrong.
Many people avoid negotiations because they think it is too difficult emotionally and intellectually. But it need not be that way.
In this article, we will discuss techniques and strategies to ask for a raise and succeed at it, without making your boss feel bad about giving you a raise.
The concepts that I am going to discuss here have been inspired by two of the best negotiation books in the world – Start with No by Jim Camp and Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. The concepts in the book apply for many areas of life, but I am just going to talk about salary negotiations.
These techniques are not limited to digital marketing jobs, so feel free to share this article with any working professional that you think might benefit from. (Towards the end of this article, I will negotiate with you to convince you to share this article. You will understand the techniques only if you read all the sections below without skipping any part of this article).
1. Do Your Homework and Get Data
The first step in trying to negotiate a raise is to find out the truth about your current salary. There are good chances that you are getting paid more than what you deserve, and in such cases, you should just enjoy your current salary.
If you approach your boss to ask for a raise while you are already overpaid, your request might backfire. You might have to first work on delivering more value to your organization and help them make more revenue than the salary that you get paid for yourself.
You should also be aware of the financial status of the company that you work for. If your startup is struggling, then it might not be the best idea to ask for a raise right now.
Let’s assume that you are not being overpaid and the company that you work for is actually doing well, your next step is to find out the industry numbers.
How much are people getting paid for the same role in similar companies, in the same city? Salaries change depending on location.
For example, salaries in Bangalore are a bit higher than cities like Chennai or Pune because of the higher cost of living. You can ask people about it, do your own research and understand the trend in the market. Without this data, you should not ask for a raise.
No one can argue with data. If tech startups usually pay 20-25 Lakhs INR per annum in Bangalore and if you are getting paid only 12 lakhs, you should be able to back up your request with some form of data, even if the data is not very concrete.
If you ask your boss for a raise and if the reply you get is “No, you are already getting paid a lot, we can’t afford to pay you more”, then what would you reply?
You should reply something like “But other digital marketing managers are getting paid this much, for example, this ABC startup’s digital marketing manager, a friend of mine is getting paid X per annum”.
The data is your savior.
Also, do not tell your boss about this article. Because if he or she reads it, they will be able to apply the same negotiation tactics on you and make sure that you do not get a raise! 🙂
2. Give Your Boss an Option to Say “No”
One of the core concepts in negotiation tactics as taught by many negotiation experts is the power of the word No.
People, in general, resist saying a Yes to a request.
As soon as you set up a meeting with your boss, and tell him or her that the meeting is about the discussion of your salary, they will become cautious.
They will be careful to make sure that they do not end up yielding to your request. They will tighten up and they will be closed to what you are about to say.
They will be afraid that you might convince them to say Yes to your request. This is your biggest challenge in trying to establish a rapport and telling them about your point of view. And the best way to help them lighten up is to give them an option to say No to you.
You don’t necessarily need to say the word No. As long as you can communicate in some way that you will be able to accept a negative outcome from the conversation and not be too disappointed, it is fine.
So as soon as you start your talk, you can say something like: “Hey, I want to discuss a raise in my salary, but I also want to make it clear that if it is not possible, it is still fine, but I want you to hear me out first.”
It is a bold move to allow your boss to say No.
Most people will think that if you give them an option to say No right away, then that’s what you are going to get as an answer to your request. Your boss will be taken aback by your attitude. Who says that a No is ok?
That’s the beauty of this technique. It is counter-intuitive, but it works.
If you walk into the conversation with an attitude that you are going to try every possible to move to try to get your boss to say Yes, and if your boss picks up on the vibe, then you will not establish a rapport.
The voice inside the mind of your boss is going to constantly whisper to him/her to say No. And he is going to be thinking about how to say No to you, and that prevents him from actually listening to you. This prevents the opportunity to establish a rapport with your boss.
Think about your own mind voice when a door to door salesman shows up at your door uninvited. He starts talking about something and you don’t even listen. You are just going to wait until he finishes talking and then say a No followed by shutting the door. You don’t want that to happen in a conversation with your boss.
When you give them permission to say No, they lighten up.
They think… “Oh, I can always say a No anyway and this employee is going to be ok with it, what’s the worst that could happen? Let me hear them out…“
And this is your chance. You have got them lightened up, and now they are more receptive to what you are about to say. Now they are listening.
When they listen, you have a better chance to make a fair argument about your point of view – which would eventually get them to say Yes to you!
Now that you have got them listening, what should you actually talk about? That takes us to the next part of the article…
3. Identify the Elephant in the Room
Whenever you are going to negotiate with someone, there is an elephant in the room.
An elephant in the room is something that both of you are thinking about, but not explicitly talking about it.
That awkward thought in the mind, which is preventing you from listening to each other.
What is the elephant in the room when you are asking for a raise?
Your boss is probably thinking about the following things about you:
- This person is trying to get more money out of me and the company.
- This person is greedy.
- This person might defeat me and make me say a Yes. I should be careful.
- This person might leave the company if I do not give him a raise.
- This person is going to waste my time and have a lengthy discussion, just to hear a No from me in the end.
Until you remove the elephant in the room, you cannot establish a rapport with your boss. And the only way to remove the elephant is to identify it and call it out.
When you ignore the elephant, the elephant becomes bigger. When you try to act like there is no elephant in the room, it becomes more prominent.
In negotiations, the No.1 thing to achieve when starting the talks is establishing a rapport. Establishing rapport with bosses is difficult because we have a complicated relationship with bosses. That’s why we should actively try to establish a rapport.
We feel very easy to talk with friends, brothers, sisters and colleagues. Why don’t we have the same comfort level with our bosses? It’s obvious. They are our boss.
When you want to upgrade your career and salary, your first goal is to establish a rapport with your boss. Talk like you would talk with a friend, even if your boss is not your friend.
Whenever you identify the elephant in the room, the elephant becomes smaller, and it helps you establish a rapport.
So how do you identify the elephants?
First think deeply about what your boss might be thinking. And then try to identify it. You should put yourself in their shoes. Imagine what would happen if you were the boss.
If you think that your boss is going to think you are acting in a greedy and selfish way, you should address that first, subtly in a conversation.
For example, as soon as you walk in to the meeting, tell something like “Hey, I wanted to talk about a raise in my salary, but at the same time I don’t want to look like a greedy person.”
Smile and put it across as a joke. Not as a serious statement. Once you smile, and get a smile back, you have got some level of rapport.
Your boss is going to reply, “Hey, I am not going to think that you are greedy, let me know what you have in mind.”
One elephant is taken care of.
Think about more elephants. A boss is usually going to think that you have some other offer in hand and would be afraid that you might leave the company. How would you take care of that elephant?
You can say something like “I really love working in this company, and I am not going to look out for any other job, and I wanted to discuss something very important with you.”
When you talk about your loyalty to the company, another elephant in the room is identified. This establishes another level of rapport. You are opening up your boss to listen to you. Once all his objections are removed, your boss will listen 100% to your conversation.
What else? Your boss might not have a lot of time and is afraid that you might keep talking for an hour.
You can say, “I will keep this short, and it won’t take more than 20 minutes of your time.” – and BAM!, another elephant identified and removed.
With every elephant in the room being called out and sent out, you have higher levels of rapport and connection.
During negotiations, the first order of business is to remove the tense situation in the room and get the other party to get to a level where they can listen to you. Try to get in their shoes. Try to feel what they feel. And see their perspective. No one does that during negotiations. But you should.
Humans are always fighting to get the other person to see their point of view. Don’t let them fight for it. Start with seeing their point of view. That’s the only way to establish a connection. And without connection, you cannot get them to give you what you want. Because without a connection, you can’t get the other party to listen to you.
The better the connection and the rapport, the better the negotiations are going to be.
Imagine the kind of rapport you might be having if your boss is also your college senior who played football with you. Why do you think a negotiation with such a person is going to be easy? Connection and rapport.
Now there is a high chance that your boss is a stranger to you. So you work to establish rapport. Using the techniques mentioned in this article.
Another elephant in the room could be that the company is not going that well financially.
You can say “I know the finances of the company are not that great and we have not hit our revenue target, but…”.
As soon as you say something like that, your boss will be thinking “Hey, this person understands me and can see what I see”.
And then they start listening to you actively.
With each conversation, you should also close the loop and tell them how you are going to help them.
For example, if you are talking about finances, you should also tell them how the salary raise is going to motivate you to work harder and eventually help the company make more profits.
Giving your boss permission to say No is going to give you a level of connection where you can start identifying the elephants in the room.
Once you identify the elephants in the room, you get a deeper level of connection and it is time to start using the mirroring technique. Which takes us to the next section of this article…
4. Use Mirroring and Silent Pauses
The two parties in a negotiation usually talk with their own self-interests in their mind. This breaks the rapport.
Your goal is to get your adversary into the same plane as you in terms of thought. You will be able to open up a window to communicate your point of view.
Your adversary is going to be resistant to hearing your world view when you start the conversation. So instead of trying to communicate your world view directly, you first get into their world view, establish rapport, and use that opportunity to let them see your world view.
After the No technique and identifying elephants, mirroring is another great way to establish rapport.
Mirroring happens in many areas of our life. If you go to a music festival and dance, you are mirroring other people’s moves, and you can see that there is a feeling of connection.
When you laugh with your friends about the same joke, there is a synchronization. You all laugh at the same thing at the same time. All this is mirroring. A form of expression that helps humans connect.
Mirroring in the context of negotiation is when you repeat what the other person is saying. Usually the last few words of their sentence and end it with a question. As simple as that.
This technique is so simple, and yet it is so effective. You can use this technique even in negotiations of purchasing something.
To explain the effectiveness of this technique, allow me to share a recent experience from my life.
A few weeks back, I drove down from Bangalore to Salem on my car. It’s a 4-hour drive but I was not expecting intense heat. Summer is here and though the car’s air conditioning was set to its lowest point, I could still sense intense heat from the afternoon sun. My car windows do not have dark glasses.
When I stopped at a toll gate, there was a person selling black shades for the car windows. I asked for the price and she said “₹300 for 4 pieces”.
Now everyone knows that they put a high price and expect us to negotiate.
How do you start the negotiation in such a scenario?
I decided to try to mirroring technique. I just repeated, “₹300 for 4?” with a smile on my face.
Smiling is also a way to establish rapport. Humans cannot prevent smiling when you smile at them and it brings them to your plane for a moment. After I asked that question, I gave an awkward silence.
When you are in a conversation and give an awkward silence, people usually feel uncomfortable and try to fill that void by saying something.
She immediately responded with “Ok, take it for ₹250 for 4 pieces”.
I did the same thing again. I replied “₹250 for 4?” and I just went silent.
She smiled and she was also silent.
Then I said “Let me have it for ₹150 for 4”. She said OK and sold it to me!
The technique worked!
I could have also got it through a hard negotiation where she would have felt like she lost a good deal, but we both were happy towards the end. That’s how good negotiations should be.
Both parties should leave happy after the negotiation. Hard negotiations are not recommended (as discussed in the later part of this article).
You can use the same technique when you are negotiating with your boss.
If your boss says that “We have decided to give a 5% hike to all the employees including you.”, how are you going to respond?
I will tell you.
Just reply “Just 5% hike to everyone?”, and just go silent for a few seconds.
It’s gonna be awkward to do this, but you will start using it once you see the power of it.
When mirror and give a silent pause, the other party will fill that void. Your boss will try to elaborate on what he just said.
Your boss will start saying things like “We are not doing that well financially, and growth is not as expected, so 5% is all we can afford for all the people… blah… blah…”.
When you get your boss to talk more than he or she intended to in this conversation, you are already getting ahead because now you are establishing rapport.
During this conversation, they might say something that you can use it to your advantage. Chris Voss calls this a Black Swan.
For example, when your boss is trying to explain himself and justify the 5% hike, he or she might give out some important information like, “Only the tech team gets 10%, everyone else gets 5%.”.
That’s new information you can now use.
In negotiations, you should always try to dig for information that might help you in your negotiation. This information is not going to be available from other sources. You have to trigger it during the conversation. Discover the Black Swan.
Mirror again when your boss gave out some critical information.
Just repeat “Tech team gets 10%!!?” and then go silent.
Your boss will try to justify why the tech team is getting 10% while everyone else is only getting 5%. That’s the beauty of mirroring. It gets the other person talking, more than what they planned to.
You now know that not everyone in the company is getting 5%, some are getting more. This is your Black Swan.
You could communicate why marketing and digital marketing is as important as the tech and product team and without good marketing, all the products that the tech team develop will not see a return on investment.
Such a conversation might lead to changing their mind. You can never have such a deep conversation without establishing rapport first.
The techniques discussed in the previous sections of this article is mostly to get them to a level where you can have a deep conversation about your point of view.
The biggest negotiations killer is when the other party is refusing to talk. Your goal should be to establish rapport, get them to talk, and then let them listen to you when you talk.
When you keep applying all these techniques, a pressure builds up, you will hit a wall. The tension in the room might go up because of your requests. And that’s where you should start diverting the topic and extend the conversation.
When you extend the conversation, you are bringing down the heat of the moment, and later you can start putting forth your requests again.
So how do you bring down the heat and talk more?
That’s brings us to the next technique…
5. Get them to say “That’s Right”
The two most powerful words in any negotiation are “That’s Right”.
“Yes” doesn’t have any power: “Yes” is a good affirmative word, but the word Yes has lost its power over the years.
We’ve got used to saying Yes to too many things and we have started saying yes without really meaning it.
If someone asks a favor from us we usually say Yes just to get them to shut up for a short time. So do not try to get your boss to say “Yes”. That doesn’t really establish any rapport at all.
“You’re Right” is a Negotiation Killer: Another thing that we all try to do in negotiations is, trying to get them to say “You’re right”. It’s not gonna help you win the deal. If you try to get the other party to say “You’re right”, it might help you boost your ego, but you can’t win the deal.
When you get them to say You’re right, you are not establishing rapport. You are breaking the rapport. Instead, you should aim at getting a “That’s right”.
So how do you get your boss to agree with you on something and get them to say That’s Right?
If you say something like, “India has a long way to go in terms of annual salaries. Digital marketers usually get paid 1/5th of what digital marketers in the USA get paid. This was the trend for a while because the cost of living in India was really low. But now cities like Mumbai and Bangalore have a high cost of living compared to the biggest cities across the world like Los Angeles, New York, and Sydney. A house costs as much as 1.5 crores INR and you can get a similar house in Los Angeles for $200,000.”
You say all this to extend the conversation and get them talking. Say something that you and your boss can agree on. It could about someone in the company, market situation, or anything that your boss will agree with you on.
We talk about stuff like this with your friends and family, for no reason. We just enjoy having a conversation with our friends and we usually try to get them to agree to something we say. Such agreements build connection and rapport.
You have to follow the same thing with an adversary in a negotiation. You have to get them to your plane of thinking and build connection and rapport. Get the other party to feel comfortable.
Once you have a few “That’s right” from your boss about topics that are not directly related to your request to revise your salary up, you can then get to the end of the negotiation talks, by polarizing them with a No.
That brings us to the next section of this article…
6. Polarize with “No” instead of “Yes”
I have already applied some of the negotiation tactics I am discussing in this article on YOU.
Yes. You probably didn’t even notice it.
Look at how I started this article.
I asked you the following two questions at the beginning of this article:
- Do you want to be an underpaid digital marketer?
- Would it be fair if you are worth a lot more to your organization but they are not paying you enough salary?
Your answer to both of these questions is a No.
Now I could have asked you a similar question and got you to say Yes. I could have asked you the following questions.
- Do you want to get paid more as a digital marketer?
- Do you want to get paid a fair amount equal to your worth for your organization?
You would have answered Yes to both the above questions.
Now think about which question has more power. The No questions of course.
That’s because we humans are wired in our psyche to avoid losses more than gain something.
If I told you: “Do XYZ and you will not lose $100” vs. “Do ABC and you will gain $100” which one do you think is more powerful?
You will be more motivated to do XYZ because if you do not do it, you will lose the $100 that you already have.
The motivation not to lose something we already have is always more than the motivation to gain something equal in value. That’s human psychology.
The need for polarization: Human beings always spend a lot of time being in the middle zone between Yes and No. To get people to make decisions, you need to polarize them towards one end.
For example, I want you to read this article and I would promote the article on social media, email and other channels. What I want you to do is push you towards a decision.
You probably want to learn something new about negotiations to help you improve your life, but you have not taken any action on it yet. You will take action only if I push you towards a Yes or a No.
When I push you (polarize you), you have to take a decision.
When I say in my email subject line “Do you want to be an underpaid employee?” you are going to say No.
When I push you towards a clear No, your next natural step would be to take action on it – in this case, click on my link and read this article.
Your boss is yet to give you a raise because he is in the middle zone. He is postponing his decision. He has not yet decided on a Yes or a No.
Your job is to push them towards an end, ideally to an end where it helps you get a raise. You can do this in two ways – get them to a Yes or a No. Yes as an affirmation is vague and doesn’t have any power, you have to push them towards a No.
Here are some of the questions you can ask to push them towards a No.
Notice that these are hard-hitting questions and you cannot use them at the beginning of the conversation. You can ask these questions only after you have established the connection and rapport as discussed in the previous sections of this article.
Once you have that level of rapport, you can ask questions like…
- Do you want me to fail in my digital marketing career?
- Do you want to lose the opportunity where I could rise up the corporate ladder and become a valuable asset for the company?
- Do you want to ignore one of the most important teams in your organization – the digital marketing team, while you focus on support and product teams?
- Do you want me to lose the motivation to work because of a small issue like a salary revision?
- Do you want me to burn out trying to overwork myself while I am being underpaid?
- Do you want me to quit this company that I love working for because the salary is being an issue here?
- Do you want to let other competing companies attract me with a job offer I cannot refuse?
The answer from your boss for all these questions will be a “No”. If his answer is a No, then what’s the next step? He has to give you a raise.
Now note that you have to ask these questions in a subtle way. Not too directly. If you ask too directly, you might end up breaking the rapport that you have worked so hard to build. Mix your hard-hitting polarizing questions with a bunch of conversations in the middle to keep that rapport going on.
Mirroring, identifying elephants, getting them to say “That’s right”, giving them permission to say No and silent pauses – all these techniques are eventually leading to a plane where you are comfortable to ask these questions. The techniques need not be applied in the same order.
Give permission to say No, identify elephants, try to polarize them and push them towards a decision, come back and get them to say “That’s right”, identify elephants again, push towards polarization again. It’s a symphony. An orchestra. You will get better at it as you practice. Over time, it will be as natural as driving a car. You will just go along with the flow.
Your goal as a negotiator is to get to the edge. Push it to the limits. If you simply ask for a raise without applying these negotiation tactics and let’s say you end up getting a 5% hike, you will probably spend the rest of the year wondering if you could have asked for a 10% and maybe you would have got it.
As a good negotiator, you need to get to the edge. You need to see how far can they go. That’s where you’ve got the best deal possible.
Maybe, just maybe, your boss has an idea about giving you a 15% raise, but only if you ask for it. If you ask for 20%, you will probably never get it if your boss has decided that he/she cannot go above 15%.
Your job is to find out this number and get that maximum possible raise out of the negotiation. And you can push the negotiation to such an edge only if you have built that level of connection and rapport.
All the techniques discussed in this article is towards building a connection and rapport in such a way that both parties are happy after the negotiation. Which brings us to the next point…
7. Never do a Hard Negotiation
Before you started reading this article, you probably had a negative outlook about the concept of negotiation.
In general, people have a perception that if you are going to negotiate, you are going to win while the other party is going to lose. One of the reasons for this outlook is – most of the negotiations that you see in today’s world are hard negotiations.
People want to put other people in positions of difficulty and have a win-lose ending.
Many negotiations go like “I have the power to do this, so it’s gonna be my way or the highway”. This kind of negotiations are common because people just don’t know a better way to negotiate.
I recently conducted a poll in my digital marketing group on Facebook, and most of the people said that if they do not get a raise, they will just get a second job or do freelancing on the side.
Less than 10% have said that they will try to negotiate a higher salary.
In my opinion, negotiating your salary could be the fastest way to earn more from your current job than doing a second job or quitting the job.
Negotiations can be fun, if you follow the advice in this article.
When you establish a connection, get your boss to the same plane of thinking, and then get what you want, your boss is going to be happy about it.
If you go to your boss and say “Give me raise or I will quit the job”, its more of a blackmail than a negotiation. That’s what I call a hard negotiation.
If you do hard negotiations and if people do not feel comfortable after dealing with you, they will not deal with you again.
You might end up getting a raise this year, but your boss will avoid having a conversation with you next year. You do not want to do that.
Good negotiations are always win-win. You end up making the other party feel good, while getting what you want. People will be happy dealing with you. They will enjoy the conversation.
Will you hesitate to negotiate for a salary raise now?
You have all the tools that you need. All the techniques you have learned in this article can now be put into good use, not just for negotiating salaries but for any deal like a business deal, a sales deal, or even as simple as convincing your girl friend to go to the restaurant that you want to go!
Now before I end this article, I want to negotiate with you!
I might look like a greedy person trying to get you to share and comment on this article, but hey, that’s the only currency of a blogger. Right?
A blogger gets his/her motivation from traffic, shares, and comments.
I have spent more than 50 hours reading books and watching videos about negotiations.
I have spent more than 10 hours writing this article.
You got to read it for free! And this is probably the most important article that you have read for the betterment of your career. Right?
Now if you tell me that you will leave this blog without sharing this blog post on your social media channels, it’s ok. You can leave.
But its gonna take just another 10 seconds for you to share this article. 🙂
If you share this article with your friends, it would mean a lot to me.
As a blogger, I feel happy that many people read and share this article. That’s what motivates me to write more. And if I write more, you will get more value in the future.
If you leave this blog without sharing it, I would feel bad about it. Do you want me to feel bad after I have worked so hard to deliver value for free?
Do you want your friends to miss out on these awesome negotiation tactics that will help them increase their salaries?
Then what are you waiting for. Go and share this article! 🙂
Let’s have a win-win deal here.
Thank you for reading!