Negotiating With Your Boss

They say if you don’t ask you don’t get… so what’s the best way to ask your boss for a raise?

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They say if you don’t ask you don’t get… so what’s the best way to ask your boss for a raise? 

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Maybe it’s the way we’ve been raised, or just the culture we’ve grown up in, but whatever the case is, we all know money conversations are difficult.

For women, this can be doubly so. Research from Lean In’s Women in the Workplace 2016 study found that while more women than men ask for a raise, 30 percent of those who do are labelled with negative traits like “bossy”, “intimidating” or “aggressive”, compared to 23 percent of their male counterparts. Usually, this is the result of an unconscious bias, since most people (including women!) expect women to be “warm and communal,” says Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, Associate Professor of Management and Organizations at Duke University, Fuqua School of Business. Here are a few ways you can turn that to your advantage.

Go positive

Rocking up to your boss and saying you feel underappreciated and need some kind of compensation is never going to fly, as you’ll come off sounding sel ish.

While we may have been taught to go in with a “poker face” when it comes to negotiating, doing the opposite is actually better. “[Showing] positive emotions can reduce hostility and even help close a deal. Instead of starting your negotiating with a demand, frame it as a cooperative effort,” says Ashleigh. “For example, you can say, ‘I think we can both work out a solution together.’ Your body language and your tone [should] convey to your negotiating partner that you want to work together.”

She also adds that sitting in a “closed off ” way, with arms crossed and frowning, can make you appear stand-offish. To appear more open and receptive, Ashleigh advises to keep your arms open and nod (where appropriate, of course).

Before you ask

Another tip from Ashleigh is to think communally – something that women do more instinctively than men. She recommends to focus on the team, not to use “I” language (as in, “I need a raise”) and not to use strong language if things get heated.

Instead, talk about “we”. “Rather than saying ‘I need this situation to change,’ try saying ‘we can find a better solution.’” says Ashleigh. Also, by iguring out what your boss wants (and making sure she gets it), you’re more likely to get what you want. Providing solutions instead of causing problems will hold you in good stead when you ask for a raise.

Timing is everything ...........

There’s nothing wrong with wanting more money, but when you ask for it counts just as much as how. Zen Soh, a consultant from Robert Walters Singapore says, “The best time to do it would be when you’ve continuously exceeded performance targets or there’s a big piece of work you’ve done.”

In much the same way, there are times when asking for money just won’t work. “It definitely isn’t the best time to ask when your company has not been making profits or has been laying off staff to cut cost,” she says.

A big no-no

The reality of negotiations is there’s no guarantee you’ll get what you want, even if you’ve done everything right. Sometimes, the company won’t be in a position financially to give you that raise, or maybe your boss just doesn’t think you deserve it. So what do you do then?

“One thing you definitely should not do is threaten to quit your job to get higher pay,” says Zen. “It will likely not sit well with the firm. If you threaten to leave, the company may agree to your pay increment but start looking for your replacement. The trust between employer and staff will likely be affected and your loyalty is going to be questioned.”

Go for what you deserve

Sometimes, if a raise isn’t a possibility,you could try negotiating for other things. For example, you can ask for extra days of leave or workfrom-home days. However, it really depends on your company and ultimately, you need to be “realistic about what you’re asking for and understand the limits of your organisation,” advises Zen.

As a reminder, she also adds that, “Appraisals need not be one-way and limited to once a year. It can be done frequently so performance and rewards set by both parties are aligned.” At the end of the day, remember that you should be getting as much out of your company as it is of you. 

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Images Text Karen Fong.

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