How to negotiate a pay rise in 5 steps


I was recently asked – why is it that men are paid more than women? A hot topic which was debated around the table and one of the suggestions was that women are poor negotiators – I disagree, but afterward it got me thinking… Can I translate some of my knowledge from major deal negotiations to negotiating a pay increase – so instead of waiting for ‘karma to do the work’ here are some of my suggestions:

  1. The key to all negotiations is to know your end goal
    • What’s your compromise position; ideal state and perfect world?
    • What will you do if you don’t get what you want?
  2. Next it’s about thinking for the person you are negotiating with:
    • Are they the decision maker? If not, consider how you can help your manager sell this in up the chain.
    • What creative alternatives to cash are available? (additional leave, increase bonus, shorter working hours, car space, less staff, additional training, etc, etc)
  3. Be prepared, this process will take time but you will need a succinct message and supporting documentation for the first discussion (otherwise it will be the last).
    • Have a script (great if you’re nervous), write out why you feel you are entitle to an increase.
    • Managers can’t give you an increase because you’ve been there for a long time or they like you, or because of your lifestyle choices. Something has to have changed – more responsibility, more staff, bigger geographic area, etc.
    • Know your company’s policy for pay increases and have a copy with you (highlighted)
  1. Ensure there are no surprises by creating the best opportunity for this conversation to succeed.
    • Make sure your manager knows the purpose of the meeting in advance.
    • Pick a time/day they are typically quiet, if something major comes up, move it.
    • Consider what they might say or how they may react – brainstorm this with people managers you know, your mentor and someone who knows your manager. Have notes for your response to these potential reactions.
  1. The biggest lesson I have learnt in negotiation is – whoever speaks first loses! Once you have walked through your case you have 2 choices: put a BIG number on the table (my preferred) or put no figure on the table.
    • Whichever path you choose, you need to end with “So, what are your thoughts?” then say nothing for as long as you can – about 45 seconds should do it “shhhhh”!?! They are the manager, let them lead.

Negotiation, by definition, is about reaching an agreement – it shouldn’t be a hostile situation. It can absolutely be stressful, but if you are prepared it can be a great opportunity to remind the business what an asset you are (and to take time to remind yourself of that too). I may be crazy, but negotiation should also be fun – you start with “nothing” then push and pull a bit until you both end up with a bit of this and that, shake hands and move on – so try and keep things in perspective from where you start this process.

In my experience if you don’t have this conversation and your peer was to have asked, wouldn’t you kick yourself. So, finally, consider what advice you would give your best friend in the same situation, then go for it!

This blog was initially published in Women’s Agenda in October 2014.