March 28, 2016

Time for a Raise? Salary Negotiations Require Leverage!

If you want to be paid more money to do what you do well, you will probably have to ask for a raise or change jobs. There are so many reasons to keep up with salary increases: inflation is eating up your earnings faster;  you need more money to survive in a high cost of living area; you deserve a raise because you are delivering innovations that drive company profits; the guy sitting next to you is doing less and making more; or the men are being paid more than you are for similar work … to name a few.  

There are three things that are important to getting a raise: being able to demonstrate consistently high level performance, good market timing, and leverage.  


First, you need to decide that you deserve a raise and be prepared to explain why.  Why? Because employers will expect you to backup your demand for more money. You can’t just say, “I want more money” and expect results - unless you are irreplaceable.  Otherwise, you will need to explain your reasons for asking.  Start by making a list of why you deserve a raise.  List any accomplishments you have made since the last raise. Simply saying that you are doing a really great job is not enough of a justification - give examples and details.  

It should always be obvious that you are doing a good job so it is always good to keep your boss informed about what you are doing. It is also good to be visible - such as by publishing and delivering papers at professional conferences.  

If your salary is lower than what the market is paying for your skills and experience (which may well be the case), back up your request with data from salary.com or glassdoor.com.   Companies need to keep up with the market rates for talent and they know it.  If they fail to do so, they risk losing the talent that drives their company profits.

Second, you need to pick the right time to ask.  Right now you are in a particularly good market to negotiate for a great initial salary or to negotiate for a raise if you have been working successfully for the same employer for a while. Unless you are in the oil industry ...

Timing involves basic supply and demand economics.  You are in a much more powerful position to ask for a raise when there is high demand for your knowledge and skills and the supply is low for people with your expertise.  The harder it is to find talent, the higher the salaries climb.  

Third, you may need to have some leverage to motivate your employer. If you have asked for a raise in the past and have failed to gain traction, you have probably already thought about what other options you have to keep yourself on a proper career trajectory. This is no small matter.

When you are underpaid, it is not only bad for your bank account today, but increasingly so in the future. Every time you make a career move - and you will inevitably - your new salary is going to be calculated based on the expectations set in your last job. If you are underpaid in your first job or consistently underpaid in ones that follow, you need to fix your situation.

To obtain leverage, and to really find out what you are worth, the strategy is to actively engage or reengage the job search process, to interview in earnest, and to get a great offer from another company.  

If your current employer is not investing in you, you should have no reason to be invested in staying. You want to position yourself to be able to thank them for a great ride and to let them see the massive error it would be to let you go. When you have identified options, the question for your employer has changed. Before, the consequence of their decision was good for them -  saving money and keeping costs down. Now, at the very least, the consequences will involve the cost of replacing you. And they will have to pay more in any case.

That is your leverage. You have put them in a more difficult position, and by demonstrating your skills, contribution and value, you will have made it much harder for them to say no. Either they appreciate you or they don’t, and now it is time for them to show it.

It is sort of like the love stories on the Hallmark Channel.  You are forcing them into a long term commitment, making them put a gold ring on your finger … no more of this just living together thing.