How to negotiate a better salary

<p<Communication is the key to negotiating a better than average pay rise. However, asking the boss for more money is something many of us feel uncomfortable doing. This discomfort often stems from nervousness, which is the result of the confrontational nature of salary negotiations. It is important to accept that for the duration of the negotiation our boss becomes our opponent in a game, and games require carefully thought out strategies. The following simple rules will help you plan your moves.

1: Lay the foundations

You should try to avoid a dramatic confrontation with your boss during your salary negotiation. Instead, lay the foundation for the negotiation by conducting an organised campaign based on the quality of your work. The reasons for your belief that you 'deserve' a raise have to be projected to your boss. If you do this successfully, your boss will have an idea of your value to the company and, hopefully, enter the salary negotiation with a higher raise in mind. Taking full advantage of this opportunity is up to you.

2: Do your homework

Before the interview you should research your job's salary range, both within the industry and the company, and be prepared to present the results of your research at the negotiation. Salaries can be researched on the Internet, through professional organisations or by networking. Internal information is harder to come by and more difficult to use: 'I want £x because so-and-so gets £y', should never be used to advance your claim.

3: Weigh up the risks

Analyse your position on the job market before the negotiation. What compensation package could a person of your age, experience and qualifications command elsewhere? If you can approach the negotiation knowing that you could get what you want elsewhere, the balance of power is firmly in your favour - your boss has to meet your demands. You need to be prepared to make a stand. Your research should give you an idea of what your minimum requirements should be. You should consider looking for another job if they are not met.

4: Be flexible

Approach the negotiation with a flexible attitude. Perhaps your boss has been instructed to keep a tight control on costs and can't possibly satisfy your financial demands. Have some alternative suggestions, such an increase in annual leave or a new company car, ready as substitutes. Alternatively, you could negotiate for greater responsibility or improved training opportunities, thereby increasing your skills and 'employability'. Increased employability means that your position will be stronger at the next salary negotiation.

5: Go for it!

Ask for a raise. This is the most basic advice, but it's amazing how many people fail to 'pop the question'. Some people simply don't feel comfortable putting their boss on the spot, or are afraid of being turned down. But if you don't ask, your boss will assume that you're happy with your current deal.

Worryingly, research shows that women tend to avoid direct confrontation and therefore ask for raises less frequently than men. This is one explanation for why women sometimes earn less than men in similar positions.

If you find it difficult to tackle the issue head on, take a more indirect approach. Introduce the money issue by asking one of the following questions:

  • What is the company's pay plan?
  • What is the maximum raise given?
  • How has my performance been evaluated?
  • What are my opportunities for advancement?
  • When are raises given?
  • What do my colleagues earn?

The winning strategy

Preparation, both of yourself and your boss, is vital, as is a realistic appraisal of the opportunities facing you at this stage of your career. Basing your strategy around the above points will enable you to communicate your demands on your terms. If you control the process, you will increase your chances of emerging from the negotiations with your expectations met.