Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail: The Art of Negotiating a Salary Increase

No matter how many times you’ve done it, it’s still a conversation that fills most of us with dread. For even the sharpest of negotiators, successfully bargaining your way to a salary increase is no mean feat. To help, we’ve listed a few key pointers below to consider in your preparation for your annual review.




The reason salary conversations make us all feel uneasy is because the subject is emotionally charged. Salary is incredibly personal; it’s a quantifiable way of measuring how both you and your employer value your contribution. Acknowledging this highlights why so many of these conversations can become hostile, or be avoided altogether, because of the basic human fear of rejection.




There is only one way to get around the above fear, and this is through preparation, and lots of it. Construct your case based on facts and figures that support your claims. Ground your argument in quantifiable data and / or testimonials to clearly demonstrate what you have achieved, rather than what you feel. You wouldn’t go into a supplier negotiation with an argument to reduce prices because you “feel” you deserve it, so don’t do it here.




We’ve accepted that the reason that these conversations are difficult is because we place personal value on our salary number. One of the most important steps to a successful salary conversation is to resist becoming defensive or overly assertive by maintaining a cool head. Don’t rush to fill pauses in the discussion, let your manager speak, listen and consider their point of view. Self-entitlement is not a good look!




It helps if your salary review and appraisal processes are linked, but they aren’t always. If you are negotiating a salary increase without an appraisal structure, you need to present your case by measuring and assessing your performance in a similar way. What objectives have you exceeded? How can you demonstrate a proven track record of high performance? Put yourself in your manager’s shoes, what would make him or her give you a salary rise?




Critically, before presenting your case, you must have done your research into what your employer can afford to pay. An employer is not going to give you an increase that pushes you beyond the limits of your level of employment in the interests of fairness and equality, so you will hit a brick wall in any conversation if what you want is not feasible, or reasonable. Consider variables, such as additional holidays or an increase in pension, or think about what else you could take on in return for a raise.


Above all, you must maintain a collaborative approach at every stage of the negotiation process. Negotiating salary increases in employment, as opposed to when job seeking, differ in the fact that you can’t just define a walk away point and compete to get it. Think about presenting a case to your employer that shows them what’s in it for them too, how you plan to keep improving and how dedicated you are to maximising return on their investment in you!

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