In many places around the world, bartering is a way of life. Indigenous tribes barter for goods and services, shoppers barter for better prices in street markets, and patrons negotiate for sweet deals in restaurants and cafes. It’s not rude – it’s just the way things are.
Chances are, you probably don’t live in one of those places.
In the United States especially, negotiation is a skill rarely performed. We’ve all come to accept standardized prices and procedures, and it doesn’t even occur to some people that they could be asking for more – or to pay less. This is especially true in the workplace.
Negotiating regularly in your career could net you a better salary and benefits – if you do it well and consistently. Here are a few basic practices that can make you a better negotiator today.
Research Your Peers
Before you negotiate, you should research what other people in similar positions earn. Having an accurate salary baseline will give you a better idea if you’re being underpaid, and by how much.
You can find salary information on sites like GlassDoor, PayScale and Indeed. Compare salaries by years of experience, company size and company location. Someone doing your job in New York City or San Francisco will likely earn more, so make sure to account for the cost of living in your area.
Prove Your Value
When you ask for more money, your boss or client will probably wonder what you’ve done to deserve it. Come prepared to discuss your value to the company, whether it’s saving the department $5,000 in one quarter or increasing sales by 10%.
Bring a spreadsheet or outline of your accomplishments and how they’ve helped the company. Managers tend to be driven by results, so concrete evidence proving your worth is invaluable. Once they see you’re an indispensable asset, they’ll be more likely to consider your requests.
Many supervisors are unwilling to give you the exact salary or bonus you ask for, so they’ll go a bit lower. That’s standard negotiation practice. You can anticipate this move by asking for more than you really want. For example, if you a want a $15,000 raise, ask for $20,000.
If your manager complies with the initial request, you’ve gotten more than you dreamed of. If they go lower, you’ll still be in good shape.
Don’t Be Afraid
Research shows that less than half of all employees negotiate with their employers. Many don’t do so because they don’t want to be seen as pushy or risk getting fired for being perceived as greedy.
Negotiating is a long-standing tradition in any business, and no worthwhile manager will punish you for it. If you’ve received positive performance reviews in the past, you should feel confident going in.
If you seem nervous during negotiations, your boss will assume you’re asking for an undeserved raise. Practice negotiating with a friend beforehand who isn’t afraid to critique, and work on projecting an aura of calm confidence.
Some companies might be unwilling or unable to increase your salary, no matter how solid your negotiating skills are. Instead of accepting defeat, ask for something different. Can you negotiate for more vacation days or the ability to work from home a couple days a week? Even if you have your heart set on a raise, make a list of alternative perks just in case.
A manager who values you might be willing to let you leave early on Fridays or work a four-day week if he or she can’t bump your pay. The possibilities are numerous possibilities, so don’t restrict yourself to something other coworkers have asked for in the past.
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