Talking to an employer about salary is never easy. In fact, it can be downright awkward. Even when putting in extra hours or taking on additional duties and responsibilities, it can be difficult to broach the topic. But it’s one of the necessary evils in the professional world. Think about it, if you never ask, an employer can't respond -- at least in regard to money. The worst thing that can happen is she says no, and you’re no worse off for asking.
Before ever talking to your employer about salary, do your homework. Talk to other professionals in your field — namely those that hold similar positions to you. Search the Internet for the average compensation of your title, and dig as deep as possible to see what someone with your educational and professional background typically earns in your area. You want as much information as possible to support your case for a higher paycheck.
Rather than heading into your employer’s office with guns ablaze, set up a meeting to discuss job expectations. And since most managers don’t enjoy surprises, provide a makeshift outline of what’s to be discussed. It gives both parties time to prepare; you’ve done your homework, so it’s only right for your boss to be given the same courtesy. But don’t focus on salary alone. Include other topics for discussion, such as duties and advancement opportunities, for example. Doing so can take the pressure off you and your manager.
Timing is everything — or so the story goes, and the same holds true for negotiating a raise. Your annual review is often the perfect opportunity to broach the topic of a pay increase. If you’ve done your due diligence throughout the year, you’ve likely got a stack of papers in your personal performance profile, such as kudos given by a supervisor, a detailed list of completed projects and any additional responsibilities you’ve taken on this year. Bring all of this to your performance review, as well as a figure in mind, and present it at the end of your meeting if your raise is lower than expected.
If an employer won’t meet your price, try to arrive at some sort of agreement for future compensation. One potential option is to come up with a timeline for pay increases. Maybe in three months, your employer gives you a certain percentage, and then in another three months, you’re awarded an additional percentage, bringing you closer to the range you’re hoping for. You may also want to consider other alternatives, like additional vacation time or a work-from-home arrangement.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.