It is that time of the year, readers. Those long sheets of paper on which you will write all that you think you have accomplished over the last year, a nice sit-down meeting with your manager to discuss the finer points of your goals vs achievements, a time of new hope that maybe, just maybe, it is not time yet to seek nirvana in the Himalayas. I don’t know about you but appraisal cycles used to be a good time for me when I worked full-time jobs. What is better than revisiting the year and all that you did and said that made a difference and getting significant or insignificant little wins out of it? But that is probably just my nostalgia-loving right brain. All the fun and games aside, the one thing I always found difficult to do in these appraisal cycles was the salary negotiation. For the most part of my decade long career, I was blessed with fair, ethical managers who rarely made me feel the need to negotiate salary too aggressively. But I knew it was a skill I needed to have, if not during appraisal cycles then definitely when I switch jobs.
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I am going to list down a few things that helped me in these conversations. Maybe they will turn out useful for you too:
Know when to have this conversation
Most organisations have a regular annual or biannual review cycle when most of this negotiation happens. But there are pockets of opportunity mid-way during the cycle to initiate this conversation too. For instance, when you win a valuable client for your employer, have delivered beyond your job description several times in a row, or when a client increases budgets yet again due to your able leadership and delivery. Strike when the iron is hot, as they say.
Know your value
If you were to go out and look for jobs, how much would you get paid? What is the average income of your industry peers and where do you stand in comparison? What does your employer’s closest competitor pay for a role similar to yours? These answers will shape your argument better.
Spell it out
“I think I need a raise” sounds very uncertain. Use stronger statements and act like you expect a positive outcome from the conversation. Do your math and present a reasonable, thought through figure to play with.
Leave room for negotiation (but be intelligent about it)
Expect a long drawn conversation of give and take. So it is important to have a negotiating margin, but if it is 70 percent more than what your original expectation, the conversation might be over sooner than you imagine.
Think beyond the base figure
Most organisations have lifestyle and other components built into the structure. Think through all components and decide that if you don’t get the dough in base salary, what are some of the other components you and your employer can agree on? Assistance with continuing education, increased paid vacation time, flexitime, and better benefits like lifestyle allowances might be easier to negotiate on than just a base pay which adheres to stricter parity guidelines in most organisations.
Speak a language your manager understands
Decide whether you want an increment out of the discussion or just an insignificant win. Because a pragmatic approach will allow you to be the person your boss identifies most with in conversations like this. Is she a problem solver? Bring a solution instead of a vague expectation. Does she want the credit for being a star leader who shows appreciation where it is due? Give her an opportunity. I know how this sounds, but sometimes, in a full time work scenario and in life, ‘you gotta do what you gotta do!’
Don’t close the conversation without being sure of the next course of action
A salary negotiation conversation usually extends to a good few weeks of email and face-to-face chats. Before you get out of the room, know what the next step is. Get a commitment.
Don’t be afraid to move on
Research suggests that we are a generation of job hoppers, and proudly so. There are many reasons your employer cannot give you the raise you deserve – often strange parity policies that focus singularly on number of years of experience in the industry or organisation instead of the value you bring to the table, company performance even though the practice or department you lead has grown from strength to strength, unfair gender biases, and more. If the conversation ends abruptly and you don’t see it working to your advantage and you are aware of your true value, don’t be afraid to move on. Fortunately, we live in a talent-first economy and we no longer have any need to stick to loyalties that aren’t necessary or don’t work both ways. Do what works for you!
Here are some more exciting reads that you might find useful ahead of this year’s appraisal cycle:
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