You may have seen the quote “In business, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate”. The question is how do you negotiate? There are endless resources to train people in the art of negotiation. Still, for most people, it can be an uncomfortable and awkward conversation.
The truth is, in business, your salary and benefits aren’t presented as a negotiation. They are presented as facts – here it is, now sign the acceptance form. Many of my coworkers have accepted that they cannot negotiate their salaries because they don’t believe they are given the opportunity to do so. I disagree. I do agree, however, that raises are presented in a way that discourages negotiation by making people feel that they have to reject their raise in order to discuss it. No one wants to put their job in jeopardy, especially in a slow economy. And many people will choose to avoid the anxiety of negotiation. My approach is to negotiate, proactively.
I use the current annual review as a time to negotiate for my next raise. I like this approach because negotiation is most effective when you really believe what you are saying. I know that I’m not going to walk into a review and quit on the spot if I can’t get the raise I want. But what I can discuss honestly is how I feel about my current salary and where I expect it to be in the next one or two years. The first year I implemented this approach, my manager spoke to HR about promoting me within three months after my annual review. As with any negotiation, there are a few things you need to know before you engage in a proactive negotiation.
Know what you’re worth
Do your research. Find out what you could and should be making. This needs to be based on specifics – job sector, degree, performance, years of experience, geography, etc. The ACS Salary Survey is a great resource for those in chemistry-related positions.
Know what you want
This is not necessarily the same as knowing what you’re worth. For example, if research shows that you could be making 30% more than your current salary, you have to decide whether you can confidently look your manger in the eye and ask for that salary. Knowing what you want means knowing what you want to ask for.
Know what you can expect
What you’re worth and what you want may be far beyond what you can actually get at your company. If you intend to keep your current job, you should at least have a rough idea of what the company would be willing pay you. This may not be easy information to get. Search for your company on glassdoor.com to see if people with a similar job title have posted their salaries. You can also search for your job title and see what people are earning at similar companies. It won’t benefit you to ask for a salary that is far beyond what your manager could realistically offer you. Alternatively, you could ask for more vacation time in lieu of a higher raise or have the organization pay for your travel to an ACS national meeting.
Decide what you will accept
At the end of the day, chances are you won’t get exactly what you asked for, at least not every time. You need to decide what you will accept and at what point you will look for a new position. The advantage of a proactive negotiation is that both you and your manager have a year to think about it. If you let your manager know that you know what you’re worth and what you want, then s/he can spend that year considering your value, and you can spend that year demonstrating how valuable you are.
There will always be the few who thrive on the rush of a heated debate or enjoy sweating through an intense negotiation. But for most people, including employees and managers, negotiation is not embraced so fondly. Rather than choking on an awkward attempt at rebutting your raise or avoiding the conversation altogether, try negotiating proactively.
This article was written by Sherrie Elzey, Ph.D., a chemical engineer and freelance technical writer/editor. Sherrie has a background in nanoscience and nanotechnology research, with experience in academia, government, and industry positions.