Salary negotiations are difficult. You need to research the market, practice what you’ll say, and gear yourself up to make the ask. And if you anticipate that the answer is likely to be no, it can be even more difficult to psych yourself up to ask for a raise.
Only 39% of workers negotiated for a higher salary during their last job offer, according to a recent study by staffing firm Robert Half. Further, men are more likely than women (46% vs. 34%) to negotiate their salary.
Experts say it’s essential to always ask for more money because when you don’t negotiate, you signal to the company that you don’t value your own worth. And, if the answer is always yes when you ask for a raise, then you might not be asking for enough money, says Linda Babcock, James M. Walton professor of Economics at Carnegie Mellon University and coauthor of Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want. “An occasional no shows that you are pushing up against the boundaries,” she says.
Asking for a raise can also give you valuable insight for future salary negotiations. Here are five ways to gather more information so that the next time you ask for more money, your manager will say yes.
If you’re turned down for a raise, Babcock suggests asking your boss why a salary increase isn’t possible. Your manager’s answer will help you better position yourself for next time, she says. For instance, you might learn your department’s budget is finalized three months before reviews so next year you should schedule your salary discussion earlier. Or you might find out that your department is still waiting for a client to sign a large contract. Perhaps that means you can ask again when the contract is signed, she says.
Determine how to get to yes
If your boss says there isn’t enough money in the budget, ask what you could do to help increase the company’s bottom line, says Olivia Jaras, author of Know Your Worth, Get Your Worth: Salary Negotiation for Women. Ask your boss how you can help grow the business to generate more clients and revenue.
Keep in mind that the problem might not actually be lack of funds, Jaras says. “It could be tied to your boss wanting to feel more certainty about you or wanting to assert their leadership role,” Jaras says. “Your boss might need to feel that you are more loyal to them or following their vision more closely.”
Set a timeline
Ask your manager when you can discuss salary again, says Loni Olazaba, senior manager for talent acquisition at LinkedIn. Ask your boss to help you understand the timeline, the reason the answer is no, and what you can do now to show you are ready for raise the next time you ask, she says.
If your boss recommends waiting six months to a year to negotiate a higher salary, ask for their help developing a growth plan, says Claire Wasserman, founder of Ladies Get Paid. Tell your boss, “I want to become a leader here. What do I need to show you to get to the next level?” she says. Then ask if you can schedule regular check-ins, not to discuss salary, but to ensure you’re meeting the goals of your growth plan. “When you’re ready to ask for a raise again hopefully you won’t have to make the case because it will just be clear that you have delivered,” she says.
Look for clues
Pay close attention to your manager’s reaction to your request for more money, says Jane Charlton, head of the London Business School’s leadership programs and alumni career center. If it’s clear your boss doesn’t recognize your potential, perhaps you haven’t been effectively communicating your achievements, she says.
Or perhaps there’s a mismatch between the value you see yourself bringing to the organization versus what your manager actually values in an employee. “Ask questions to gain concrete information about who gets promoted, what skills and behaviors are rewarded, and what key performance indicators receive the most attention,” Charlton says.
Don’t leave empty-handed
If it’s clear a raise isn’t in the cards, shift the conversation to your full benefits package. “There are so many other things your boss can give you that don’t cost a lot of money,” Wasserman says. Think about what else might be valuable to you. It could be a flexible schedule, one day off a month for professional development, or tuition reimbursement for an MBA. Maybe there is a conference you want to attend or a stretch assignment you want to take on to show you’re ready for that next step in your career. “Think about what else could be negotiated,” Babcock says. “If you think money is tight, there might be other things that are more valuable to your career.”