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Q: I’m an individual contributor and we just had our annual review. I received great feedback from both my manager and my team about how I went above and beyond most of this year. I have another meeting with my manager to go over my potential raise, but I’m not very good at negotiating for myself. What can I do on my end to prepare?
A: Congratulations on getting positive feedback from both your manager and team about your contributions to the organization this year. Many businesses do separate out the financial review from an annual review with the recognition that managers are often hesitant to sing an employee’s praises if they know they don’t have the financial bandwidth to reward someone the way they would like to or the way their contributions warrant. It sounds like you did a nice job documenting the work you had done throughout the year for your manager and team to comment about.
Preparing for the financial meeting is just as important. Having a list of items to practice and tools to use will not only make you more comfortable with the idea of negotiating, it will also leave you ready for any sort of information (good or bad) that may come out of the discussion. So others can benefit, we’ll assume you followed best practices during the review, and you were an active participant (be it by asking questions, giving detailed accounts of your successes, providing concrete data to show your accomplishments, etc.), had subjects to talk about during your meeting (your achievements, strengths, misses, and desired development), asked for feedback, and provided your complete understanding of the organization’s internal processes as they pertain to your job.
All of that helps the manager compile data for the financial part of the review. On your end, start with your own research. A huge amount of information exists online describing salary ranges, including places like LinkedIn, Salary.com, Glassdoor, and PayScale, where you can look up your title and measure it against similar companies by size and geographic location to give a snapshot of what the salary bandwidth looks like. If your manager has described your contribution at the top of the scale, then you want to find yourself at the same level: the top of the financial scale. Having data from similar companies allows you to show your manager the research you have done (the low and high end of financial earnings) and it gives your manager the information necessary to go to bat for you.
What many employees fail to realize is that your manager is likely not the only person responsible for approving your raise or bonus. There are other people and factors in the company that contribute to any sort of raise or bonus, so keep that in mind. Also, take note that getting an increase in compensation isn’t always in the form of a raise. It can include a bonus (a one-time occurrence or a multiyear one), an elevated title, or additional vacation time. There’s lots of flexibility in figuring out what is most important for you and what you’d like to have in terms of compensation. Go back over the information from your review and try to assess the dollar contribution you made over the last year. Did your contributions increase revenue? Did you help decrease costs? How about streamlining processes for your team and the organization? All of these would have an impact on the kind of raise you would expect.
Having the raise conversation requires practice, and an area most people struggle with is using silence. Silence is very powerful and recognizing the reaction that you want is critical. If your manager starts the conversation with something along the lines of, “You’ve done a great job, and we appreciate everything you’ve done. As a result, you’re getting a 3% raise,” and your research shows you should be getting an 8% raise, pause for a moment. This may involve a second to take a breath before replying with, “Thank you for recognizing my contribution. I’m disappointed in the raise and I’d like to show you some of the research I’ve done into what my compensation should look like in organizations that are competitive to us.” The thank you is vital for you to use as it is a recognition of a job well done. But now you have to get into problem-solving mode, and you shouldn’t be getting mad. Instead, be proactive and share the data you have, name your sources, and have a thorough conversation. End with a question: “What do you think you can do to increase my pay to the right market level?” Then it’s time to wait. Let your manager come up with a plan: who they need to talk to in order to give you an answer and/or any other information they may need time to gather. Ultimately, your position is that you would really appreciate that your manager investigates on how he or she could get your salary to the market level.
Your manager will give you a timeline to check in and get back to you. That puts you in a great position, and it also gives you the opportunity to think about whether you want to stay or go. One thing you should never do is threaten to leave. There’s nothing to be gained by showing your hand. Instead, if you decide to leave, conduct a quiet job search. However, if you decide to stay, keep very close track of your contributions, and make detailed notes about what accomplishments you have been making. In another three months or so, submit your compilation to your manager and see if there is any way to return to the negotiation table.
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