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The HR Manager | Let’s Talk About Money

What is the best way to negotiate salaries and increases?

By Karen Hawkins

Money can be a touchy subject. While it’s a significant component for both the employer and the employee, broaching the subject can at times be uncomfortable. Here, Lexington human resources expert Karen Hawkins answers questions about how to navigate the issue.

Most applications ask for salary requirements. I don’t want to ask for too much, but also don’t want to lose out on money. Can I just write “negotiable”? If I am specific, I am concerned it may be too high and I don’t even get an interview. How can I negotiate the best salary for myself? 

First, ask what the position pays and see if the hiring manager will give you a range. If a range is provided, say where you would like to land within that range. It can be a specific amount or say “I’d like to be in the middle of the range” or “I need the max of the range.” If a range isn’t provided, you can state your needs in two ways. State what you are making currently and that you’d need more than that. Or, forego disclosing your current salary and cite an amount or range that would “work with your budget” or “be commensurate with the duties and responsibilities of the position.” 

It is a risk to state the amount you are seeking, but most organizations have a range that has been approved to be equitable within the company. Remember, you will have time to negotiate once an offer is extended.

Hawkins HR Consulting
Karen Hawkins is the owner of Hawkins HR Consulting LLC.

What is the best way to ask for a raise?

First, ask for a formal meeting with your supervisor. Prepare your case in writing in advance of the meeting, including researching competitive salaries for the position you hold. Bring past performance reviews that show you’ve been an employee who goes above and beyond. Include any notable achievements and additional responsibilities you’ve been given.

The timing of this type of discussion is important. The best time to have your position reviewed is during your annual performance review; in most cases, reviews coincide with annual raises. Outside the annual performance review, I suggest requesting an increase after a high-level achievement or after going above and beyond in some way. For example, you’ve worked overtime for the last three months when you are normally not expected to do that. You want to show your worth and make your case for an increase. Or, maybe it’s been a year or more since you’ve received a raise and you feel it’s time to ask. The best approach is with respect, formality and data to support your cause.

Should you be told a pay increase is not an option, ask for a one-time lump sum bonus to recognize extra work or goals you’ve achieved. Should you receive a regular performance bonus each year and the company doesn’t want to increase your base pay, you could request an increase in bonus potential; for example, moving from 5% potential to 10% potential. This wouldn’t affect the base and could be paid based on achievements.

If I have another job offer from another company that pays more, should I disclose that to my current employer?

If another company has made an offer, I recommend you talk with your employer IF you really want to stay in your current position. There are reasons that you have chosen to look for another job in the first place: the workload is too much, your boss is difficult to work for, there’s too much travel, not enough pay, etc. You need to assess if the core reasons for leaving will change if the money increases. However, if pay is the ONLY factor, definitely give your employer the chance to increase your pay. Asking for an increase in pay should be done before looking for another job if at all possible so there are no surprises on either side. Some employers may have a very negative feeling if they know an employee is looking for another job.  You should gauge if disclosing this information could jeopardize your future with your current employer. 

If I find out that another employee is making more and I have more experience, more responsibility or am doing a better job, what is the best way to approach my supervisor?   

Keep in mind that this information could be incorrect. However, should you feel the source is very reliable, have a discussion with your supervisor. Lay out the facts as to why YOU deserve to be paid at a certain level. Remember to keep emotions out of the discussion—stick to the facts. I would not recommend disclosing that you know what another person makes unless you ask for a raise, receive a response as to why and you still feel there is inequity. Be careful about telling your manager how you found out this information, as it could cause issues for others.