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How to negotiate beyond the raise you were offered

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated April 30, 2018
|5 min read

It’s been a long year. You closed out tasks, picked up new projects, and made some serious progress on a number of other productive things. Now it’s performance review season, and you’re looking forward to a stellar review accompanied by a nice merit increase to reward all your hard work.

But that’s not how things turn out. Instead, you get a strong review and the same old mediocre 2% merit increase you got last year.

That’s disappointing. Is there anything you can do? It depends on how you approach the situation.

How do you negotiate a raise in addition to your merit increase?

When negotiating a higher raise, your instinct might be to go directly to your boss and demand more money. But that probably won’t end well. Instead, slow it down. Make every attempt to try to understand why and how you got the raise you were offered. After all, negotiating a raise in addition to your annual merit increase can be tricky — but starting the conversation doesn't have to be.

Follow these five steps to negotiate a raise in addition to your annual merit increase to help you get the ball rolling and get the raise you feel you deserve:

  1. Set your expectations
  2. Do your homework so your manager doesn’t have to
  3. Start the conversation
  4. Set a goal and establish a timeline
  5. Work with your manager to reach your goal

Step 1: Set your expectations

First things first, let’s level set. It may not be possible to negotiate more pay in addition to your merit increase right now.

By the time your manager told you about that 2% raise, the company’s merit increase budget had been divvied up, and things were pretty much written in stone.

Your manager may have done the best they could to be fair to everyone, yet you still received your 2% merit increase.

If it’s even possible to change that amount, a lot of pieces would need to be moved around, and it may not be likely that any of them will move.

Step 2: Do your homework so your manager doesn’t have to

Instead of jumping right into asking for more money, start by asking why you received the raise you got and if it's even possible to ask for more. Maybe your manager will let you know there’s no additional budget right now, but maybe they’ll be able to work with you to make something happen now or down the road.

But before you ask, prepare for the conversation by establishing the following three things:

  1. Your target salary. What is the specific raise amount you feel you have earned? Start with your market value — see salary ranges for your job to help with this — and then adjust your market value for your specific situation.
  2. Your accomplishments. What are the valuable responsibilities you’ve taken on that were unanticipated when your salary was last set? Make sure to identify specific accomplishments and the business value of each one whenever possible.
  3. Your accolades. What awards or recognition have you gotten from colleagues, other managers, or clients? These can help your manager understand the value of your work even if they’ve been focused on other things.

It’s important to do this homework before asking your manager for a raise to help you have supporting data to make your case. Plus, your manager is likely very busy. The more work they need to do to help you out, the less likely they are to find the time to do it.

Step 3: Start the conversation

Armed with those three pieces of information — target salary, accomplishments, and accolades — you can approach your manager about an additional raise.

Here’s how you can begin that conversation:

“I’m grateful for this merit increase — thank you for looking out for me. But I was hoping for a more substantial raise since I’ve taken on a lot of new responsibilities this year. Is there some way to adjust my salary to reflect my current responsibilities? Based on the market research I’ve done, I was hoping for a raise to [your target salary].”

Once you’ve begun the conversation, asking for a raise in addition to your merit increase will typically look like the same process as asking for an off-cycle raise.

Step 4: Set a goal and establish a timeline

Hopefully, your manager will be prepared to have a productive conversation about what’s possible, and it won't take too long to get an additional raise.

But the most likely result is that your manager will explain that the budget has already been spent for this cycle, and you’ll need to wait until there’s budget available to increase your salary.

If your manager suggests deferring your larger raise until later on, work with them to establish two specific things that you can collaborate on:

  1. What you need to do to earn the raise you’ve requested. If you’re unable to get a larger raise because your manager feels you have not earned it yet, ask specifically what you need to do to earn the raise you’ve asked for.
  2. A timeline for the raise. It’s also important to establish a timeline so that you and your manager can check in at regular intervals to monitor your progress and make sure you’re on track to achieve your goal in a reasonable time period.

Step 5: Work with your manager to reach your goal

Once you and your manager establish a goal and a timeline, it’s up to you to keep this on your manager’s radar. Make sure to check in with your manager at regular intervals to discuss your progress, get feedback, and confirm that you’re still on track.

You may also run into structural barriers that prevent you from getting a large raise. This is sometimes the case at very large companies where they’ve established rigid guidelines for raises and promotions.

If you follow these five steps and find that a larger raise isn’t available within a reasonable timeline, you may need to begin looking for better opportunities with more flexibility to pay you what you’re worth.

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