How To Negotiate a Raise

This is the true story of how I helped a friend get a 20% raise with his current employer, in one meeting.

Do you feel underpaid? Are you doing a better job than most of your co-workers, but somehow still only get the same 2% raise every year, like everyone else? Common advice suggests the only way to get a significant raise is to get a new job. But you happen to like the job you’re in. What can you do?

I can tell you what doesn’t work. Don’t burn bridges. Don’t show an offer from a competitor and ask your boss to match it. Don’t threaten your employer. Trust can be lost in seconds and takes years to get back, so don’t waste it.

The key reason an employer will give you a raise is because the hassle of replacing you is more than the amount of the raise. It’s a pain to hire new people. It takes time. The new hire will possibly cost more than the raise you were asking for anyway. And then, all your company-specific knowledge is gone. The new person takes time to come up to speed.

So this is how you do it. Step 1: know your value. Before your approach your employer to ask for that big raise, know that you could find a higher-paying job somewhere else. You need to be credible.

Step 2: meet with your manager, and tell them truthfully:

“I really like it here, but I’m getting contacted and offered jobs for 20% more consistently. What can you do?”

Pay attention to the way you phrased the question. You are not the one looking for a new job. The outside market is telling you your real worth. You want to stay and love your current job. The wrong way to ask would have been: “I got this offer from <competitor> for 20% more. Can you match it and I’ll stay?”

If you play this the right way, there is no step 3. Enjoy your raise. The beauty of that approach is that the manager cannot argue with you about the amount of the raise. It’s not that you want 20% more because you are buying a house. The market (with its invisible but irresistible force) is telling you what your value is.

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