Asking for a Raise? Try This

In this article, you will

  • learn tips for how to ask for a pay rise
  • practice key vocabulary about salary negotiations
  • practice key adjectives for describing things in a positive way
  • practice word building.

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Published: on 18 March 2016

Want a better deal in a salary negotiation?

Instead of starting with a single number, offer a range of pay that you would be comfortable receiving.

New research out of Columbia Business School found that using certain kinds of range offers (say, asking for a $100,000 to $120,000 salary), rather than a single number (asking for a $100,000 salary), can be beneficial in many types of negotiations, including setting salaries or pricing an item for sale.

The research bucks conventional wisdom that range offers prompt people to focus on the lower number, says Daniel Ames, a coauthor of the research along with Malia Mason. The study was just published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Certain types of range offers worked better than others, researchers found. The most successful were so-called “bolstering” range offers, where a negotiator starts with the desired price and stretches in a more ambitious direction.

For instance, if you wanted a $100,000 salary, you’d suggest a $100,000 to $120,000 salary to your boss. In a series of experiments, the researchers found that these higher ranges frequently led to higher salaries for those making an offer, and didn’t damage relationships with counterparties.

The researchers also tested whether simply asking for a higher number in the first place — $120,000, to use the example above — would improve the negotiation. Yet doing so significantly increased the chances of a deal falling apart, as counterparties viewed the offer as too inflexible.

Another type of offer, termed a “bracketing” range, spans the desired price. So for that $100,000 target salary, you might suggest $90,000 to $110,000. The researchers found that bracketing offers typically reached about the same results as those with single-point offers. On the plus side, negotiators were often seen as more flexible by their counterparties, which increased goodwill.

“If your goal is to get along with someone without losing money, the bracketing range offers may be a good move,” says Dr. Ames.

A third type of offer didn’t work very well. Those were “backdown” range offers, in which negotiators started with a target number and then lowered to a more accommodating figure — $80,000 to $100,000 in the salary example. Not surprisingly, these range offers ended up generating worse offers for those suggesting them.

Range offers can also backfire if you set the range too high. “Just because it’s in a range doesn’t mean it’s going to work better if you are out in the stratosphere,” says Dr. Ames. And setting too wide a range can also limit its effectiveness, he says. Most successful range offers typically remained within 20% of one another, he says.

The researchers conducted experiments testing range and point offers in a variety of settings, including a salary negotiation, a used car sale and the price of an event caterer.

Using range offers may also be a smart negotiating tactic for women, who may be viewed unfairly as either too accommodating or too aggressive by their counterparties.

“Although we don’t have direct evidence for this in the paper, using range offers may be a shrewd strategy for women. It is a way of asking for more without being seen as aggressive,” says Dr. Ames.

Photo credit: Scott Olson for Getty

Originally published at

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