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By Jen Hubley Luckwaldt / Wise Bread
October 17, 2016
Business colleagues discussing a project
Gary Burchell—Getty Images

PayScale’s data show that 75 percent of people who ask for a raise get one — but only 43 percent of people who responded to our survey said they’d ever asked for a raise in their current field. What gives?

Mostly, the discrepancy boils down to being afraid of a negative result, or disliking confrontation, period. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said that they were afraid to negotiate salary, while 19 percent said they didn’t want to be perceived as pushy, and 8 percent were scared of losing their job.

These are not unreasonable fears in a post-recession job market, but they’re also not based on reality. The vast majority of managers expect workers to negotiate, especially when they’re contemplating a new job.

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Don’t be swayed by the horror stories that crop up in the news now and then — it’s the rare employer that will condone firing someone (or yanking an offer) simply because that person tried to negotiate in a reasonable manner. The reason those stories stand out is precisely because they’re so rare. And do you really want to work for a company that fires people for asking to be paid what they deserve?

Still, if you’re confrontation-averse, you probably don’t take much comfort in knowing that it’s OK to ask for more; your issue is how to do it in a way that’s comfortable for you and likely to lead to a raise.

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These tips will get you there:

  1. Make sure you’re being reasonable.

Experienced managers shouldn’t be surprised to get a request for a raise, but not all managers are experienced … or naturally skilled. On the off chance your boss is new at this, or bad at dealing with the unexpected, you’ll need to set the tone by being confident in your asking price.

The best way to do this is to make sure that what you’re asking for is actually reasonable. PayScale’s Salary Survey generates a free report with ranges that are appropriate for your job title, experience, skills, education, and location — so that you can go into your meeting secure in the knowledge that the raise you seek is appropriate.

  1. Remember that you’re on the same side.

Salary negotiations are not a zero-sum game. You and your boss have the same goal: to find a number that will make everyone happy, so that you can do your best work and the company can succeed. Keeping this in mind can help you reframe the conversation: it’s not a confrontation, it’s a collaboration, and your boss is your negotiating partner.

  1. Understand company policy.

If you’re someone who worries about making the boss mad during the negotiation process, putting yourself in her shoes ahead of time can help.

Find out as much as possible about how raises work at your company. Are they meted out once a year, at review time? How long do people generally work for the organization before they receive a raise? Is there a lot of movement in your department, generally, or do people stay put? Pay attention to what you see around the office (while believing only half of what you hear, since people exaggerate about their own careers). You won’t get far if you try to push your boss to do something she isn’t empowered to do at this time.

  1. Prepare your script.

It always pays to be prepared, and writing a salary negotiation script can help you get what you want with a minimum of ums and uhs. Obviously, you’ll have to be prepared to improvise, lest you look like you’re reading off a teleprompter, but having a plan in mind will set you up for success.

  1. Plan for the worst; hope for the best.

Confidence counts. You won’t go wrong by going into the meeting with a positive outcome in mind. That said, sometimes the budget isn’t there or it’s just not your day. Even the most successful negotiators come away empty-handed some of the time.

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Just remember that the worst-case scenario is likely to be that: no raise, not the loss of your job and/or boss’ esteem. Prepare to be gracious in defeat, just in case. Then you can go back to the drawing board and figure out if it’s time for you to look elsewhere for the salary you deserve.