How to Negotiate a Salary Raise with Your Boss?

Do you want to be an underpaid employee? Would it be fair if you are worth a lot more to your organization but they are not paying you enough?

You should be paid a fair amount for your contribution and if you think you are getting paid less than what you deserve, then you should read this article fully, word by word.

Everyone wants a raise in their salary. One of the easiest ways to do that is to move from one job to another.

When you have branded yourself as an expert digital marketer, and when there is enough demand in the market for digital marketers, it is relatively easy to get a raise by switching jobs. But it is not always recommended to switch jobs every one or two years because you will not create an impact with your work in such a short time.

Unless you work for 3-4 years inside an organization, you will not be able to do work that can be a massive value addition for the company you work for. You should build a process, build a team and make sure that there is some momentum before you decide to move on.

1. Do Your Homework and Get Data

The first step in trying to negotiate a raise is to find out the truth about your current salary. There are good chances that you are getting paid more than what you deserve, and in such cases, you should just enjoy your current salary.

If you approach your boss to ask for a raise while you are already overpaid, your request might backfire. You might have to first work on delivering more value to your organization and help them make more revenue than the salary that you get paid for yourself.

You should also be aware of the financial status of the company that you work for. If your startup is struggling, then it might not be the best idea to ask for a raise right now.

Let’s assume that you are not being overpaid and the company that you work for is actually doing well, your next step is to find out the industry numbers.

How much are people getting paid for the same role in similar companies, in the same city? Salaries change depending on location.

For example, salaries in Bangalore are a bit higher than cities like Chennai or Pune because of the higher cost of living. You can ask people about it, do your own research and understand the trend in the market. Without this data, you should not ask for a raise.

No one can argue with data. If tech startups usually pay 20-25 Lakhs INR per annum in Bangalore and if you are getting paid only 12 lakhs, you should be able to back up your request with some form of data, even if the data is not very concrete.

If you ask your boss for a raise and if the reply you get is “No, you are already getting paid a lot, we can’t afford to pay you more”, then what would you reply?

You should reply something like “But other digital marketing managers are getting paid this much, for example, this ABC startup’s digital marketing manager, a friend of mine is getting paid X per annum”. 

2. Give Your Boss an Option to Say “No”

One of the core concepts in negotiation tactics as taught by many negotiation experts is the power of the word No.

People, in general, resist saying a Yes to a request.

As soon as you set up a meeting with your boss, and tell him or her that the meeting is about the discussion of your salary, they will become cautious.

They will be careful to make sure that they do not end up yielding to your request. They will tighten up and they will be closed to what you are about to say.

They will be afraid that you might convince them to say Yes to your request. This is your biggest challenge in trying to establish a rapport and telling them about your point of view. And the best way to help them lighten up is to give them an option to say No to you.

You don’t necessarily need to say the word No. As long as you can communicate in some way that you will be able to accept a negative outcome from the conversation and not be too disappointed, it is fine.

So as soon as you start your talk, you can say something like: “Hey, I want to discuss a raise in my salary, but I also want to make it clear that if it is not possible, it is still fine, but I want you to hear me out first.”

It is a bold move to allow your boss to say No.

Most people will think that if you give them an option to say No right away, then that’s what you are going to get as an answer to your request. Your boss will be taken aback by your attitude. Who says that a No is ok?

That’s the beauty of this technique. It is counter-intuitive, but it works.

If you walk into the conversation with an attitude that you are going to try every possible to move to try to get your boss to say Yes, and if your boss picks up on the vibe, then you will not establish a rapport.

The voice inside the mind of your boss is going to constantly whisper to him/her to say No. And he is going to be thinking about how to say No to you, and that prevents him from actually listening to you. This prevents the opportunity to establish a rapport with your boss.

Think about your own mind voice when a door to door salesman shows up at your door uninvited. He starts talking about something and you don’t even listen. You are just going to wait until he finishes talking and then say a No followed by shutting the door. You don’t want that to happen in a conversation with your boss.

When you give them permission to say No, they lighten up.

They think… “Oh, I can always say a No anyway and this employee is going to be ok with it, what’s the worst that could happen? Let me hear them out…

And this is your chance. You have got them lightened up, and now they are more receptive to what you are about to say. Now they are listening.

3. Identify the Elephant in the Room

Whenever you are going to negotiate with someone, there is an elephant in the room.

An elephant in the room is something that both of you are thinking about, but not explicitly talking about it.

That awkward thought in the mind, which is preventing you from listening to each other.

What is the elephant in the room when you are asking for a raise?

Your boss is probably thinking about the following things about you:

  • This person is trying to get more money out of me and the company.
  • This person is greedy.
  • This person might defeat me and make me say a Yes. I should be careful.
  • This person might leave the company if I do not give him a raise.
  • This person is going to waste my time and have a lengthy discussion, just to hear a No from me in the end.

Until you remove the elephant in the room, you cannot establish a rapport with your boss. And the only way to remove the elephant is to identify it and call it out.

When you ignore the elephant, the elephant becomes bigger. When you try to act like there is no elephant in the room, it becomes more prominent.

In negotiations, the No.1 thing to achieve when starting the talks is establishing a rapport. Establishing rapport with bosses is difficult because we have a complicated relationship with bosses. That’s why we should actively try to establish a rapport.

We feel very easy to talk with friends, brothers, sisters and colleagues. Why don’t we have the same comfort level with our bosses? It’s obvious. They are our boss.

4. Use Mirroring and Silent Pauses

The two parties in a negotiation usually talk with their own self-interests in their mind. This breaks the rapport.

Your goal is to get your adversary into the same plane as you in terms of thought. You will be able to open up a window to communicate your point of view.

Your adversary is going to be resistant to hearing your world view when you start the conversation. So instead of trying to communicate your world view directly, you first get into their world view, establish rapport, and use that opportunity to let them see your world view.

After the No technique and identifying elephants, mirroring is another great way to establish rapport.

Mirroring happens in many areas of our life. If you go to a music festival and dance, you are mirroring other people’s moves, and you can see that there is a feeling of connection.

When you laugh with your friends about the same joke, there is a synchronization. You all laugh at the same thing at the same time. All this is mirroring. A form of expression that helps humans connect.

Mirroring in the context of negotiation is when you repeat what the other person is saying. Usually the last few words of their sentence and end it with a question. As simple as that.

This technique is so simple, and yet it is so effective. You can use this technique even in negotiations of purchasing something.

To explain the effectiveness of this technique, allow me to share a recent experience from my life.

A few weeks back, I drove down from Bangalore to Salem on my car. It’s a 4-hour drive but I was not expecting intense heat. Summer is here and though the car’s air conditioning was set to its lowest point, I could still sense intense heat from the afternoon sun. My car windows do not have dark glasses.

When I stopped at a toll gate, there was a person selling black shades for the car windows. I asked for the price and she said “₹300 for 4 pieces”.

Now everyone knows that they put a high price and expect us to negotiate.

How do you start the negotiation in such a scenario?

I decided to try to mirroring technique. I just repeated, “₹300 for 4?” with a smile on my face.

Smiling is also a way to establish rapport. Humans cannot prevent smiling when you smile at them and it brings them to your plane for a moment. After I asked that question, I gave an awkward silence.

When you are in a conversation and give an awkward silence, people usually feel uncomfortable and try to fill that void by saying something.

She immediately responded with “Ok, take it for ₹250 for 4 pieces”.

I did the same thing again. I replied “₹250 for 4?” and I just went silent.

She smiled and she was also silent.

Then I said “Let me have it for ₹150 for 4”. She said OK and sold it to me!

The technique worked!

5. Get them to say “That’s Right”

That’s right.

The two most powerful words in any negotiation are “That’s Right”.

“Yes” doesn’t have any power: “Yes” is a good affirmative word, but the word Yes has lost its power over the years.

We’ve got used to saying Yes to too many things and we have started saying yes without really meaning it.

If someone asks a favor from us we usually say Yes just to get them to shut up for a short time. So do not try to get your boss to say “Yes”. That doesn’t really establish any rapport at all.

“You’re Right” is a Negotiation Killer: Another thing that we all try to do in negotiations is, trying to get them to say “You’re right”. It’s not gonna help you win the deal. If you try to get the other party to say “You’re right”, it might help you boost your ego, but you can’t win the deal.

When you get them to say You’re right, you are not establishing rapport. You are breaking the rapport. Instead, you should aim at getting a “That’s right”.

So how do you get your boss to agree with you on something and get them to say That’s Right?

If you say something like, “India has a long way to go in terms of annual salaries. Digital marketers usually get paid 1/5th of what digital marketers in the USA get paid. This was the trend for a while because the cost of living in India was really low. But now cities like Mumbai and Bangalore have a high cost of living compared to the biggest cities across the world like Los Angeles, New York, and Sydney. A house costs as much as 1.5 crores INR and you can get a similar house in Los Angeles for $200,000.”

You say all this to extend the conversation and get them talking. Say something that you and your boss can agree on. It could about someone in the company, market situation, or anything that your boss will agree with you on.

We talk about stuff like this with your friends and family, for no reason. We just enjoy having a conversation with our friends and we usually try to get them to agree to something we say. Such agreements build connection and rapport.

You have to follow the same thing with an adversary in a negotiation. You have to get them to your plane of thinking and build connection and rapport. Get the other party to feel comfortable.

Once you have a few “That’s right” from your boss about topics that are not directly related to your request to revise your salary up, you can then get to the end of the negotiation talks, by polarizing them with a No.