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The tricky issue of salary negotiations

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Asking for a pay rise can be an awkward scenario, one that many people would prefer to avoid, but if you are putting in your weekly commute, graft and valuable time, and are rewarded with nothing but a pittance and seeming ingratitude, you will probably feel underpaid. Thus, under-appreciated, and asking for your just rewards, is something you have to do, even if you would rather put it off completely.

So, once you have plucked up the courage, how should you broach the issue? Well, as with many things, preparation is all-important.

Corinne Mills, MD of Personal Career Management and a career coach, says you must research what the current market rates are. It can be tricky discovering what your co-workers are earning, as most employees tend to keep this close to their chests, but it can be much easier to ascertain remuneration levels at similar companies in the same industry sector; examples and surveys are often published in newspapers and online. Look and you will find pay rates’ examples and surveys of salaries that you can relate to your own situation.

So when should you have this type of conversation with your line manager?

Timing can be crucial; so don’t collar your boss as he is speeding in panic from one meeting to another, but annual reviews or regular appraisals (which you should request as a matter of course) are natural occasions for such discussions.

Once you get to the stage of expressing your requirements, it is important to stress the positive and effective things that you have done; things which have helped the company to make money or have added quality and value. Before doing this, think about the language you intend to use, particularly at the start of the conversation.

You may think you deserve a pay rise, but there is no guarantee that your boss feels the same way and the worst possible approach is to give an ultimatum. You must not toy with any kind of brinkmanship; for example, threatening to leave if your demands are not met. If these are spurnedmarche , you will be marched straight out of the door.

It is a given that, in straightened times, a pay rise may be impractical, so it may be worth also considering a request for some kind of career development opportunities, such as training, or mentoring others. It is also important to stress how much you enjoy working for the organisation and how you see your future there; you do not want  your commitment to your employer to be brought into question.

With the economy in its current parlous situation, and many companies forced to make essential savings, the chances of successful negotiations are diminished, but it is quite self-affirming to ask for what you feel to be your due worth. If your request is turned down, do not give up, keep the channels open for a future discussion, set a date and maybe ask what you need to do to merit any raise. Note the response and follow up at the due time.

Of course, salary negotiations, once in employment, are one thing; pre-employment negotiations are in many respects, even more important (future discussions starting from a higher base). American business magazine, Forbes, spoke to employment experts to ascertain the best way for candidates with fairly definite job offers, on how to negotiate salary and other benefits.

Their key findings were:

  • Keep proving your worth; selling yourself when talking about money, by offering ideas and strategies to tackle challenges in your new job, because the more your new employer values your input, the more they should be happy to pay.
  • Elucidate on what you are prepared to forgo; this depends on what is fundamentally important to you. Is it just salary, or do you want extra holiday allowance, your own office, or the ability to work more frequently from home? At this point in time, as opposed to when you are in the job (see above), it is worth throwing your bargaining chips on the table, using other offers you may have received to strengthen your bargaining power.
  • Again, ensure you have done your homework and researched the compensation levels and perks at your future employers. Perhaps offer to undertake a project before starting employment; this type of initiative may be helpful if the hiring manager seems at all reticent about your salary request.
  • It is always best to negotiate in person, meaning face-to-face, rather than by phone. Your physical presence moves the abstract into something more solid and obligating.

Above all; remember; if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Nigel Phillips

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