May you be a rising star in 2015

May you be a rising star in 2015!

Photo by the talented Melissa Maples

Hi Jamie,

Thanks for publishing Negotiating at Work webinar on The Muse. I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for me to say that a raise would make me happier and want to work even harder. How can my getting a raise make the company tangibly better, given it takes money from the company?

Happy new year! And thank you for watching the webinar and reaching out to me. 

So here’s my A to your Q: Motivation, as you mention in your email. I think it’s totally appropriate for you to say that a raise would make you more motivated to work harder. 

Increased motivation, drive and engagement on your part result in the company benefitting from your increased productivity. This could mean bigger sales and revenue or bigger cost savings and efficiencies. Whatever the results are, when monetized, they are likely to be a fraction of the raise you are asking for. 

Very early in my career when I was negotiating starting salary, I asked for more and got a $2K increase. “I’m awesome at this negotiating thing!” I naively gave myself a pat on the back, not realizing I could have done so much better (i.e. make a more ambitious and specific ask rather than allowing the other side to decide what to give you, which in my case was a tiny bump). Later on in that job, I devised a plan that would save the company $100K in annualized expenses. That’s 50X of the tiny bump that initially got me excited to start the job.

I didn’t learn my lesson then and it showed when I later negotiated for another job. When the hiring manager made an offer that was close to what I was making at the previous job, I thought, sure, that sounds fair. But later that night, while I was talking it over with my life partner, he asked me, “How motivated would you feel if you were offered the same job for $20K more?” 

Just the idea of it really got me excited. In fact, I could hardly sleep that night! With twenty thousand extra bucks you can take vacations abroad, buy a car, or even put a downpayment on a home. It can be life-changing. 

Then I felt disappointed, because I realized I had missed the opportunity to negotiate for the kind of money that would get me bolting out of bed every morning excited to be earning big bucks. I realized for that kind of money, yes, I would work extra hard. So ten months later, after I demonstrated my value and became an integral member of the team, I asked for and got a $15K raise. 

The point I really want to drive home is that the raise you ask for is a small investment for bigger and better outcomes generated by you, which can have significant, positive impact on the business’ bottom line. It’s an investment, not only in your future potential but also in the company’s future growth. 

If you’re still unsure, put yourself in your boss’ shoes for a moment — would you want a motivated and engaged employee working for you? (Not to belabor the point, but really who wants to have unmotivated employees who begrudgingly drag their feet to the office and treat work as if they were serving a prison sentence?)

If you could get your employee motivated with a bit more money, why wouldn’t you do it? 

There may be some legitimate reasons. In fact, I would take some time to brainstorm some of the reasons or excuses you’d likely hear from your boss on why not, so you can be prepared for the actual negotiation. What can you offer or suggest to overcome those objections?

And when you hear these reasons, or excuses, during the negotiation conversation, patiently and calmly respond with open-ended, diagnostic questions that start with what / how / when / where / why / who. 

Hi Jamie,

Thank you for the thorough response and inspiring story! It’s so great to hear that you asked for and got what you wanted. It makes a lot of sense.

While I now know it’s important to negotiate, I have this fear that my boss will respond by thinking that I have a bad attitude if I tell him that I’ll work harder if I get a raise. My internal dialogue is telling me that my boss will think that I’m not trying my best on purpose.

When you asked for your raise after 10 months, did you also use increased motivation as the reason why a promotion will benefit the company?

I’m sincerely happy it worked out for you. Hearing stories like this is really motivational.

Thank you!

Motivation is always the undercurrent of any conversation around compensation.

At the end of the day, if you are a valuable employee, your boss’ concern is to keep you sufficiently incentivized and motivated so you don’t look for another job. Let’s face it — it’s an open secret that everyone is eligible and most likely looking for greener pastures.

My suggestion for you is to reframe the conversation to be about the benefit you can deliver. What more can you do to deliver bigger value to your employer? This will require some research and preparation to better understand your employer’s preference, needs, and values. You’ll also want to brainstorm on ways you can add bigger value. Frame the conversation around the benefits to your employer, then back up your ask with market data.

As for the story I shared with you — I was prompted to renegotiate my salary when I found out that a new hire at my same level was earning $15K more than me.

I mean, to know that I’m putting in similar work for that much less money was going to put a serious damper on my motivation.

I approached my boss, was very transparent with him and told him I knew she is making $15K more. But I didn’t make the ask on the basis of “It’s not fair” or “I deserve this.” In other words, I tried not to be a greedy child.

Instead, I made a thorough list of everything I did for the company, quantified and monetized my efforts, and provided two print-outs of salary reports showing that the market rate for my salary is much higher than what I was earning then. I asked for $20K more and got $15K, which I was happy with.

Thank you for reading and please keep me posted! 

Wishing you an abundant and joyful 2015.