Does having a negotiation with your boss terrify you? It’s easy to think that the worst will happen. What if you don’t get that raise? What if you offend your boss? What if you get demoted or fired for bringing up benefits?
Odds are, your negotiation won’t go as badly as you think. When I first negotiated my rates for my freelance clients, both my client and I came out better. In college, I studied negotiation and took five key takeaways that helped me with my freelance writing business:
- Justify your ask
- Do your homework
- Make it a conversation
- Bundle your issues
- Know when to walk away
These five pieces of advice can increase your chances of getting what you want without alienating your supervisor or client.
Justify Your Ask
Before you even think about your negotiation, you have to be able to justify why you’re asking for what you’re asking. Think about your work performance or the time that you’ve spent with the company. If you have taken on additional responsibilities, your performance has improved, or if you simply need a raise to keep living the way you want to, you can justify asking for a raise.
When I was negotiating with my first client, I thought about how much time I would probably spend on each writing project and how much I needed to make them worth pursuing while finishing college. To get to this point, I had to do the research.
Do Your Homework
This is one of the most important steps in the negotiation process. You need to know not only what you’re going to ask for, but also when it’s better for you to walk away. Googling salaries and rates in similar industries and job positions can give you an idea about how to get your supervisor on board. You don’t have to limit yourself to salary either. Benefits and even equity can supplement cash payments for your work. Think about your total compensation package, not just the cash part of it.
For my own writing contracts, I have a resource that lists the low, high, and average prices for different writing services. Just by knowing this information, it’s easier for me to justify the prices that I ask for. My clients are more likely to be understanding if I have data that makes my ask seem reasonable.
Make it a Conversation
A good negotiation is not a zero-sum game. Instead of thinking of a negotiation as taking different pieces of the same pie, think about ways that you can make the pie bigger. If your supervisor mostly cares about your work deadlines, you could trade vacation days for a bigger salary increase. This will make your negotiation less confrontational, making both of you feel more comfortable with the deal in progress. Think about all of the issues that are on the table and use them to maximize the benefits for the person sitting across from you. Speaking of…
…Bundle Your Issues Together
Don’t negotiate issue by issue. Everyone will come away from the negotiation feeling like they lost. Instead, package your issues together. Margaret Neale recommends using “if, then” language. You can tell your boss that if she increases your salary, then you will give up a certain number of vacation days. Maybe you could trade some of your salary for better employee wellness benefits. It depends on what you need and what your boss is willing to give you.
This is also a great way to figure out which issues are most important to your counterpart. If your supervisor continues to harp on vacation days, then you know that’s something that you could give them in return for something that you need. Think about what you could give your boss that would make them more likely to give you the thing that you’re negotiating for.
Know When to Walk Away
This is the most important piece of information that you have in a negotiation. Sometimes, negotiations aren’t going to work out. Maybe you and your supervisor are tied up on the same issue. Or you feel that you’re damaging the relationship you have with that supervisor. It’s ok to take a breather from an issue and revisit it later. It’s even ok to walk away if you know that you won’t come away from it better off than you were before. This gives you more power in a negotiation because it removes uncertainty from it.
Justify what you’re asking for and do enough research to prepare yourself. Ask your boss to help you solve a problem, and then jump into your issues. Bundle your issues together to maximize your bargaining power. Recognize when it’s time to walk away from the negotiation. Negotiating doesn’t have to be a terrifying confrontation with your boss. It can be a reasonable conversation focused on solving a mutual problem.
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