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Tips for successful salary negotiations

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Posted: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:00 am

In fatter financial times, many people are less fearful when discussing or negotiating salary. However, as the country remains mired in an economic slump, many people are content to be drawing a salary at all, regardless of the amount of that salary.

While it's understandable that today's workers are simply happy to be receiving a paycheck, that doesn't mean it's not possible to negotiate salary, whether starting a new job or asking for more money from a current employer. The following tips can help employees looking to earn more money:

  • Make a request, not a demand. No employer will react positively to an ultimatum. When negotiating for a higher salary, begin the process with a request and not a demand. Chances are strong that the current economy has made the boss' job more difficult, and the boss likely won't respond well to an ultimatum. However, he or she may be empathetic to an employee's desire for more money, and that's a much better way to begin the process than demanding a higher salary.
  • Be prepared. Preparation can make the difference between success and failure when negotiating a higher salary. Employees have reasons for requesting higher salaries and should be able to communicate those reasons as concisely as possible. When listing the reasons, steer clear of any negative comments, such as anything that questions a coworker's competence. Such comments will stand out to an employer, but not in a good way. Simply address your own performance and why it's worthy of a higher salary.
  • Let the boss go first. Once offered a job, let the employer speak first when it comes to salary. Unless the starting salary was listed in the job posting or previously discussed during the interview process, the employer may offer more than expected. Give the employer the opportunity to do so by letting them speak first.

For employees asking for a raise from their current salary, it obviously won't be possible to let the boss speak first. However, once the subject has been broached, don't speak too long. Make an initial point before letting the employer respond. This helps establish a more relaxed tone to the conversation wherein each side can hear the other's point. The process should be a negotiation, not a simple question and answer.

  • Don't ask for too little. Companies commonly review salaries on a yearly basis. In the current economy, however, many companies have put the review process on hold as they try to survive the recession. That said, when  negotiating a higher salary, don't be afraid to ask for what you want, regardless of the economy. Asking isn't receiving, and though you might not get exactly how much you want, you never know.
  • Consider asking for perks. If a higher salary simply cannot be negotiated, discuss additional perks in place of a higher salary. For example, a company likely won't be adversely affected by a few extra vacation days or allowing employees to work from home once or twice a week. Employees who are taking classes that can help them do their jobs better should seek tuition reimbursement as well. Such perks might not be company policy, but that doesn't mean a company won't provide them in lieu of a higher salary.

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