Each week in Work It, BuzzFeed Executive Editor Doree Shafrir will answer your most pressing career and workplace questions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question for her.
I am lucky enough to work at a company that I really enjoy AND I have just been put up for a promotion. I am being recognized for my hard work and elevated to a level that usually requires a couple more years of experience than I have. Of course, this has implications for my salary, but to what degree? I am so grateful for the opportunity, but am afraid that they will take advantage of my inexperience when determining my raise. Can I negotiate? How much?
The answer to the question “can I negotiate” is always YES. YES YES YES YES YES. Here are the main reasons why people don’t negotiate: They are afraid their boss will say no and/or they are afraid their boss will think they’re “pushy.” These are not good reasons! For one thing, if your boss says no, she says no, and then you go back to your desk and life goes on. For another, your boss probably won’t think you’re “pushy” — she’ll think you’re standing up for yourself. When it comes to hiring, I’ve heard people say that they are actually respect people less who don’t negotiate — they think that people who don’t negotiate might not be worth it because they don’t stand up for themselves.
Plus, negotiating often works. A study of MBA students found that the ones who negotiated got 7 to 8 percent more money than they were offered. And guess who negotiates more often? You guessed it: men. In that same study, 52 percent of the men negotiated, vs. only 12 percent of the women. And when you start at a higher salary, your subsequent raises are based on that higher salary; it’s estimated that women collectively lose around half a billion dollars over the course of their careers because they don’t negotiate.
I’ve negotiated in the last two jobs I’ve gotten — both times successfully. Plus, in my last job, when it was time for my review, I negotiated for a bigger raise. Over the course of the year leading up to my review, I’d been given lots more responsibilities (sound familiar?), and my review was overwhelmingly positive (I was doing an awesome job! Go me!), but my raise seemed paltry. So I said to my supervisor that it seemed as though the raise was not commensurate (good negotiating word, by the way) with the additional responsibilities I had taken on, not to mention that she had just said that I was doing great with said responsibilities, and would it be possible for her to go back to HR and ask them to give me more money? And she did, and they did.
So what does this mean for you? I’m not sure exactly where you are on the totem pole, but I would say a raise of 8 to 10 percent for a more senior position is a reasonable amount to ask for. You can also research salaries in your field and find out what people are making for comparable positions, and come armed with this data. You should also be ready to discuss specific responsibilities that you’ve taken on, and examples of good work that you’ve done. Finally, ask for more than you actually want, because they’ll want to meet you in the middle. Or as one boss-guy I know put it, “Tell her to ask for way the hell more than she thinks she can get, and let the number settle in the middle. That’s the asshole guy negotiating strategy that usually works.”
But look. You are a valued employee — or else they wouldn’t have given you this promotion. So the worst that can happen when you ask for more money is that they say no. Don’t be scared of that! It’s not a rejection. You’re not going to get fired. And if they do say no, ask them if you can have another review in six months, where you can make your case again. But let me know how it goes!