Personal Development

What you need to do if you want a raise or a promotion – two rules and six strategies for a successful negotiation process

“I quit because the company did not offer me any opportunity for development.”

“There was no room to grow in this company.”

“I was expecting a higher salary but did not get it, even after I have completed more tasks than expected for my role.”

My boss didn’t understand me and didn’t support my development.”

“I was passed for a promotion that I was ready for.”

Many recruiters or leaders hear these and many other similar phrases while interviewing potential talents for their companies or teams. And in many cases, the communication style chosen fails us because it is not productive, does not have any purpose, and our arguments are weak.

Typically we talk to our boss when things go wrong. In all other cases, we skip the talk and wait for our boss to understand by himself that we need time with him.

While this happens often, the results are quite the same – low-impact communication, non-satisfying answers, and no activity after the conversation.

To improve this and achieve tangible results in the communication process, everyone needs to be prepared and follow a plan that will lead to success.

 Many years ago, I learned a simple plan to construct excellent communication and deliver it in a way that will grant me to achieve what I am going for. I learned this technique from a social psychologist, who taught me that there are simple but vital rules to follow if I want to be successful. These simple rules are:

Rule 1: Use good communication

It may sound easy, but, as Harvard Business school research from 2019 shows, fifty-nine percent of people do not know what good communication means. So, in the light of what you want  to achieve, there are three things you can do to structure good communication:

  • Organize a personal meeting – I know that times have changed, and sometimes sending an invitation for a virtual meeting is more accessible, but that does not excuse you from the situation you have created. For example, if you want to talk about something personal or try to negotiate something for yourself, you may need to find time to make it in a private meeting, where only you and your boss will be present, and the plan will focus on what you want and how you want to get it.
  • Use balanced tone – A huge mistake people make when talking about promotions or pay raise is that they put feelings on the scene of what is happening. Emotions are not destructive, but if you use them in a negotiation conversation, you demonstrate such things as frustration, anger, and lack of stability and balance. And often, presenting these people demote the primal need they have started communicating for.
  • Decide on the context of the meeting – What many people do (fifty-seven percent, according to University of Utah research) shoot what they want to say without caring about the environment. Emotions pop up so quickly when we feel hurt that we do not think about the environment. What is crucial for a successful negotiation meeting, especially if it is a career or pay changer tool, is to be organized in the proper context. That shows that the person understands the context and is fully aligned with the company, the culture, and the environment’s specifics. So said, it is not a good option to talk about pay raise directly if you know that your company struggles financially or has frizzed the salary changes for a year. Still, a prepared and carefully executed conversation can win some positions for you even in this situation.  

Rule 2: Prepare your case

I still see it and cannot believe it is happening. People come to me and want something, and when I ask why they are needed, they stop answering. According to Korn Ferry’s research published in 2020, seventy-one percent of people do not prepare when starting a negotiation process. And guess how many of them fail? The need to get something better for us provokes us to begin negotiating for it. But before we start the process, you need to turn sight to several elements to help you build your case and negotiate successfully. This list covers six strategic actions you must take to ensure a successful negotiation.

Six strategies

1.Think about how you will be perceived

No matter what we do, we must start with how we are positioned. Positioning is crucial for winning the negotiation process. No matter how good you are in your area, if no one knows anything about you, then people can’t recognize your value to the organization. Making your work, achievements, and expertise visible is the first step to setting the ground for a successful negotiation

2. Be clear about what you want and why it is beneficial for you and the company

Many people want to make something unique for their companies but can’t explain it to their bosses. Unfortunately, that often leads to disappointment and missed opportunities. To get what you want, you must formulate your wish as a plan on how you and the company will benefit from what you are trying to negotiate.

For example, when I wanted the company to finance my MBA program, which coted twenty thousand euros, I prepared the case with two points – what I would learn and how the new knowledge would help the company grow. Unfortunately, I failed the first time, but the second try was successful.

3.Know what questions to ask

Imagine you want a raise. What is the best time to ask for it – at the middle or end of the year? What many people do not understand is that negotiations for salary often fail because of not good timing. Companies usually start building next year’s budget in the year’s second half. While going through the process, many changes are made. That is why this is the best time to start the discussion about pay raises or role changes. Even horizontally positioned roles have their specifics and can impact the budget. The best time to get the chance for a raise or change is when things are still in progress. After the budget is set, in many cases, there are not many options for change until the following budget review.

4.Provide supporting data

Negotiation is as good as the data you use for it. That is why it is crucial to find as much information as possible to prepare for the talks. And when a change in role or change in payment is part of your plan, then the data better be from different sources. The easiest way to find information is to search internally. The HR department, formal career paths, and people who have gone your way are good sources of information to prepare. But the change in role or salary also needs to be covered with external data. Your research should include sources like superficial job descriptions (you can find many on the internet) and industry-specific information that can easily be found in your local industry organization’s website or the national insurance institute. Another source is the job ads. Every job ad can give you a good picture of the role in other companies, and most job ads also have salary ranges. What you need to be careful of if you use job ads as a source of information is what industry the role is. Similar functions have a completely different set of responsibilities and requirements and define different pay ranges. 

5.Involve others in your preparation

What we often miss when we prepare to negotiate a salary or new role is the source that is just under our nose – other colleagues who have gone through the same path or relatives who have gained what they have negotiated for in other companies. The experience you can collect from these sources is invaluable. It saves you time and stress and allows you to add more elements to your negotiation plan that have been proved to work with real examples. So then, why miss the opportunity to better prepare for the negotiation just because you don’t want to share with others what you are aiming to do?

6.Conduct practice role-playing

With all that information collected, it is a crime not to go several times through the meeting you are going to initiate and perfect your presentation. In one of his elections, Tony Robbins said, “Even the best negotiators need to prepare if they want to win.” Organizing a role-play with someone you trust who can give you honest feedback can boost the negotiation process in the winning zone for you. We all have blind spots, and there are situations where something looking like a success for us is a minor disaster. As much time you invest in improving your presentation pitch and argumentation, you will get close to what you want. So, consider several rounds of role-playing to ensure that you will get as close as the situation allows to the successful result.


Negotiation has always been a hot topic. People tend to think that they possess the ability to negotiate by nature. Still, when moving into the process, many see that what they thought was easily achievable is far from reality. Assessing the environment, your positioning in it, and preparing in advance is the key to successfully negotiating your next role or your subsequent salary increase


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