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How to negotiate your way into a big fat raise

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There is no set formula for negotiating a raise, but focusing on you and not the number can help.

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How to ask for the raise you really want

Pay raises. Everybody wants one. Who knows how to get one? A recent Forbes article describes a theory that seems to hold water: stay away from round numbers.

What does that mean? Ask any car salesman. Or, ask me; I just bought a car. After many searches turned up empty, we spotted Wilson, so named because once the payments start rolling in, we are likely to be stranded—just us and the car.

I said I could spend umpteen dollars (a nice round number), and the dealer agreed to meet that “range.” That “range” was umpteen nine hundred fifty-four dollars. All I focused on was the “umpteen” part, and I was well into signing away my life before my brain was able to notice anything but the number in the thousands place. Bamboozled! And way too tired by that time to split hairs.

Yes, car salesmen have been using the “not round” number to their advantage since the dawn of the hoopty. It’s just nineteen nine ninety-nine ninety-nine! All those nines conjure up, well, nines, and the brain sticks with nineteen instead of the actual cost, twenty.

The theory is that salary negotiation will work the same. If you offer a round anchor number, say $3000, the minds of everyone, including yourself, automatically go with round number negotiations (i.e. I can offer $2000), but if you start with a more specific $3200, the counter will likely be a smaller jump, perhaps to $2500. It’s all about how the mind works.

A better way to ensure a bigger raise

It is a good theory, when you are dealing with numbers, but you are really negotiating yourself, your time, and your value to the company. A better way in ensure a loftier promotion is to lead with no number.

Instead, prepare a discussion detailing the extra work you have already taken on and your vision for further contributions. Saying “I am producing XYZ results. Can we discuss compensation?” is a much more negotiable approach than “Hey, Boss, give me an $8,343 raise, and I’ll think about amping up my game,’ which is essentially what you are suggesting when you lead with a number.

Further, depending on your boss’ style, negotiating a raise based on percentages can go much further, but remember to focus on your results and what you bring to the table to demonstrate your worth – not just marching in to their office and demanding an extra round number.

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