When and how to negotiate a raise

In case you haven't noticed, the U.S. economy appears to be on a roll in almost any way you shake it. Inflation is low and keeping consumer prices down, while employment rates and business investment are up almost across the board. Perhaps the only metric that might not be exceeding expectations right now concerns wages.

"Negotiating on pay is never easy, but there are ways to improve your strategy."

According to data collected by the Economic Policy Institute, the average U.S. worker earning a paycheck has seen only about a 2.5 percent raise between Nov. 2017 and 2016. This is actually better than it has been in recent years, but is far from before the recession, when year-over-year wage growth was between 3.5 and 4 percent.

There are many theories about why the economy has grown in some ways recently without adding wage growth as expected, all of them very complex. But one thing the average person can do in response is something that they should keep doing no matter the economic climate: know how to negotiate a raise.

Unfortunately, just like those theories about economic trends, the salary negotiation is equal parts science and art, with very little in the way of rules to follow. According to a Paysa survey of more than 2,400 workers including some managers and executives, there is plenty of room for interpretation when it comes to knowing how much of a raise to even ask for:

  • The most agreed-upon belief was that more than 5 percent of a person's current salary was too much to ask - about 39 percent of respondents voiced this opinion.
  • However, 29 percent of managers said they wouldn't consider any requested raise too high, as long as it reflected the person's value as an employee.

This might help answer one dimension of the raise conundrum, but what about the specifics? When is the right time to pop the question, and how should it be done? 

Writing in The Atlantic, Bourree Lam takes some of these questions to a person who knows a thing or two about successful bargaining: a hostage negotiator. In her interview, negotiator Chris Voss gives many pieces of excellent advice, but his central point to remember concerns empathy.

"You never want the other side to feel like you're taking them hostage," Voss said, somewhat ironically. "People most of the time think that in order to push very hard, 'I gotta be tough.' In reality it's the opposite: The nicer you are, the harder you can push."

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