How to Negotiate With the Boss

April 26, 2019


Being able to effectively negotiate with the boss—for a raise, a promotion, additional time off, skills training, or greater responsibility—is vital for career growth. But negotiating with your boss can feel daunting. With a thoughtful and strategic approach though, you can make a persuasive case for yourself every time.

Determine the right time 

Don’t schedule a meeting with the boss when company profits are down or your boss is overwhelmed with work. You’ll likely be seen as unreasonable—or, worse, clueless. If possible, pick a time when you’ve successfully completed a project, led a team effort or saved the company money. 

Do your research 

Before your meeting, determine the salary and benefits others in similar jobs receive. Also, make sure your goals for this negotiation are in sync with your boss’s and your organization’s objectives.

Consider the boss’s needs 

What pressure is the boss under? What are the benefits to the boss for saying yes? What are the downsides? Must the boss go above his or her head to grant your request? If you help fulfill the boss’s needs, the boss will likely help you fulfill yours.

Show your value 

Always cite facts and figures: “I saved the company 20% over last year’s travel budget.” “I completed the financials a week ahead of schedule.” “My marketing initiative raised sales by 4%.” 

Consider other non-financial wants

If a raise isn’t feasible given a market slowdown, know in advance what other benefits you want to explore, and how to frame them. Will working from home one day a week save the company commuting expenses? Will extra time off have minimal impact on the load on your coworkers? 

Aim high 

Ask for a little more (dollars, flex time, training) than you think you’ll receive. This gives you room to negotiate.

Wait and listen 

After you present your case, wait for the boss’s response. If he or she is quiet for a bit, never undermine yourself by jumping in to fill the silence with: “But of course, I’ll take less …”  

Don’t get emotional 

Appearing anxious makes you significantly less likely to succeed. Talk about facts, not feelings. Act confident, assertive and professional, never aggressive or entitled.

Know your bottom line. 

If the boss denies your request, are you willing to accept a lower raise? Could you ask for a year-end bonus based on achievements? Would skills training or attending a professional conference satisfy you instead? 

Remember, every negotiation must result in positive outcomes for both sides. Follow the guidelines above, and there’s a good chance you’ll succeed.

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