How to negotiate advancement in a troubled economic market

YOU don’t get what you don’t ask for. This adage is especially relevant in tough economic times that find individuals and organisations struggling to keep pace. Are employees so grateful to have a job they choose not to seek a raise? Does knowing the organisation is struggling keep employees from asking — assuming they wouldn’t be successful and choosing to avoid hearing “no”?

Asking for a raise or otherwise drawing attention to oneself when many employers are cutting costs, often by workforce reductions, may seem counter-intuitive.

Despite widespread pessimism, savvy employees recognise that tough economic times may offer unique opportunities to improve their employment situation by helping their employer reduce costs, increase revenues or improve competitiveness. Your ideas and innovations will provide invaluable rewards to the company. A small share of those rewards in the form of a raise is realistic and a way to make you feel appreciated.

Know what you want and why
To increase the likelihood of a successful negotiation, start by clarifying exactly what you want and why. If you are seeking a raise, you need to articulate the amount you expect and a compelling reason for it (not that the rent on your flat was just increased).

Do some research on salaries of someone with your responsibilities, education and experience, and in your geographical region. Salaries in London are higher than they are in Warsaw.

If you believe you are underpaid, demonstrate this with reliable data. Better still, demonstrate your worth by pointing out inefficiencies your ideas have reduced or new clients you have brought in. Who can argue with a $30,000 bonus for someone who has increased revenues by $300,000 last year? Finally, consider the other party’s goals in your preparation. Would your promotion enable your boss to offload tasks that would free up his time for more strategic activities?

Look for voids you might fill or problems you might alleviate. And always remember when dealing with an employer, maintaining a good relationship is a key interest regardless of the substantive outcome of the negotiation.

What if the boss says “no”?
When you know what you want and why, you are better equipped to consider multiple satisfactory alternatives. Going in with an ultimatum is unwise; such threats can harm the working relationship.

In times of budget crises, more salary might be difficult to agree to, but there are other ways to meet your needs for recognition, autonomy, responsibility or even free time.

Working from home one or two days a week would save you several hours of commuting, as well as petrol, and wear and tear on your car (and your nerves!). Leading a team in the newest location might not immediately change your salary (though it will change your responsibilities), but if your company values expatriate assignments, this investment could pay dividends in the future.

Considering attractive alternatives to your goals gives you more confidence in the negotiation process since you don't have to accept whatever is — or isn’t —offered.

It also gives you the ability to be persistent without alienating the other party. By suggesting other possible solutions, you help reframe the negotiation into a collaborative problem-solving session.

Article by Suzanne C. de Janasz and Beverly J. DeMarr, the authors of Negotiation And Dispute Resolution, copyright 2013 by Pearson/Prentice Hall. Ms de Janasz is professor of leadership and organisation development at IMD Business School and Ms DeMarr is a professor of management at Ferris State University in Michigan.