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Too Scared to Negotiate Salary? Try These 3 Things

Topics: Negotiation

Along with strategic advice on getting paid what you deserve, PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide offers insight into why you’re not already commanding a salary that’s commensurate with your skills and experience. For example, if you’re like many people, you might be too scared to ask. Of the 57 percent of respondents to PayScale’s survey who said that they had never negotiated salary, more than half refrained for reasons that boiled down to fear. Twenty-eight percent of non-negotiators said they were afraid to negotiate salary, while 19 percent didn’t want to be perceived as pushy, and 8 percent were afraid of losing their jobs.


(Photo Credit: Magnus Lindvall/Unsplash)

If you’re fearful of negotiating, don’t beat yourself up. It’s been a rough couple of years for workers, in terms of compensation – or even just staying employed. Nearly eight out of 10 American workers knew someone who was laid off during the Great Recession, and wages have grown slowly even since the recovery; The Real Wage Index, which measures the buying power of workers’ pay with inflation taken into account, shows that “real wages” have fallen 6.9 percent since 2006.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

This is not to say that you shouldn’t negotiate salary – you absolutely should. Not asking for more could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career, affecting both your financial stability and your engagement with your work. But, you’re not crazy for feeling apprehensive. It’s been a scary world out there for a working person, and it’s only natural to be a little nervous about asking for more.

Here’s how to offset those nerves:

1. Figure out what’s frightening you.

Are you afraid the boss will fire you, just for asking? Realistically, that’s probably not going to happen unless you storm into the office, flip over the desk, and demand to be paid your worth. It’s true that how you ask is important, but most managers expect people to advocate for themselves. If they don’t, they’re bad managers, and you should question whether you want to be working for people who are so out of touch.

“As long as you’re pleasant and professional and aren’t adversarial in your manner, a reasonable employer isn’t going to pull your offer just because you try to negotiate,” writes Alison Green, founder of Ask a Manager, at US News. “That’s not to say that there aren’t unreasonable employers out there who do pull offers, but it’s rare and the sign of such a dysfunctional employer that you’re typically better off not working with them. Sane employers understand that people negotiate.”

On the other hand, maybe it’s the conversation itself that’s scaring you, in which case, preparation is the answer, as we’ll see in a moment.

2. Know your worth.

How do you determine a reasonable salary request? The best approach is to find out what others in similar jobs at similar companies are paid, and base your quote on this information. PayScale’s Salary Survey generates a free report based on your answers to questions about your role, experience, education, location, and more. The idea is to compare apples to apples, and come up with a range that’s fair for what you’re actually doing each day, not what you were hired to do three years ago or what you’d like to be doing five years from now.

In addition to that information, you’ll also need to learn more about your company’s policies on compensation, and find out as much as you can about what’s worked for other people who’ve negotiated raises at your organization.

3. Practice your pitch.

Knowing what you’re going to say and feeling comfortable saying it are as important as knowing the appropriate salary range for your role. So, even if it feels funny, practice your pitch – in a mirror, in front of a friend who can be trusted to give you an honest and supportive critique – before you meet with your boss. If you’re stuck on what to say, these sample salary negotiation scripts can help you get the ball rolling.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you afraid to negotiate salary? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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