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The No. 1 Reason You’re Not Negotiating Salary (and 3 Things to Do About It)

Topics: Negotiation
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Chances are, you’d like a raise — but you’ve probably never asked for one. In fact, 57 percent of respondents to PayScale’s survey said that they’ve never negotiated salary in their current field. That’s despite the fact that annual raises hover around the 3 percent mark … just enough to get eaten up by inflation. So why aren’t they asking for more money — and why aren’t you?

The biggest reason for not asking, among those who didn’t ask for or get raises, was discomfort talking about money: 28 percent of respondents said that they were uncomfortable negotiating salary.

Talking about money is taboo in our culture. It would be rude, for example, to ask someone you just met how much money they make, or how much they shelled out for their new car. For some professionals, the conversation is even harder: women are only slightly less likely to negotiate salary, but less likely to get a raise when they do. They also pay a higher social cost when they negotiate, according to research from Hannah Riley Bowles, Linda Babcock, and Lei Lai.

Regardless of your gender, you may have internalized the message that it’s rude to talk about money, and pushy to ask for more. But if you ask, you’re more likely to get — 75 percent of all respondents (and 74 percent of women) who negotiated salary received some sort of raise.

If you’re still reluctant to negotiate, try this:

1. Find Out How Much You’re Worth

On the job market, that is. If you haven’t done market research on your job title and duties for a while, now’s the time. This is especially true if you’ve been working at the same company for a few years, and have added duties, responsibilities, and skills along the way.

Take PayScale’s Salary Survey and generate a free report with a range based on where you are right now in your career, not where you were when you got hired. Going into the conversation armed with data will make you confident that you’re asking for what you truly deserve. Then, the conversation becomes less about what you want, and more about what’s appropriate for the role and what you bring to it.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

2. Prepare a Script

There’s a right way and a wrong way to negotiate salary. The wrong way is spontaneously, based on your needs and not market data, and without a lot of preparation. In other words, don’t corner the boss on a random Tuesday and ask for more money, or introduce the topic during your annual review, when budgets are closed and your manager is thinking about goals for next year.

Instead, ask for a meeting specifically to discuss compensation, and then prepare. Do your research, and then use these salary negotiation scripts to plan what you’re going to say. (Be willing to deviate, of course; the idea is to prepare and then have a real conversation, not to deliver a monologue.) Then, practice your pitch with a trusted friend standing in for your manager.

Be prepared to hear no — and know that it’s not the end of the world. This is the beginning of the conversation, not the end. There might not be room in the budget for your raise today, but if your manager wants to keep you around, he or she will look for opportunities to get you what you want down the line. That might mean a raise, or a promotion to a role with a higher pay grade, or training to get you to the next level.

3. Look for Another Job

If you’re really afraid to ask for more in your current role, and you’re not married to the idea of staying put, looking for another job is a solid option. In fact, when you take a new job is the best time to increase your salary.

Just don’t use a new gig as a bargaining chip with your current employer unless you’re prepared to move on. You don’t want to wind up forced to take a job you don’t want.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you successfully negotiated salary? We want to hear from you. Tell us how you did it, in the comments or on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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