Conducting salary negotiations correctly

There is no other subject, which is as sensitive and associated with a heavy heart as salary negotiations with one's own boss. Some come straight out with it, miss any skills and empathy and are surprised when being rebuffed by the boss. The others are frustrated and prefer applying at another company than "begging", because they think that their boss has to recognize that they are worth more.

According to management consultant Dr. Peter Pendl, in staff surveys 80 % of the respondents say they earn too little. Sometimes the salary for the same position in different companies may diverge up to 100%. Basically, it is easier to improve financially by changing the company - anyway, if the salary is the only reason for a change, it is worth talking to your boss about a raise beforehand.


1. Analysis of the market value
Obtain information from friends or colleagues about similar jobs or for similar tasks with the same qualifications. You can also apply at another companiy as a trial - collect information about your market value.

2. My additional value
Calmly consider, how your company gets a particular benefit from you. Excellent Spanish, which you cannot use in the job, cannot be an additional value for your company. Did you bring new ideas or set up innovative impulses, did you work on special projects, did you get praise and recognition from customers and other departments, suppliers, etc.?
Did you make any quality improvements? Did you improve results? – In what period of time and to what extent?
It is crucial that you have already provided these benefits and improvements to rationally and emotionally prove that your benefit is higher for the company than 6 or 12 months ago and that you would appreciate an appropriate financial recognition.
If you cannot think of anything, you should rather postpone your salary negotiation and think about how you can improve yourself for the benefit of your company. Ask your boss for advice. Your ambition will have a positive effect on a future salary negotiation.

3. The right time
Never come straight out for it or conduct a conversation unprepared.
Tell your boss what you want to talk about with him, so that he can set the according time frame - a conversation under time pressure always fails.
Announce that you would like to have feedback on your performance, that you would like to know if you are on the right track and also that you want to discuss the issue of salary with him.

4. The conversation structure
Ask your boss to evaluate your performance today compared to the past. Even your boss is a person with feelings and sensations. Try to put yourself in his shoes. What is important for your boss, what does he react sensitive or hostile to? Facts alone are often not enough for your conversation.
Listen and add those improvements or results you achieved, which particularly contributed to the success of your boss, your department or area. Ask for what he expected from you and still expects and how he measures your performance. Inform yourself what will be especially important in the future, how you need to prepare and how else you can make yourself useful.
You collect further emotional pluses as you respond to your bosses needs and he thereby supports your request. Never make the mistake to compare yourself with other people in the company. Point out your strengths and qualities that he, the department or the company can benefit from. Your boss will compare you with your co-workers then anyway. However, if you draw the comparison, you will immediately be confronted with a lot of counter arguments why - unlike you - the person you compared yourself with is worth this salary and you'll find yourself in the middle of a debate that you can only lose.
If your boss brings up the point that there is a strict salary system or a strict salary stop, consider different ways of getting an additional benefit for the extra value you bring to the company beforehand, like project-based bonuses, another different expenses arrangement, a business cell phone, the purchase of a PC for a home office, the remuneration for a particularly valuable training activity, additional holidays, a course abroad, which you can combine with holidays or even the option that three months from now is a better time for a salary negotiation.

5. Win your boss
It is important that your boss considers your salary requirements justified by your performance. The salary discussion must never have the character of blackmailing. If you got another offer, you can bring it in, but with the note that you are not actively looking but that this company approached you or that it was just a sample application you sent, etc.
The significantly higher salary offer might let him reconsider. Nevertheless it has to be clear for your boss that you favor him and his company and that you want to continue working there. Think about possible solutions together with you boss.

6. Postponing the salary negotiation
If a salary raise is not possible at that moment, make a new appointment and keep in mind your bosses wishes and expectations. If you meet any new expectations or goals until the next time, you are morally in a better situation, even if you ultimately consider a change of career.



  • Black mailing
    "If I don't get a better salary, I quit."
    No boss likes to be threatened. If you don't have really good cards, then he will perhaps compromise once but certainly not a second time. Nobody likes to be threatened.
  •  The "pity pitch"
    If you refer to an increase in housing costs, a new car, your partners unemployment, mortgage or similar, you'll accomplish nothing. The reasoning has to be about your performance, your company is no charity organization.
  •  Utopian requests
    Absurd salary demands with reference to a particularly successful acquaintance in another company cannot be taken seriously by your boss and can neither be justified internally. Your boss might see this absurd demand as a latent danger that you often have illusive moods and prematurely look for a replacement.
  • No money - less performance
    Threatening with withdrawal of commitment or less performance, will make you lose your job quicker than you think.
  • The interim report trick
    The interim report is required for obtaining magisterial documents. If you do not add that to your request, your boss will automatically interpret this as your wish to present yourself at a new company. An interim report may be an indirect threat and does not improve the climate for a possible staff appraisal or salary negotiation initiated by your boss.
  •  Comparisons with colleagues
    "Mr. Meier earns this much, so I want to earn this too", is one of the most common points mentioned during a salary negotiation, but also one of the least successful. You can be sure that your boss has other assessment criteria to establish the salary of your colleagues - let your additional work or better job performance speak for you.


Dr. Peter Pendl


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