Salary Negotiations: 4 Steps out of the Misery

November 22, 2022

A no is far from a no

My boss has just told me that unfortunately I won’t get a salary increase because the human resources department has not released a budget.

So, that's it. Again, I do not do this ‘walk to Canossa’! I'm looking for a new job. All right, first you can quietly treat yourself to a breather. And then you should act exactly as all athletes do: Analyze match, rethink tactics, practice, start a new attempt

Two people shake hands, next to them is a smartphone with 3 big euro signs on it
4 steps that may yet lead to the desired outcome of negotiations. Photo © pexels - Polina Zimmerman

1. Analysis of the Match: Several Reasons Why the Trialwas not Successful

Do I know the HR processes of my company, do I know at what time and under what circumstances salaries are usually checked and adjusted if necessary – and do I also know with whom I must talk about it? Does my boss have the answers to all those questions? Yes, but if the answer is not clear enough (maybe my supervisor is completely new to the company or in the role), I can inform her/him that I would like to ask the human resources department for information about the usual salary processes. It is important that you get this information in alignment with your boss, because an intact relationship of trust with superiors is the precondition number one for future salary or career discussions.

Many companies have only one salary round per year and precisely define the conditions under which the remuneration can be increased beyond the usual adjustment via the collective agreement. Usually, the salary increases when an employee assumes a job a greater responsibility or is promoted to a higher job level. In most cases, the supervisor decides which of her/his employees is eligible for a salary increase or for a promotion. In some companies, this decision is taken together with the company boss or the human resources department or in a salary committee. Equipped with this information, I can plan timing and prerequisites for my next negotiation.

2. Rethinking Tactics, Doing Reality Checks, and Creating Facts

Now I know that the next salary round will take place in spring 2023 – so enough time to prepare myself perfectly. I came to understand that I have to demonstrate to what extent I have already taken on significantly more responsibility during the last months than described in my initial tasks. And I'm also asking myself where I could create additional added value for the company in the following months to come. As soon as I am clear about these points, I make an appointment with my supervisor and ask her/him to reserve about an hour to discuss my professional development in the company.

It is of utmost importance to cross check your considerations with reality:

  • Are my goals really the goals of the company?
  • Is my added value recognized?

The easiest way to find out is by asking open questions:  

  • Under what circumstances can I expect a promotion to the next job level?
  • To what extent will the higher responsibility (compared to my original job description) have a positive effect on the next higher job level?
  • Which goals should I set for myself, with what deadline - and how would you recognize that I have not only met expectations, but exceeded them?
  • How will the increased responsibility affect my total remuneration?
Martina Ernst Portrait

Martina Ernst

  • Salary Expert

This conversation is also a good moment to consider alternatives, should a further promotion technically not be possible - some hierarchies are very flat. How can the salary still rise - at least within the range of the current job level? Are there perhaps exciting new projects I could be responsible for– at least temporarily?  What could be a realistic time frame for further salary adjustments?

Summarize the meeting, have the minutes confirmed by your boss, an agree with her/him on a follow-up meeting for an in-between check. This year should also be used to become more aware of your market value externally – i.e., do your research on the Internet and talk to colleagues inside and outside the company to get a realistic idea of an appropriate remuneration.

3. Practice:

What can I do today to be sure that I am on the right track? During the following months, it can't hurt to do a short follow up check with your supervisor to jointly evaluate whether things are going according to plan and also to be sure of his/her further support.  

A clock is five to twelve and below it UPDATE written in large letters with chalk on a blackboard
If there is still some time before the next salary rounds, it makes sense to arrange an update meeting with the manager beforehand to see where you stand in terms your set goals. Photo © pixabay - Gerd Altmann

4. Start a New Attempt

In good time, when the budgets for the New Year are planned – and in most cases this is in the autumn of the previous year at the latest – one should show up again. Ideally, another salary round is no longer necessary, and the supervisor has confirmed to plan the salary increase.

But rarely do things follow the script. Maybe there was another reorganisation and the new boss doesn't really know me yet. What does that mean: Establish a relationship of trust with your new superior and demonstrate where exactly you added value for the company and which developmental steps had been agreed upon for you.

And you should not forget two things:  

  • On the one hand, you become more experienced in these delicate conversations and
  • on the other hand, superiors are not your opponents, but want more or less the same as you do: highly motivated employees who contribute to the company' s success.

And it goes without saying that these people have their price on the market.

Here you can learn more about Martina Ernst.

Read more salary negotiation tips from our career expert in our "Salary Insights - Let's Talk About Money" series.

Update for Leaders

Join 15,000 + professionals and get regular updates on leadership and management topics. Learn something new every time. 

Share this