Salary negotiation strategies to boost your income

The best negotiators succeed by combining confidence with collaboration.

Statistically, more men try to negotiate pay raises than women — but both can learn from each other when it comes to making those negotiations successful, according to Sara Laschever, co-author of Women Don’t Ask and Ask for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want.

In September of last year, FM magazine sat down with Laschever to discuss what it takes to be a successful negotiator. Since that conversation, there’s been a sharp spike in professionals who have tried to negotiate a higher salary, according to a survey conducted by global staffing firm Robert Half. The percentage of professionals surveyed who tried to negotiate a higher salary jumped 16 points, from 39% in the 2018 survey to 55% in 2019. The survey also found that 68% of male employees tried to negotiate pay, versus 45% of women.

If you’re looking to approach the bargaining table this year, try Laschever’s top six tips for executing a successful negotiation:

Prepare. The success of any negotiation is dependent on how well you prepare, according to Laschever, so make sure you do your research. Find out what other people with your experience and credentials are making and what opportunities they’re being given, look into how the company is doing financially, check to see when the fiscal year closes, and really stop and think about what you want out of the negotiation, not just in terms of money, but in every aspect of your desired work life, from flexible work hours to stretch opportunities.

Laschever also stressed that women need to talk to men as well as women as they prepare, because women on average are paid only 78% of what men make.

“If you’re just talking to women, you may not know what the market can pay,” she said.  

Build a sense of alliance. According to Laschever, men are more likely to take an adversarial, zero-sum, I win/you lose, approach to negotiation, whereas women tend to take a more collaborative problem-solving approach.

“Forty years of negotiation scholarship has shown that women’s approach is actually superior and tends to produce better agreements for both sides,” she said.

Laschever recommended shifting from an adversarial approach to one of alliance by seeking common ground with the person on the opposite side of the table. Consider their wants and needs and ask questions if you encounter some resistance.

“Get the other side to explain their point of view, because it may be that they’re proceeding according to a misunderstanding that you can clear up,” she said. “Asking questions is a key part of negotiations, because you don’t just get information, you also show that you care about their problems and you build this sense of alliance.”

Don’t be afraid to spell out your worth. Laschever said you should go into the negotiation prepared to show how you’re bringing value to the organisation. She recommended bringing in your CV, awards, evaluations from clients — anything that can show you’re valuable and worth what you’re asking.

“You really want to talk about your value, what you’re bringing to the organisation,” she said. “Maybe you’re in a good position because of this great client you brought in or this excellent evaluation you just got, whatever it is that makes you valuable to the organisation.”

Negotiate the package. Most negotiations tend to be about more than just salary, according to Laschever, and can include anything from titles, resources, office size, and how many people you’re supervising. She recommended negotiating the entire package, rather than one item at a time. Get creative and collaborate with the other person to put together a package that works for both parties.

She also pointed out that if you’re getting some resistance on one part of the package, you can try shifting to something that might be easier to talk about.

“And it’s not a bad idea to concede something small at the beginning, because then people feel they need to reciprocate,” she added.  

Role-play the negotiation. If you’re feeling nervous about an upcoming negotiation, or the stakes are especially high, Laschever recommended role-playing the conversation in advance with a trusted friend or colleague.

Brief the other person about the negotiation, tell them about what might make you lose your composure, and run through the conversation several times, she advised.

“It’s really good to practice these responses in your role-play, so if whatever you’re worried about happens, you’re prepared,” she said. “It turns out it’s the surprise as much as the feeling itself that throws people off. They’re shocked and they want to leave, so they take whatever it is [they’re offered] and run out of the room.”

Aim high. Laschever’s final piece of advice is to aim high, especially if you happen to be a woman, because what you get out of a negotiation is directly correlated to what you’re aiming for.

She pointed out that men tend to ask for 30% more than women overall, and data shows that if you ask for 30% more, you have a good chance of getting 10% more.

“Over the course of a career, where raises are built on whatever you were earning previously, that 10% can add up to tons of money by the end of your career,” she said. “Don’t focus on your bottom line, the minimum you would accept, because if you do, as soon as you get it, you’ll take it, and leave some value on the table.”

Hannah Pitstick is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at