Boost Your Pay and Improve Work-Live Benefits With These Tips

Ask the right questions while negotiating a pay raise

21 October 2016

There’s an old adage when it comes to salary negotiation that goes: “He who speaks first, loses.”

I don’t subscribe to the philosophy of winners and losers in negotiation, but there’s no doubt that responding too quickly limits your understanding of the manager’s or company’s limitations with regard to meeting your request for a pay increase or time off.

Although you might not always get exactly what you ask for, here are ways to better understand what your employer might be willing to offer.


In my previous blog on salary negotiation I suggested that after you request a pay raise or a promotion and your manager responds, simply say nothing. The power of that silence is immense. Your manager will reply with either a counter offer or a justification for why she can’t meet your request. If it’s a justification, then you have additional information to help you understand the situation.

Here are some questions you can ask to help move the discussion forward:

  1. What is the salary range for someone in my position, and is that range fixed?
  2. Have exceptions been made, and what did the person do to warrant an exception?
  3. What skills and level of responsibility are required for the next pay grade?
  4. If a salary increase is not an option at this time, can we negotiate other benefits such as extra vacation time?

These questions can promote a discussion that will not only help you develop a better rapport with your manager but also help you better understand your company—its promotion policies, for example, or if it’s dealing with a tight budget or a hiring freeze.


Here’s another question—perhaps the most powerful one—that can truly help create a collaborative environment for moving the discussion forward: “How can we close the pay gap?” The gap refers to the space between what you feel is fair and what the company is offering.

Note the focus is on we. This is the core of collaborative negotiation. Within this framework, there are no winners or losers—just you and your manager figuring out ways to create a win-win situation.

Remember, the company wants and needs you. It wouldn’t have hired you, or continued to employ you, if that weren’t the case. A collaborative negotiation is a way to find a solution that keeps you motivated while remaining within the company’s salary budget.

And remember that salary is just one piece of the puzzle. You also should consider asking for perks such as extra time off, flexible hours, or incentive pay (for achieving certain milestones in a given time).

If the company won’t budge on any of your requests, and you still want to work there, ask for a review in six months to assess your performance. Be sure to ask what you would need to accomplish in those six months to warrant an increase.

This article is part of a series on salary negotiation.

Anthony Gold is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur who recently helped found ROAR for Good, a company in Philadelphia developing smart safety jewelry that—at the touch of a button—can sound an alarm and send text messages with GPS information to emergency contacts if the wearer is in danger.

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