Are you researching the best ways to ask for a promotion? If so, know that employers would rather promote from within, because it saves time and money compared to hiring a brand new employee. The hiring and training process is time consuming and hiring from within is an easy way to eliminate friction and cost.
When you feel like it’s the right time to ask for a promotion, go for it because it will benefit you and your employer.
How to Ask for A Promotion
Below are 13 tried and true tips that will position you to ask for a promotion (and have high odds of getting it)!
1. Why Should You Be Promoted?
Before you think about talking to your boss you’ll need to figure out the reasons why you should be promoted. You’ll want to be clear on this before going in for the big talk.
Here are a couple hard truths:
- Doing your job to the best of your ability is not grounds for a promotion, because that’s what they pay you to do.
- Being at your job for an extended period of time is not a reason to be promoted. (In this case, you could ask for a cost of living adjustment, but that’s about it.)
What will get you a promotion is becoming increasingly valuable to the company over an extended period of time by either improving your performance, improving your skills, improving your outcomes, or improving the company’s position within the marketplace.
To determine why you should be promoted, ask yourself these questions:
- Have you gone above and beyond to do your job?
- Has the scope of your job expanded to include things outside of your original job description?
- Have you improved your company by, for example, increasing sales, speeding up operations, or improving customer retention?
- Have your skills expanded or improved during your time at the company due to courses or trainings that you have self-funded?
(*Note: Generally, employers are not going to be happy to pay you more for skills that they also paid for you to acquire!)
Collect hard stats related to the questions above and bring them with you to the meeting in which you will present your request for a raise.
2. What Do You Want? (Think Beyond Money)
Another question you should ask yourself before being promoted is asking yourself what you want out of the promotion.
Of course, you’re probably thinking about the raise you could get, but what other benefits could a promotion have for you?
- Do you want a better title or position?
- Do you want to be challenged to learn new tasks and skills?
- Do you want to have education expenses paid on your behalf?
- Do you want a better work environment, such as an office upgrade?
- Do you want to be able to work from home or work flexible hours?
- If you want more money, how much do you want?
Bring this clarity into the meeting with you. Sometimes getting a promotion is the spark that we need to get motivated again at work.
Possible “wins” you might want out of your promotion are:
- A monetary raise (for example, a $1K, $5K or $10K increase in your annual salary)
- The ability to work from home
- The ability to have flexible hours
- Funds to help cover your commuting expenses (such as an “EZ Pass” allowance or monthly metro pass)
- A year-end performance bonus
- Commission-based upside beyond your salary
- Better employer matching within a retirement fund
The list could go on and on. The important aspect here is to think creatively about all of the various aspects that could have value to you.
Definitely go after the money, but also remember that in life, there are many things of value and importance that can improve your quality of life.
3. Use the “Echo Effect”
World-class communicators do something that is often overlooked by others. They repeat back words and phrases that they hear from the people with whom they are conversing. Psychologists call this the “echo effect,” because of its rebounding nature.
When you repeat back someone’s own words, you show that you are actively and deeply listening. You create rapport, trust, and engender feelings of similarity. In contrast, when you use different words, the person you’re speaking with will feel distant and disconnected.
When asking for a promotion, practice active listening and pause to allow the other party to express their points. As you engage in conversation with them, summarize their points before you begin with your own so they’re aware you’re also considering their side of things.
Say things like:
- “Understood, I hear that it’s important to you that we [consider and track X, Y, Z] as we explore together what a reasonable raise might look like.”
- “Got it, so it really matters that we achieve [X] in order for a raise to be viable and represent a win-win solution.
4. Use Open and Confident Body Language
When you’re asking for a raise, be mindful of your body language and the ways you’re responding to your boss. If you find that you’re interrupting them, being curt, or coming off as defensive, you’re far less likely to achieve the results you desire.
As humans, as much as 90% of what we communicate comes from our bodies and not our mouths.
As you listen and speak, also be aware of the way your body responds. Even if you’re practicing active listening, if you’re moving your leg, crossing your arms, or not making eye contact, this will suggest to your boss that you are nervous, unprepared, or don’t care about their concerns.
Instead, use open body language, direct eye contact, sit or stand upright, and keep your arms and hands open.
As humans, it’s important to remember that we tend to give more respect – and concede more in a negotiation – to someone who projects confidence.
5. Have a Winning Attitude
It’s incredibly hard to turn down someone who is positive, happy, energetic and expresses a strong desire to find a win-win solution.
When you approach your boss for a raise, be friendly and demonstrate a winning attitude.
Your shining personality will also remind them what of makes you a stand-out employee, why they should want to retain you, and how valuable you are when it comes to client-facing interactions.
Also, smile during the conversation, because your boss is on your team and capable of helping you to meet your goals. You are partners with them in this conversation and not adversaries.
6. Make Trades of Unequal Value
When discussing a raise, there are usually things of unequal value to both parties.
Instead of giving away things that are valuable to you, try to get something in return that may matter a lot to you, but not nearly as much to the other party. As you go back and forth, this will make it a collaborative process, instead of a contest.
For example, your boss might care about keeping your salary stable so that you’re not paid more than your peers, while you might care about receiving $5,000 per year in education expenses so that you can learn new skills and command a higher salary when applying to future job opportunities.
Or, your boss may care a lot about keeping your salary stable to fit within budget constraints, while you may care about reducing your commuting time and expenses (gas, tolls, car maintenance, etc). In this case, you wouldn’t ask for a salary increase, but instead would request to work from home for 3-4 days per week.
In another example, your boss might care a lot about hitting sales or performance goals, while you may care a great deal about achieving a salary increase. In this case, you’d agree to attach your salary increase to hitting sales or performance goals, which would make both of you happy.
Remember, there are many points in a negotiation and salary is just one of them.
Find out which points matter to your boss and be flexible there. In exchange, ask for her or him to flex in other areas of high importance and value to you.
Best of all, this is a great way to keep the conversation collaborative, creative, and fun.
7. Try a Double Bind
A double bind is a negotiating strategy in which you present two possibilities, of which you like both possible outcomes.
This approach is extremely effective for three reasons, which include:
- People like choices much more than they like demands.
- It makes you look flexible and reasonable.
- It is a collaborative approach in which you are working with your boss to find a solution.
With a double bind approach, you might go to your boss and say something like:
“I really appreciate you taking the time to meet with me, because I’ve always admired your leadership and commitment to growing a great team. As you know, I’ve been creating a lot of value for the company over the past [time period] in the form of [improvements you’ve made]. As a result, I was wondering if we could work together to explore a couple potential options. My first idea is a salary raise of $3,500 or my second idea is to keep my salary as-is, but to implement a year-end performance bonus in which I could receive up to $5,000 if I meet agreed up performance metrics by December 31st.”
With the offer above, you’ve just presented two possibilities, of which you like both possibilities.
Try this technique and watch it work wonders!
8. Use Anchoring
In the 1970s psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman discovered the “anchoring effect.” This means that your first offer during the negotiation anchors the rest of the conversation. By aiming higher than your initial goal while remaining realistic, you’ll end up doing better by the end of your negotiations.
When using the anchoring strategy, you will purposefully ask for a raise that is higher than the one that you want to achieve. For example, if you’d really like to achieve a raise of $3,500, then open by asking for a raise of $5,500.
This is important for 5 critical reasons:
- It allows you to be flexible in the negotiation and concede ground. Trust me, no one likes a stubborn negotiator!
- Most reasonable people will default to compromises, typically 50/50 between what both parties want. (Thus, if you ask for a raise of $5,000 and your boss doesn’t want to offer any salary boost at at all, you’ll be surprised how often you settle on a raise of $2,500, the exact mid-point between your opening positions.)
- If you ask for too small of a raise, it suggests that you don’t value your skills or contributions, and perhaps, your boss shouldn’t either.
- Your boss is highly likely to be accountable to other people in your organization, either their boss, a Board of Directors, or another entity. In this case, you want them to be able to say that they negotiated you down from your original position, settling for only a fraction of what was requested. By starting high, you give your boss the ability to “win” in the negotiation and justify the outcome to others.
- Finally, each promotion that you get sets a precedent for your future interactions with your boss. If you can achieve a bigger raise this time around, you have much higher odds of achieving large pay increases in the future.
9. Leverage Price Framing
Price framing is a powerful approach in which you change the context of a price request (such as a salary bump) in order to change how the request is perceived by the other party. Let me explain.
The first scientists to document that humans don’t make rational choices were psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Their research introduced the field of study that we now call behavioral economics. What was discovered from their experiments was that humans frequently use cognitive shortcuts, known as biases, to make decisions with less mental effort.
On an evolutionary basis, this was helpful, because it took less mental energy and our brains are energetically demanding, consuming approximately one-fifth of our body’s energy. However, these mental shortcuts don’t always produce rational decisions.
Within the context of asking for a promotion, it is critical to understand that people don’t evaluate salaries (or any other figure) based on absolutes, but rather in comparison to other benchmarks. That is, all people evaluate price requests in relative terms.
Thus, when asking for a raise, it is valuable to present data about other companies in your market who are paying substantially more per year for employees with your skill-set. For example, you might present job listings where the annual salary being offered is $15,000 more than your own.
Then, you would follow up that information by asking your boss for a raise of only $5,000.
After pricing framing your boss at $15,000, they will experience relief when you ask for a raise of only $5,000 per year.
In this case, most reasonable bosses will either accept your request for a $5,000 promotion or they will offer a compromise, such as an increase of $3,500. Either way, you’ve achieved a substantial gain!
An important aspect to approach is to express loyalty to both your boss and your company when you present wider industry metrics. Make sure that you’ve very clear about your desire to grow from within and do not threaten your boss.
Rather, use this information to explore what your future with the company could look like.
For example, you might say, “Naturally, while I’m aware that other employers are paying up to $15,000 more for my skill-set, I am 100% loyal to you and to our company. I want nothing more than to continue to build our future together. Let’s explore what might work well for both of us based on my measurable contributions of [X, Y, and Z] to the company.”
10. Ask for Odd Figures
Another tip is to ask for odd (or unusual) numbers when you request a raise. In general, odd numbers work better for two reasons.
First, odd numbers create interest. In general, when you present odd numbers, people assume that you have that number in mind for a reason. Meaning, these numbers are more likely to get accepted as substantiated.
Second, your boss is less likely to have historical references around odd numbers.
For example, if your boss recently gave a $2,000 raise to a one of your colleagues for improving a skill set, and you ask for a less common number like $1,700, it will be difficult for them to compare what to expect from you in exchange for this more unusual salary increase.
11. Leverage Conditional Phrases
Another approach to use when asking for a raise is to leverage conditional phrases.
Examples of conditional phrases are:
- What if I … then would you?
- If I were to … then would you?
- Suppose we … then would you?
Examples of how their use during a raise negotiation might be:
- If I meet quarterly sales goals, would you be open to considering a performance bonus of [X]?
- If I take on 25% of the work for a person who is retiring/quitting, would you be willing to increase my salary by 5%?
- Suppose we hit a new sales goal in our division, would you be open to a year-end bonus?
Why does this work so well? There are a few reasons. First, humans love cause and effect.
Second, we are very willing to give something when we also get something. This principle, known as reciprocity, is a powerful tool of influence, because human survival depended on reciprocal behavior throughout most of history. (For example, I’ll give you some of this buffalo I killed if you’ll give me some of those berries you collected.)
Third, our brains love reasons. Give us a reason why something will benefit us and we’re highly likely to agree. In fact, simply using the word “because” and giving a reason to support what you are asking for is proven to dramatically improve how willing the other side is to comply.
Conditional phrases are simple and easy to implement when asking for a promotion and can often get the negotiation back on track. Importantly, they make it crystal clear to your boss what they will get from the deal.
12. Ask More, Get More
There is a fantastic book by Michael Alden titled “Ask More, Get More.” The thing I love about it is that the title says it all. In life, the more you ask, the more you get. Period.
Best of all, most people will respect you for asking and many will offer you compelling compromises in return.
Even if they say “no” to your ask, which is totally reasonable for them to do, it costs you nothing to make your request.
Remember, when it comes to requesting a raise, an ask is free. When done respectfully, it costs you absolutely nothing to make the ask.
So, flex this skill set and always remember: Ask more, get more.
Best of all, if your boss turns down your current request for a raise, they will be much more likely to approve you for a raise during your next performance review, because they will know that you are a growth-minded individual.
13. Find the Right Time
When it comes to asking for a promotion you’re also going to want to find the right time to ask. The best time to ask would be during a periodic review that you have with your manager.
Your review is your time to discuss how you’ve been performing with your manager. They’ve probably already come up with a list of things that you’ve done well so this is the best time to talk to them about a promotion.
You can still ask for a promotion outside of your review time.
In this case, send an email to your boss requesting a time where you can chat about your progress and growth within the company. Fully disclosing what you want to talk about will be the best way not to blindside your boss.
Asking For a Promotion
Much like your original job interview, one thing that you may have to do is follow up with your manager. If you got the promotion, you can send an email thanking them for their time.
If you don’t get the promotion, a simple thank you email can go along way to show that you’re grateful for their time and your position. If you left the conversation waiting for an answer, then this message is a chance to follow-up with additional metrics about how you’ve improved the company’s performance.
Regardless of the outcome, be gracious because you want your boss to be your advocate and not your adversary.
While there are plenty of different ways to ask for a promotion, what is important is that you step outside of your comfort zone and go after the things that you want in your life.
Remember, asking for a promotion will position you to achieve your career goals and create the future your deserve.
For LGBTQ+ and gender nonconforming folks, you deserve equal (or greater) pay too, so use these tips to make it happen. I hope these strategies empower you. Learning them has dramatically improved my confidence that I can go into any negotiation able to find a win-win solution.
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