Salary Negotiation
The majority of people shy away from negotiating, but research shows three out of four employees who ask for a raise get one. Getty / MANDEL NGAN

Negotiation isn’t a four-letter word, but it might as well be. Few people enjoy negotiating, but most people dislike it so much they avoid it altogether. According to recent data from research firm Payscale, 57 percent of employees have never asked for a raise in their current field.

Women are particularly unlikely to start the conversation. Thirty-one percent of female employees say they feel uncomfortable asking for more money, compared with 23 percent of men. Even the most powerful women have trouble negotiating. Among chief executives, 26 percent of women report feeling uneasy about it, compared with 14 percent of men in the same position.

According to Stacy Francis, a certified financial planner and CEO of Francis Financial, women sometimes have trouble advocating on their own behalf. “We typically don't ask for what we’re worth, but if we were going in there for someone we loved — our sister, our mother, our best friend — you bet we would have no problem whatsoever negotiating,” she said.

Unfortunately, getting a raise means facing the unpleasant reality of asking for one. And that’s the key word: asking. Among people who do ask, Payscale found that three out of four typically get one. Those are pretty good odds. Here are three tips for getting the raise you deserve this year.

1. Know the Numbers

For a new college graduate, negotiating a salary increase of $5,000 more per year amounts to an extra $500,000 in total earnings over a 40-year career, even if they never negotiate again. Building up the courage to ask may not be easy, but it's certainly worth it.

“One of the biggest barriers for women, and for people in general, is that there’s a lack of knowledge around what they should be asking for,” said Elizabeth Weingarten, deputy director of New America’s Better Life Lab.

U.S. Median Salary by State | CareerTrends

Weingarten recommends figuring out the salary range for your position and experience level by using a website like Payscale, which compiles compensation data across multiple companies. According to Francis, it’s even better if you can get specific information from colleagues within your own company, although that’s not always possible. Aim for a number on the higher end of the spectrum, but make sure you can explain why you deserve it. Come to the meeting prepared with a list of your recent accomplishments, so you can easily point to them during the conversation with your boss.

“Keep track of what you’re doing so you can show the value that you’re bringing to the company,” said Rianka Dorsainvil, a certified financial planner and founder of Your Greatest Contribution. “It’s based on fact, not on emotions.”

2. Perfect Your Pitch

If an employee review meeting isn’t already on your calendar, be proactive in scheduling a meeting with your boss. Tell him or her you’d like to discuss your performance and set goals for the future. Keep in mind that bosses are busy, so it may require a few attempts to make it happen.

When the time comes, it’s important to convey confidence. “Try to pretend you’re negotiating for the person you love most dearly in your life,” Francis said. “It totally changes the perspective and has such a big impact.”

Dorsainvil says employees sometimes chicken out at the last minute if a boss seems unreceptive. “Write down what you want to say, so you stay on task and won't get distracted,” she said. She recommends getting your point across, but keeping it short and sweet. “You want your employer to talk more and you to talk less,” she added.

If you have a difficult time asking in person, sending an email or making a phone call can work, but each negotiation is unique. Weingarten says it’s important to tailor your approach to your boss. “There are lots of different ways to put your arguments out there,” she said. “But be aware of your audience and what they value.”

3. Prepare Your Next Step

Once you’ve laid out your case for a raise, there are basically two possible outcomes: You either get a raise or you don’t. It’s important to be prepared for both.

If your boss says no, don’t get discouraged. “Make it clear that this is still something that is important to you,” Weingarten said. “Use it as an opportunity to get a better sense of the atmosphere around compensation and what factors are going into their decision.”

Set clear goals and establish a time frame for following up, so that next time you discuss the topic you’ll be more likely to get a yes. Or, if it becomes clear that the company is not in a position to reward your hard work, it might be time to start updating your resume.

“Go in there with a goal and leave with your goal accomplished,” said Dorsainvil. It may not happen overnight, but make sure you are taking the steps to achieve it.