You know you should negotiate your salary. Here's how to make the leap.

Reluctance often comes from focusing on losses, not gains

Fearing salary negotiations is normal—but it doesn't have to be paralyzing, one management expert writes in Harvard Business Review.

The author, Judith White, is a visiting associate professor of management at Dartmouth University's Tuck School of Business. She outlines three fears that employees often have about negotiating their salaries—and how you can overcome them.

1. Fear of backlash

Being afraid of how your boss will react can be a justified concern, White says. If your supervisor feels put on the spot with your salary request, he or she may respond with discomfort and defensiveness.

That's why you need to get ahead of the potential issue and "reset their expectations," White says. Let your supervisor know you would like to set a meeting to talk about your salary. That gives everyone a chance to prepare and prevents anyone from being caught off guard.

Also see: Four lessons for new administrators

When you do have the conversation, be honest and direct, while encouraging the other party to talk about any concerns and questions, White says. You can also "frame the negotiation as helping the relationship," she adds. "After all, if you want that raise and you don't ask for it, you'll probably wind up leaving your position without ever giving them an opportunity to strengthen your commitment."

2. Fear of 'no'

The rejection of a salary proposal can make you feel ashamed or insecure, White says. But you can combat this fear by not thinking of your request as personal, she writes.

Instead of thinking about a dreaded rejection, "Think instead about how good you'll feel when you’ve initiated the conversation," she writes. "Then you'll be saving face if you have the conversation and losing face if you continue to avoid it."

Developing academic leaders

"Remember, your self-worth does not depend on what they say; it depends on what you say and how you present yourself," she adds.

3. Fear of self-image

This is one of the trickier fears to overcome, White says. If you don't perceive yourself as a negotiator—or don't think others perceive you as one—you're unlikely to assert your salary goals.

However, you can start by scrapping your preconceived notions of what traits a negotiator must have. Instead, consider traits that may be more attainable, White suggests.

"Envision someone successful, whom you look up to, who handles conflict and difficult conversations about money and power with finesse," White says. "Your new mental image of a negotiator should be someone you want to be more like—and now you should have no excuse for not seeing yourself as a negotiator" (White, Harvard Business Review, 5/19).


Next in Today's Briefing

Around the industry: Chancellor criticized for using his phone during commencement

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague