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How Yale says you should negotiate for a raise

Negotiating for a Raise (By Yale University): Phase 1

This is a culmination of negotiation strategies provided by a 9-week online Yale college course on negotiation techniques taught by Barry Nalebuff (the professor), Linda Babcock, Herb Cohen, Leigh Thompson, and John McCall MacBain (negotiation experts). All of their individual negotiation strategies and principles have been organized and compiled into a structured list directed toward how to negotiate for a raise.

*Note: If you ask me, this is list is a much more grounded strategy than what sources like wikiHow recommend.

Bullet Summary

  • Phase 1: Pre-bargaining. This is when you gather and give information before the negotiation starts.
  • Phase 2: The actual negotiation and exchange/proposals which are concluded at the deadline.
  • Phase 3: Afterward. (Remember, negotiation is a process which means it goes on and on and most relationships tend to be continuing. There are very few "one-shot" deals.)

Full Phase 1 Strategy

1. Step Zero: Negotiation Preparation

To be successful in negotiating, think carefully about what's important to you. Maybe it's money, maybe it's responsibilities, maybe it's a title, maybe it's the ability to get more experience so you can use that to make it to the next level. It's hard to get your employer to give you what you want if you yourself don't know what to ask for.

2. Prepare Your Persuasive Motive

You're a seller. You're selling the idea of why your employer should give you a raise. It is not really a problem to reveal your motives for selling. However, depending on the reason you give, your employer will be persuaded into a positive or negative reaction. As a side note I thought of while writing this, consider using Simon Sinek's Start with Why to persuade your employer using a mission or goal you're working towards:

The course material didn't have an example, so here is one I came up with:

Your Employer: "If I gave you a raise, what would you do with the additional money?" [Why do you want a raise.]

You: "As a kid I pretty much kept to myself because I always felt like no one truly understood me. Anytime I would watch movies or TV I’d make believe I lived in that world for a bit--I identified with these people and even though I was alone, I was never lonely! People do things on-screen that we are too afraid to do in real life, they share themselves with the world--they are truly brave. I want to reach those people and inspire them to be more brave in their real lives--that is why I’ve committed such a large part of my life to being an actor and storyteller in addition to working here. With the additional money I would be able to move closer to my goal."

3. "Get Informed"

You don't want to find yourself in a position where you're worried that if you say a salary that's too low, they'll say yes right away, or if you say a price that's too high, you've started a fire.

  1. Research the company and the industry.
  2. Find what's acceptable to ask for and what's not (if you're asking for more than just a raise).
  3. Position yourself to be allocentric: Learn more about the position that your employer's in as well as your employer's interests so you can understand and appreciate them when the actual negotiation starts. Make your best assessment of your employer's BATNA. In other words, make your best assessment of the most that your employer is willing to pay you.

4. Think of Negotiation in Phases

The three phases are listed in the bullet summary above. Right now, we're in phase one.

5. Determine Your BATNA

What is the least you're willing to accept from your employer?

6. Prepare for Several Scenarios

*"If you wish for peace, prepare for war." 🙂

Prepare for these situations:

  1. Your employer agrees immediately to your offer
  2. Your employer counter-offers
  3. Your employer starts a fire

7. Get Ready to Leverage Your Lead Time

If you've stuck with me so far, know that this is my favorite part of this strategy and why I wanted to write this post for you all. According to negotiation expert Herb Cohen, most people will wait until a week before their boss gives out salary increases to tell their boss that they expect something (and the boss has probably already put the numbers in). They are forgetting that the key is your boss and always will be. It's about making your boss look good and feel good. So, instead, they should have gotten a commitment from their boss by playing the long game:

1. Step One: Expand the Pie as a First Resort

You go to your boss six months before he's scheduled to give out salary increases and say:

You: "Look, I really am trying to get a raise. What are the things I have to do in the next six months that would get me an increase in compensation?"

Then, the boss will tell you.

2. Step Two: Prime Their Expectation Level

Three months later you go to your boss again and say:

You: "How am I doing along the way of getting that compensation increase?"

3. Step Three: Close the Deal

One month before the scheduled salary increases you check in with your boss one last time.

Then, on the day of the salary increases, you've got it already because you've affected the expectation level of your boss and the boss knows. It's like the boss has promised it to you and you've both committed to this process over an extended period of time, so you get it.

However, this doesn't guarantee your raise will be as big as you might expect or want it to be. That's why in "Negotiating for a Raise: Phase 2" I'll be going over how to initiate and properly handle the actual negotiation itself according to Yale University.

What do you think of Yale's strategies so far?

A couple of years ago, I did a fair amount of research on how to get a raise (before taking Yale's online class) but only ever came across information like "catch your boss when he's in a good mood" and "don't be aggressive" but nothing quite as detailed and explicit as this.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Negotiating for a Raise (By Yale University): Phase 2

Full Phase 2 Strategy

1. Leverage Various Sources of Power

During the process of Leveraging Your Lead Time, you should prepare various sources of power as you approach the salary increase date.

1.) The power of the printed word: When information is in print, it leads us to believe that the information is set in stone and cannot be negotiated. For example, if your boss printed a packet and said, "Here it is, from the rule book. Rule six in our company is...," then out of respect for the printed word you are likely to accept it and forget that the information in that rulebook was at one point discussed and negotiated over. So, see if you can print information of your own to show to your boss that will help you be more persuasive.

2.) The power of competition: In other words, if the other side knows you have options and that they're not the only buyer/seller they will overestimate your power in the negotiation because you have alternatives to their deal (leading them to underestimate their own power in the negotiation). Try to give yourself alternatives to the deal you want with your employer.

2. Know Your Approach

You should approach your boss in a way that will get him to invest in the negotiation. Here are some sample approaches to consider:

1.) The Relentlessly Pleasant Negotiation Style: A style of negotiation where you are "soft in style, hard in substance". You have to be relentless in terms of going after what you want (a fair deal) but will have a higher success rate by negotiating in a friendly, cooperative, and collaborative way.

2.) The Liking (by Association) Negotiation Style: One way that "liking" works is that we buy more from those we like. In this case, we want your boss to buy into the idea of giving you a raise. Since you have more power in the negotiation the more you get the other side to invest, by being more likable they will like the idea of doing a deal with you more than if you lie, show a lack of integrity, talk too much, contradict them, or act judgemental.

3.) The Low-Key Pose of Calculated Incompetence Negotiation Style: Make sure you don't appear to be the smartest person in the room. Never let people know how bright you are or what you've accomplished; they should ultimately be able to figure this out after the negotiation is over and after you've told them what a great deal they got. Make your boss feel smart. By playing dumb and inarticulate in the negotiation, you get the other side more invested and involved in the process. Train yourself to say:

You: "I don't know. I don't understand. Can you explain that to me again?"

Then, you want to ask your boss for help.

You: "Look, you've been doing this for years. Could you like help me?"

Get them talking, get them doing, get them involved in the process.

3. Have the Champagne Ready

At the last meeting with your boss one month before the scheduled salary increase, it's good to have a bottle of champagne very evident and glasses sometimes at the end of the table. That way, your boss knows that there's a major time element, he must finish up negotiations with you on this deal. You could even bring a card that says "congratulations" and write a note inside congratulating your boss on his good choice.

4. Prepare for a "Breach of Contract"

You've spent months working with your boss to get this raise. For your boss to change his mind or come up with a sudden excuse why he can't give you the raise anymore would be the equivalent of a breach of contract. When your boss does not negotiate in good faith this way, you can deal with the situation by claiming the moral high ground for yourself and strategically guilt-tripping your employer into a more cooperative frame.

*Note: Personally, I don't agree with some of the above strategies, including this one. Guilt-tripping your boss is not only manipulative but a good way to get yourself fired if you take it too far like how John McCall MacBain recommends in the example here.

You: "Do you believe in good guys and bad guys?"

Your Employer: "Of course, I wanna be a good guy."

You: "You really wanna be a good guy in life don't you?"

Your Employer: "Yes, I wanna be a good guy."

You: "Well, let's take a situation. So, I'm a good guy, like you are, and I shake hands with someone saying...However, somebody, can't be a good guy, a bad guy comes in and says no no...So that person would have to be a bad guy. And you don't wanna be a bad guy do you?"

Your Employer: "Of course, I don't wanna be a bad guy."

You: "Well look, I can help you. The only solution you have to not be a bad guy is to..."

5. Be Allocentric and Expand the Pie As a First Resort

You were allocentric and expanded the pie when you looked out for the interests of your boss by asking, "What are the things I have to do in the next six months that would get me an increase in compensation?" That was the equivalent of saying:

You: "Look, at some point we are gonna be talking about dollars, I know that. And that's going to be confrontational because you're always going to want me to accept less and I am always going to want more. But before we get there, let's talk about what excites you, what motivates you and how I can help make this deal work better for you."

However, that doesn't mean you can't look for ways to expand the pie further by asking questions like this again at the last meeting.

6. Anchor (High) with a Precise Bid

If you have the opportunity to make the first offer, a high asking price may help you get more money. This is one of the advantages of going first because the first number people hear serves as an anchor or starting point. Thus, your boss hearing a high number will pull up his view as to the best price to pay you. (Qualifications to think about before anchoring can be found in this post.)

A precise number will get a much better response/counter from your boss than a rough number because, with a precise number, your boss will think that you have some logic behind it, some principle that you've given consideration and thought to in your ask. Instead, if you're just putting up rough numbers, he thinks you haven't given great consideration and will respond/counter thinking that maybe you have no idea what you should be paid.

If he accepts, congrats! If not, continue to negotiate for what you believe is fair.

This was a fun post to make because it's not really in the course. I had finished the Yale course but walked away feeling like I had a bunch of information that I wasn't entirely sure I could apply right away since all the strategies are introduced throughout different weeks with no consistent order (some strategies not having names at all).

I wanted to challenge myself by seeing if I could apply what I had learned to negotiating for a raise even though I don't agree with some of the strategies I was given. Since Phase 3 is after negotiations are over, there's no sense in me making a post about it.

What did you think about Yale's approach to negotiating for a raise?


Ali, this is awesome stuff!

This bit here is exactly what it's also advised in Social Power:

 "Look, I really am trying to get a raise. What are the things I have to do in the next six months that would get me an increase in compensation?"

That way, you recruit your boss to help you.
He is effectively telling you-and advising you- on how to get that payrise.
If you do it well, you can also recruit your boss to be a sort of mentor/sponsor for you.

Of course, he might still want to give you less than what you want and you might have to ask for more, but by starting with a collaborative frame you have higher chances of success.
What I like most of the collaborative frame and potentially mentor-style relationship is the advantage it affords for promotions, even more than for pay rises.

When your boss has been negotiating antagonistically with the other people in his team while he has been advising you on how to be better (ie.: how he can like you and your work more)... Who do you think he will be more likely to want to promote?

Great summary Ali, thank you!
And if the original work was scattered, you actually improved on it -which is what the best summaries do-.
I will link to it from Social Power as well.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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