Yes, You Can Get a Raise in These Crazy COVID Times

Negotiate my salary? In the middle of a recession/pandemic? Are you mad?

Well, I have been called worse. The short answer is yes – anything at any time is negotiable.

One of the skills my father taught me — and I devoted three chapters to it in my book Lessons from the Len Master — is that everything is negotiable. The key is to have confidence in your position, understand your opponent’s position and have a viable plan B. My father always stressed that as humans, we are genetically wired to negotiate — we need to have consensus to exist. So, as long as you can offer your bargaining partner a reasonable option, you are more likely to get to a yes than you might think. Even with the headwinds of a recession or employer’s market.

The trick to winning any negotiation is to understand what is possible given the resources at your disposal, and the limits of your adversary’s position.

Get a good mirror

Start with a reasonable and objective overview of your pluses and minuses. Don’t be too critical, but be realistic.

I teach classes on negotiating, and most of my students are women in their early 30s. When I ask a student to describe and assess their own position, they are very critical and invariably assign the position of strength to their employers. But when I ask other students to review the person’s position, they are much more positive and often find the fellow student has the upper hand. And they are generally right. If you have problems assessing your own pros and cons, ask a friend to take a look and help you understand your relative worth to an organization.

Next, understand the pressures facing your employer or supervisor. While they may want to make you happy, and understand your value, they may be limited because of low sales, sinking profits or simply because they don’t fully understand the value you bring. Identifying why your employer cannot (or will not) give you a raise helps you develop a strategy to get to a yes.

It’s often in how you ask

Sometimes you may hit an impasse. An employer cutting hours and laying off people is unlikely to leap at the chance to provide a raise. This is a time when being creative can offer options beyond the basics of compensation, and allow you to improve your situation if more money is off the table.

Case in point: my company imposed a no raises rule at the start of the recession and pandemic. Our goal was simple: we have been through recessions before and our main duty is to protect our employees. By eliminating raises, lowering costs and establishing a hiring freeze, we protect our cash reserves. This allows us to weather a prolonged recession and decrease the likelihood of layoffs or reduced hours. We communicated our position to every employee, along with our reasons.

That didn’t stop two employees who were up for reviews from asking for a raise. While both were ultimately disappointed they didn’t get a raise, they understood and remained relatively positive.

But one employee came prepared beyond just asking for money. He anticipated our response and asked for a series of non-monetary concessions that were reasonable and would increase his satisfaction with the job. We were more than happy to comply with most of his requests; they didn’t affect us monetarily and they allowed us to show that we appreciated his work. Did we value that employee more than the other? No, but one gave us options we had not considered.

You can negotiate in any environment. You may not always get want you want, but you get more than you started with if you plan better and articulate your position.

Want to know more strategies for negotiating better, along with good advice on getting promotions, increasing sales and just getting more out of life? Order your copy of my latest book, Lessons from the Len Master, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and virtually anywhere books are sold.