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​How to Initiate a Salary Discussion and Successfully Negotiate

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How to Initiate a Salary Discussion and Successfully Negotiate

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​No one likes discussing money: a conversation concerning salary with your employer can therefore be an intimidating prospect. However, a successful wage negotiation can be beneficial for both parties. In the first instalment of our Women’s Mentorship Session in partnership with HerCapital, Rutherford explores some tips and strategies for initiating a successful salary discussion. These ideas stem from a virtual roundtable held on the 17th March 2021 with Joy Rhoades, a successful author and ex-Managing Director at renowned financial services firm JPMorgan.​

Whether you are starting a new role in a different company or looking for a raise as an existing member of staff, we will explore when you should bring up a salary discussion, how to successfully negotiate and what to do in the unlikely circumstance that you’re unsuccessful in your negotiation.

Initiating the Salary Discussion

Commencing a salary discussion can be a daunting prospect, but there are techniques to lessen anxiety and strengthen your request for a raise. You will find below some tactics and strategies to pursue a salary discussion with confidence and clarity.​

According to Joy Rhoades, the best time to initiate a salary discussion is on a Thursday with a coffee. Studies show that towards the end of the working week we become more acquiescent to new ideas as we wind down for the weekend. So, take your manager out to a coffee shop and open a conversation about a potential raise.​

Otherwise, during an annual performance review is the ideal time to initiate a conversation concerning salary expectations. It is a good idea to briefly mention the prospect of a raise three months prior to a scheduled performance review, that way your manager is prepared for the question and has had time to review your position objectively and thoughtfully.

If none of the above works for you, schedule a meeting with your superior and make clear your intent to discuss your salary. ​

It was suggested earlier that a good time to initiate a salary discussion is after a particularly successful project. But it is worthwhile keeping an up-to-date record of your achievements and the growth you have personally brought to the company. When considering if you deserve a raise, managers will not only assess an individual’s recent performance, but overall contribution. When initiating a salary discussion, you can even present your boss with a physical document outlining how you have consistently gone above and beyond what the role demanded. ​

Whether you’re negotiating an incoming salary or looking for a raise, preparation is key. Rhoades recommends writing out a list, or script, which you can then practice with a supportive friend. This will aid in expressing yourself clearly and with purpose during a meeting.

Before initiating the conversation, make sure you are employing strong body language. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and professor at Harvard Business School, discusses the importance of ‘non-verbal behaviours’ in getting what we want. Cuddy suggests standing in a ‘power pose’ for several minutes before a meeting allows you to perform better, by increasing testosterone and decreasing chemicals linked to stress, like cortisol. When entering, keep your posture tall and make sure to smile, reflecting positivity and confidence. Throughout, keep your body open and expansive.

A crucial part of a salary discussion is the number you demand. Rhoades advises against giving a range: ‘don’t give a range because automatically the other party will drop to the lower level’. It is important to stay positive and avoid confrontational language, keep in control of the narrative and you should have a successful salary discussion.

How to Successfully Negotiate Your Salary

Negative thoughts concerning self-worth and compensation can lead to a frustrated working environment and eventually anger, which will be damaging in a salary conversation with your employer. ​

If you’re already in a role and feel like you deserve a raise, you should initiate a discussion after completing a particularly good project. As Joy Rhoades states, ‘you want to be in your very best light when you’re asking for something that you deserve’. At this time, your manager should be aware that you have recently exceeded in a project and will be potentially more flexible in rewarding you for your achievements within the company. ​

In terms of environment, during a performance review is a good time to bring up the subject of salary. Rhoades suggests that ‘if a firm is switched on, they will be considering salary in your annual performance review because they should be keeping pace with inflation’. In these circumstances, managers are more likely to be open to the idea and not be shocked if you do bring it up. Again, if your performance review comes after a particularly good project or if you have been excelling yourself within the company for a while, a salary discussion should be natural and easy.

In the case they offer you a new role within the company – an uplift – based on your expanding skills base and success in your current role, the following applies. If comfortable to do so, you should agree to the new position and express your enthusiasm for pursuing this new opportunity before turning towards the subject of salary. In a secondary meeting, where your employer will outline the new role to you and what it will entail, you should bring up concerns about compensation or benefits.

​If you are starting a new position within a different company or firm, the following should be useful. After the second interview with the hiring manager or prospective employer is a good time to bring up salary expectations. This is when you’ve pretty much secured the role and the interviewer should expect the subject of compensation to be raised. Prior to this, broaching the subject of money in the first interview or even your application is a turn off for many employers. These initial stages are designed to let the employer get to know you, discovering how you might be a good fit for the role and the strengths you’d bring to the company. If you suggest money is a motivation it implies you value financial gain over experience and the opportunity to join the firm.

Prior to beginning a conversation about your salary, you should demonstrate that you are a good fit for the position and give yourself time to consider if the job is right for you. If you are working with a recruitment consultant such as Rutherford's legal and compliance recruitment specialists, they can help you discuss your salary and even negotiate on your behalf.

Discussing and Negotiating Your Salary

Want more information and tips on discussing and negotiating your salary? Make sure to look at our other resources on the topic:

The Rutherford x HerCapital Mentorship Initiative

In March 2021, Rutherford officially launched in partnership with HerCapital an initiative to create safe spaces where women in senior roles within financial services could coach and mentor ambitious women in mid-level functions who are looking to move up the corporate ladder and invest in their career. Find out more about the initiative here.​

About HerCapital

HerCapital was founded in 2019 with the mission to empower women to become financially independent and to take control of their income. The two founders, Zabreen Khan and Rabiya Ather, aim to create a strong community of women who are looking to become confident investors and to be equipped with tools who will help them be part of the conversation when it comes to investing and managing personal finances.​

This initiative with Rutherford is enabling the non-profit organisation to expand its current horizons, by providing safe spaces for their community to discuss career goals and progression with well-established women in senior positions. This will help empower women to also take control of their career and future.


If you wish to know more about the initiative or get in touch with Rutherford to be part on the next session, please contact Genevieve Higgins-Desbiens, Head of Marketing at Rutherford, the legal and compliance recruitment specialists.


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