You may think getting a raise goes a little something like this.

Step one: Ask your boss for a raise.

Step two: You get your raise. Or, you don't.

Step three: There is no step three. (Unless you didn't like how step two went down. In which case, you revisit step one again in six months.)

But apparently coming out and asking for money is the entirely wrong approach. There's a better and far more effective way to go about it, and you shouldn't even be talking about numbers. "The more you focus on salary, the less successful you'll be," says Christopher Voss.

Voss is a former FBI agent who spent 24 years negotiating the release of hostages. Now, he shares the tactics and lessons he learned during these high-stakes negotiations with people who negotiate for business. Voss spoke about salary negotiations at a recent IVY Ideas Night and delved into this topic

The problem with asking for more money, Voss says, is that the question is all about what you want. It comes off as selfish.

Voss recommends drawing inspiration from one of his most successful friends, and suggests you ask this question instead: "How can I be guaranteed to be involved in projects that are critical to the strategic future of the company?"

If you take this approach -- and seriously mean it and are prepared to follow through -- that raise will come in due time. Here's why:

  • It puts the onus on your employer to set clear criteria for your success
  • It shows your boss that you care about something bigger than yourself
  • It gives you the opportunity to increase your visibility with higher ups
  • More exposure means your network will expand to other successful people in your company

While it'd be great if all raises were merit-based, many of the times it's about who you know. Your boss might not actually be in a position to give you a raise. If you can prove to to others beyond even her level that you are critical to the success of the company, you have a far higher likelihood of getting that raise.

And if you keep getting more responsibility while expanding your network company-wide, but no raise to show for it? You'll still have gained plenty. More skills to add to your resume. More projects to include in your portfolio. Access to more people who can speak glowingly about your talents. These are all tools you can leverage in seeking another job or better-paying role at your company.

Just remember: When salary comes up, be sure to ask the right question.

Published on: Jul 10, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.