For most people, it's not easy to talk about money. It can be difficult, nerve-racking and even fear-inducing. However, being able to talk about money will directly influence how much you make and the opportunities you get. We don't (yet) live in a world where your pay is solely based on your competency; which means you have to be assertive and find positive, constructive ways to engage in a discussion with your boss. For those of you who are uncomfortable with the subject of compensation, here are five non-confrontational ways to talk with your boss about how much money you make and ways you can make more.
1. Check your bonus.
Once you get into management, most companies provide some level of variable component to your pay. It may be based on your performance (such as MBOs), the company's performance or both. Nevertheless, bonuses are typically set as a percentage of your base pay.
It is entirely reasonable for you to ask about the bonus percentages for different jobs at your company: What percentage does a manager get? A director? A project lead? Are the bonuses consistently applied by level or are there ways to earn a higher bonus percentage? Asking these questions will give you an understanding of the levels you have available to increase your variable pay. Additionally, asking these questions allows you to understand if your variable is set fairly relative to your peers, and it puts your manager on notice that you are paying attention.
2. Ask early.
Some people put their hand up for a bigger job before they are ready. Some wait until they are more than ready. Guess who gets ahead faster?
Building your confidence to raise your hand early and ask for a bigger responsibility before you are perfectly ready makes you more valuable to your company. As a leader, it's great to have team members who will jump on challenges and volunteer, even if they are a stretch. Stretching yourself and taking risk will lead to you more opportunities and you'll be rewarded earlier and more often than your peers who hang back. Asking you manager for more challenging projects and for promotion opportunities will naturally lead you into a discussion about your pay and how you can grow it.
3. Understand the bias in the system.
The debate continues to rage about the pay gap between men and women (women make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes, in full time work) and a recent study shows the gender pay gap is even greater when it comes to incentive pay.
It's such an active discussion that if you are in a minority (or even if you are not) it is OK to ask about the company's approach to understanding and correcting gender or racial bias in their pay practices. Ask if they have run an audit on pay differences and if they have a plan of action to correct any existing gaps (which you can be sure exists).
Some companies, like GoDaddy and Salesforce, say they are aggressively going after this issue and plan to remove the gender-based pay gap over the next few years. It's a fair conversation for you to have with your boss and HR, provided you stay positive and don't play the victim.
4. Negotiate positively.
"You get what you negotiate, not what you deserve." This is the motivation behind the thousands of self-help books and classes on negotiation, and it's true. That said, when it comes to your pay, it really helps to come from a positive perspective.
Approach your conversation with your manager from a perspective that you know you are contributing but you want to contribute more and in doing so, make more money. Let her know you want to negotiate, but don't focus on how you are paid relative to others, instead focus on your impact and ways you can advance the company as well as your own career. Asking for more responsibility naturally leads to more pay over time.
5. Pick your timing.
Timing is everything. Be smart about when you open up the conversation. Don't do it when your boss is about to go on vacation. Don't do it when she is slammed with preparing a presentation to the board. Don't do it around quarter end or a project deadline. Find a time when your boss can listen with both ears, when you can bring up your questions in a relaxed atmosphere, and then go for it!