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James Altucher


How to ask for a raise at work

This is difficult, especially for someone new to the workplace. Here are some techniques that have worked for me in the past.

Note: advice is ok. But with advice I always try to make sure I have done what I am advising, so at least I can say what happened to me. Doesn't mean it's good or bad advice. It's just things that have happened to me.

    1. Get another job offer.

    Sometimes your boss or company will think you are disloyal if you get another job offer.

    So what? 55,000,000 people were laid off during the pandemic. Nobody was loyal.

    The job market is a market like anything else. Price (salary) is based on supply and demand. You should always know what your value is on the marketplace. Apply for jobs every two years and see what your value is. Then it's very simple: either take the new job or bargain for more salary.

    In 1995 I was making a massive $42,000 a year in NYC. I got a job offer for $60,000. I couldn't turn down such an increase so I told my boss about it. After all the "disloyalty" stuff, they countered with $62,000 and a $5k staying bonus. And, of course, they made me feel guilty but I didn't care.

    2. Anchoring

    Anchoring is a cognitive bias where you state a number much higher than you want to "anchor" that number in their head. Even if it's ridiculous. Then when you say a real number they can't help but feel relief that it wasn't the much higher number.

    Example: Let's say you make $100,000 and you ask your boss for a raise and he says, "how much?" And you say, "Well, it looks like people who do what I do make about $365,000 a year on average." Then silence for a few seconds. "Kidding! $150,000 seems more than reasonable."

    3. The Advice Technique

    I've written about this before. This one technique has made me so much money it's ridiculous.

    You're having the raise discussion with your boss. She asks , "What do you think you should be making?"

    You say, "Listen. I've been working so hard I don't even know which way is up or down.I'm not a salary expert, I am a [whatever it is you do] expert. But you've negoitated these things a million times. Forget we are having this discussion. I need help from you. What would you ask for if you were me? What seems fair?"

    Now you have given them status. You've also asked them to help you. So if they help you it's unlikely they will reject you.

    4. The "Inventing Anna" trick.

    Ok, I haven't used this technique unlike what I said above but I was thinking about this as I was watching the show "Inventing Anna" about a con artist.

    Whenever anyone asked her a direct question that she would not be able to honestly answer without revealing herself she would totally change the topic and throw a question back at them.

    Like, "Anna, were you ever going to pay me back? Why don't you pay me back?"

    Anna: "Why are you being so dramatic?"

    So, for instance, you present your boss with evidence of inflation and you say, I've been working a lot more with these new responsibilities so between inflation and this new work I think I deserve X.

    If he tries to "control the frame" by saying, "Well, do you think you deserve this?"

    You can throw back, "Are you stingy?" or some other retort. I don't know if this works but it seems like this worked well for people who were consistently getting ridiculous things for themselves. If you do it in a situation where you actually deserve what you are asking for then I imagine this would work.

    5. Pre-Suasion with the Ben Franklin Technique.

    Sun Tzu says to win the war before the first shot is fired.

    The Ben Franklin Technique is something Franklin did as a young state legislator who had an older legislator hating him.

    He found out the older guy had an impressive book collection. He asked to borrow a book. The older legislator was surprised but lent him the book. A week later Franklin returned it.

    After that the legislator was always on Franklin's side.

    Because of a cognitive bias called Consistency Bias. His brain told him, "I am the type of person who lends Ben Franklin books, therefore I must be on his side."

    Ask for a favor from your boss a week in advance. Like, for instance, borrowing a book that might be on his bookshelf. Return it a few days later.

    Then a few days after that, ask for the raise. He'll have a strong bias to be consistent with helping you.

    6. Do you put out the first number or do they?

    Every negotiating book says different things: you should make the first offer. Or they should make the first one.

    Don't do either.

    Do a hybrid. Throw out the anchoring bias-based offer (see above) and then it doesn't matter.

    7. Care, but don't care too much.

    Taking this from a recent podcast I had with Rich Cohen, author of a book about the "World's Greatest Negotiator".

    You can't even begin a negotiation unless you are willing to talk away. It's hard to do that. But you have to if you want a successful result.

    8. Everything is negotiable.

    They might say, "it's company policy", etc. That's all bullshit.

    Everyone knows talent is everything. And right now it's hard to keep good employees. You have to know deeply that everything is negotiable.

    9. Ask for someone who can make a decision.

    If they say, "Well, I can't make this decision, it's not my budget." Ask to speak to the person who can make the decision.

    This removes their status. They now want to reclaim it and they might say, "no, no, it's just a formality but I can make the decision. " And the way they prove it is by giving you a raise.

    This is a technique from Chris Voss, former terrorist negotiator for the FBI.

    10. Make your list longer than theirs.

    It's not just about money. A salary negotiation is about:
    - title
    - vacation time
    - lifestyle options (work from home, etc)
    - insurance
    - responsibilities,


    Prepare your list in advance. If your list is longer than theirs then you can give up the nickels for the dimes.

    This was told to me by Dr. Larry Brilliant, former head of Google.org.

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