What are you worth? Do you ask for it at work? As you reflect upon your accomplishments in 2016 and plan for 2017, you will likely have crucial conversations ahead.

He said, she said

Your gender may have something to do with setting expectations and how you handle negotiations. “Men naturally expect to negotiate salary and raises; women need to know it’s expected,” says Jenny Keil, professor of economics and management at Hamline University. Keil advises everyone do their homework before you get to the table. Going into a prospective employer, research every available fact you can about pay in a particular job market or job function. For a new job, Keil recommends, “You ask the employer to signal a salary range rather than trying to pin down the exact number” in your first or second interview encounter.” She urges you to “identify your brand and why you should get the top salary.” If you can’t articulate that, it’s reasonable a new boss won’t think you deserve it.

Sticky questions

Compile data points about your interviewer or interviewers. This also applies if the conversation is with your current boss. The more you know about his or her mindset and tendencies, the more power you have when you get to the table.

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you get to the table. If you’re going for a new job or promotion at your current firm, be ready to respond to questions about why you are a good fit. If you have tough questions for the interviewer, use language around “good fit” to help them understand why you are probing. Keil also recommends you use language to describe the work you’re doing in the most powerful way possible. For example, she says, “Medical coder has more power than nursing or health care,” when you describe your experience. You certainly don’t want to lie but do know how some labels are perceived by your target. I call these “subtextual messages.”

Promotions

If you’ve been paying attention, you are likely in tune with the subtextual messages of your boss or colleagues. Keeping these in mind will help if you are shooting for a promotion or benefits. Keil suggests thinking in terms of “a lattice idea instead of a ladder. Maybe you want to get experience in another zone of the company so you are zig-zagging instead of going up the ladder.”

Don’t be afraid to hear “no.” It’s short and to the point and gives you data for your next steps. For example, is this a “no but maybe later,” a true no or the kind of no that makes you think you’d better start looking for another job? Listen to the language that comes alongside the “no.” You should hear details about why a no won’t work in plausible and tangible terms. If you don’t, that means maybe there’s room to rephrase and brainstorm other items to which they could say “yes.”

Blind spots

Keil says there are a couple key blind spots she sees when advising people about crucial conversations at work:

  1. Thinking your employer owes you more because of your personal situation; for example, it’s not their responsibility if you have to pay for child care or a parent in a nursing home so don’t reference these in your negotiation.
  2. Letting emotions get the best of you.

One way to handle the emotion aspect is to create a talking points sheet for yourself. In it, list all your job-related accomplishments from the previous year. Also include what Keil calls your “getting to yes” points. Define the interests of both you and your employer. Then list the options for both you and your employer to get to the yes you propose

Roshini Rajkumar is a personal brand strategist and presence engineer. She is host of News and Views with Roshini Rajkumar on WCCO Radio and author of Communicate That! For additional communication tips, visit CommunicateThatBook.com. Interface with Roshini at roshini@roshinigroup.com.

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