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How to bounce back from a failed salary negotiation

Turned down for a raise? You need a plan if you're going to bounch back.

4 min read



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When everything goes as planned when asking for ask for a raise, you come out on top, ready to go home and celebrate. Unfortunately, that’s not always going to be the case.

Whatever your boss’ reasons — your performance, the state of the company, the economy — not every negotiation is going to end in success. So when you don’t achieve the results you hoped for, what next?

You’re going to need a game plan to help you bounce back. This is how you’ll get paid what you’re worth.

Plan your attitude

First and foremost, always be professional and positive. The failure may be stinging, but don’t let that sour you or your demeanor. The day after your unsuccessful negotiation is the first day in your updated performance portfolio — you’ve got something to prove. You’re ready to dust yourself off and achieve better than ever results in your job. You may even want to mentally prepare by tackling your current position with “new job” vigor and set yourself an action plan. Let your manager know even if you don’t agree with their decision, you do respect it. 

Plan your next steps

Following a failed negotiation, you need to move forward. This may mean accepting your current salary level and improving yourself to get a salary bonus or raise down the line. The key will be to focus on the future and not don’t dwell on the past. What were your takeaways from your discussion? Do you need better performance? More professional development? Experience? Demonstrated results? Do you need to work on reputation and perception? Consider what the gaps are and make a plan on how you’re going to get there.

Plan your next negotiation

The number one mistake people make when negotiating a salary increase is not being fully prepared for the negotiation. Every negotiation starts with a business case on why you deserve an increase. Present the successes and results delivered since your last salary review that support a case for higher compensation. If possible, demonstrate the ties between your performance and the company’s successes or cost savings. If you’ve helped others succeed, make sure to point that out — your value lies not only in your individual contributions but in your leadership and guidance. Do salary survey research beforehand, to better understand what the market value of your position truly is and to make sure your request is reasonable and specific.

There’s no set magic time frame to revisit the topic. Instead, it depends on circumstances. Have you achieved new goals or taken on new responsibilities that warrant discussing a salary increase again? Has the company had an especially good quarter, to which you contributed? If so, go for it. If the situation has changed since the last time you talk, it could be time to open the discussions again.

Plan for future success

Don’t be afraid to ask what you can do to turn that “no” into a “yes.” Put together an action plan with your manager, so you can get to the compensation level you want in the future. Your boss is not your adversary; make it clear you want to partner to find a workable solution for you both; ask what you need to do, and make a real roadmap on how you’re going to get there. Sometimes, this will require that you are given specific opportunities, in order to meet those expectations. Keep a close eye out for those chances and don’t be afraid to speak up and remind your manager of your plan when one comes along.

Any kind of setback can be disheartening, but don’t let it slow you down. Begin again with a new resolve to achieve (or exceed!) the goals you and your manager have set, then plan your next salary negotiation freshly prepared to highlight you value and your accomplishments.


Joel Garfinkle is the author of “Get Paid What You’re Worth” and “Getting Ahead.” Recently, he spent four months coaching a senior vice president on how to translate his value and overall impact into a successful request for 23% salary increase. He is recognized as one of the top 50 executive leadership coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Oracle, Google, Amazon, Deloitte, The Ritz-Carlton, and Starbucks. Sign up to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter (10,000+ subscribes) and you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now.”

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