How to Negotiate a Promotion

by Lydia Frank

Negotiate a Promotion

So you feel like you've learned everything you can in your current role and you're ready for the next level up? Your boss may agree, but she may not. Or, she simply may not have thought about it as much as you have. That's almost guaranteed. As with so many work-related conversations, asking for a promotion can often take the form of a negotiation. And, those that manage to land a promotion are more often than not coming into that negotiation prepared. Here's what you need to think about before you ask.

Have You Been Clear About Your Intentions?

If you want a promotion, make sure your boss knows that's your goal. Otherwise, while you're doing all your preparations to put yourself in line for a promotion, someone else may get it simply because they asked. And, make sure you're gently reminding your boss of your goal in an appropriate context. If you have a regular time to check in about what you're working on, you can talk about something you've done recently that aligns with the responsibilities of the more senior role and ask for their feedback on what else you might do to gain appropriate experience. Just doing great work often isn't enough to get a promotion or raise. You always are more aware of your own accomplishments than others are, so make sure you're letting people know when you have a big win – especially those with the ability to grant you that promotion.

Are You Demonstrating Your Ability to Do the Job?

Your employer doesn't want to gamble on whether you'll be able to take on a more senior role with additional responsibility, so make the decision easy. How can you demonstrate that you're already capable of doing what will be required? It's the same concept as dressing for the job you want. Start doing the job you want to the degree that it's appropriate. If you're not entirely clear on what it will take to move from your current role to the new role, then ask. Get some clarity, so you're demonstrating the appropriate skillset.

What's Your Business Case?

After you've made your intentions clear and have demonstrated your ability to work at a more senior level, pull your evidence together and present it. How have you exceeded goals for your current role? How have you demonstrated the ability to perform at a more senior level? What will you achieve in the new role and how will that benefit your employer? Even if you don't get the promotion right away, your boss will likely appreciate how prepared you were for the discussion. And, it's easier to put nerves aside when you feel ready to answer hard questions about why you deserve a promotion. If you don't get a yes, make sure to thank your boss for consideration, ask what you can do next to better prepare yourself for a future promotion and set a time to check in about your progress.

Don't Forget the Salary Discussion, But Don't Start There

Even if it's true, no manager wants to hear that your sole motivation for a promotion is a bigger paycheck. Be prepared to talk about what appeals to you about the new role or how you think you can be more of an asset to the company in a more senior position. However, it's completely appropriate to talk about compensation once it's clear that they want to promote you. Don't be so grateful for the promotion that you don't advocate for appropriate pay. If you're taking on a bigger role with more responsibility, you deserve to be compensated fairly. Pretend you're investigating pay for a position at a new company, and do the same level of research you would do to understand what the appropriate salary range is for this new position.

Lydia Frank

About the Author
Lydia Frank is the Editorial & Marketing Director for While at PayScale, she has collaborated with a number of media partners—The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Today Show, Money Magazine, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, The Chronicle of Higher Education—to showcase PayScale’s data around topics like college alumni career outcomes, the gender pay gap and underemployment. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and previously led editorial teams for both and, covering topics including careers, education, technology and personal finance.