Dear James: how do I negotiate a promotion at work?

    30 October 2019

    I’ve been in the same role at work for a number of years now and, whilst I enjoy my job and I know I’m a valued member of the team, it’s difficult to see what the next step up would be. What’s the best way to negotiate a promotion from my boss?

    Stagnation alert! You need to take immediate action otherwise your career is destined to live in the slow lane. Here’s how to shift things up before it’s too late.

    1. Know your job

    This may sound daft, but no one knows what you do better than you. It’s amazing how many people cannot articulate in a sentence or two what they do and where they add value. Don’t let that person be you. Make sure you totally understand your remit. You need to build evidence of what you’ve been asked to do and what you have achieved. In addition, you need to demonstrate how much you’ve advanced since you first took on the role.

    If you can’t recognise your value, how do you expect your boss to?

    2. Know your skills

    What can you do well? Where do you excel? And what skills or responsibilities would you like to have? Always be honest. There’s no harm in asking colleagues what they think you’re good at. But be careful, if anyone suspects what you’re up to, they may try to trip you up.

    Promotion is about proving, with evidence, a range of skills, personality traits and achievements. It’s not just about the economics but about your softer communication, management, delegation, leadership and social skills. Those who possess strong business development or execution skills will always shine through.

    3. Know your worth

    You need to be prepared to consider a change in role or company. That means casting your net outside the business you’re in. That said, be careful and discreet. No one likes disloyalty.

    Anyone trying to poach you will offer a premium. If they’re offering more than 20 per cent of your current salary, then you’re being underpaid. Often a move will bring a role change and salary rise. Never move for the same job title or role unless you hate where you are more than anything else in your life. If you possess good knowledge of your market worth, this will help in any discussions.

    4. What do you want?

    Your boss can only deliver what you want, if you know yourself. And then ask! It may sound strange but in their own mind they have similar battles going on and a range of individuals to look after. Anyone who makes their life easier by delivering, being clear on what they want (and why) and being an answer to a question, problem or business need… they’re the ones who will get on.

    5. Information and evidence

    Once you know what your job is, what you do, what you’d like to do and what you are worth, it’s only now that you should call for a meeting with your boss. Don’t set out demands in your first meeting. You should be finding out about your company’s review process, promotion process and performance review. In order to get to where you want to be, you need to set a path and agree goals. At this stage you can say, for example, that you really like your job but would like to take on more responsibility and see a pathway to a future title or role. Put the ball in your boss’s court. If you make it difficult for them, you could simply become too difficult to manage.

    My overall advice is that no one likes a squeaky wheel. A constant complainer. The more work you do to demonstrate a path, with evidence and ethos and direction the better. Be reasonable in your demands but manage your expectations. Don’t just focus on money and title but what you can actually do to take on more responsibility, the ideas you have and the skills you can deploy. My last and maybe most difficult piece of advice to adopt once you’ve set your objectives would be to stick by your word. If you draw a line in the sand and use an alternative employment option to force your boss’s hand, you must be prepared to take that route should an internal offer not be forthcoming. In other words, ‘no deal’ has to be a credible threat. Good luck!

    James Max presents the TalkRADIO “Business Breakfast Show” every weekday from 5 – 6.30am and provides strategic consultancy advice. His business background is in real estate, investment banking and private equity.