How To Get That Promotion You Deserve

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S1: Well, it started the first time I ever negotiated for my own salary, I went in in my power suit, I was really nervous and I had a range in mind and the offer came in slightly above. And I actually ended up calling a senior woman in my field and I said, can I ask some advice? I’m not sure what to do. They came in above and she said, I’m going to tell you what to do, Alex. You’re going to go in and you’re going to ask for more.


S2: Welcome to How to. I’m Charles De.

S3: One of the things that we hear from listeners again and again is people asking, how do I get more authority at work? How do I get a promotion or a raise? And I think a lot of people want to get paid more money. Right. And they want more authority. But what’s weird is that surveys show that over two thirds of workers have never asked for a raise or promotion. We all want these things, but we never say it out loud. What’s really strange is that those same studies show that in a majority of situations, when someone asks for more money or a better title, they usually get it. But the reason we don’t ask is because asking is hard, right? And it’s awkward and scary. It feels like a huge risk. This week’s caller is someone who’s wanted more responsibility at work for years, but he’s never figured out exactly how to ask for it.


S4: My name is Johnny. I live in Israel and I’ve been working as a software engineer for the last 17 years.

S5: Johnny grew up in Mexico and after getting a degree in computer science, he moved to Israel where he had big dreams.

S4: I always thought I was going to be able to just get into one company and the company will grow and I will grow with the company. Unfortunately, not all startups succeed, and for the first time in my life, I’m going to big company. I believe I’m a pretty good software engineer, but I feel like I failed miserably in climbing the corporate ladder.

S5: John is 41 years old, and after three years of this bigger company, he’s still stuck as a software engineer. He likes his work and he likes writing code and solving problems. And he’s good at it. Really good. But after so many years of doing the same thing, he feels like he deserves more. He wants to become a manager and he wants a manager salary. He has four kids, which, you know, is expensive. But most of all, Johnny feels disappointed in himself because he thought he would have leveled up by now. And he’s worried that if he doesn’t do something, he’ll be in this same position with the same life forever.


S6: I guess it’s the same with every every job. The first few years you feel like you’re growing. You feel like you’re going forward.

S4: But lately, I’m not growing and I’m just plateauing. And the fact that I’m in a big company suddenly makes makes it more possible for me to grow that I don’t know how to get there.


S5: So so is is the problem then that you don’t know how to ask for more?

S4: I don’t know how to ask. I don’t know where to ask. I don’t know who to ask. I don’t even know if I have to ask if I should ask if this is something that should be automatic. I don’t know.


S5: Johnny is struggling with something that we all at times experience. How do we advocate for ourselves? How do you ask for more without endangering the job you already have right now when jobs are scarce and work life is so crazy, how do you convince your boss to give you a promotion and a raise?

S7: On today’s show, we’ll talk with an expert negotiator who says now is actually a great time to go all in and demand what you need and she’ll show us how to do that.

S8: Eppink.

S3: Hey, listeners, if you like today’s episode, you should check out another recent episode we did called How to Stop Procrastinating with advice on how to motivate yourself and finally go after that hard thing that you’ve been putting off. You can find it and other episodes of How To in our podcast feed.


S5: Johnny, have you tried to get promotions in the past that at this or other companies, not promotions, have asked for raises?

S4: And I did ask for a raise from my manager before the whole pandemic started, and he said it was going to review it, but then we all went out to quarantine. So I just let it rest. That happened to me more often than not.

S7: Johnny says that whenever he’s asked for more money or responsibility in the past, he’s just accepted whatever response he received, his manager would say now’s not a good time for us or or let’s talk about this later. And Johnny would say, OK, because he wants to be a good employee, but that passivity is backfired on it. At his current company, for instance, his direct boss says he wants to promote Johnny, but his boss’s boss says that he doesn’t see Johnny as manager material. In part, that’s because Johnny doesn’t like to take sides in office politics. He’d rather just put his head down and get things done rather than play games. But that’s affected how his top supervisor sees.


S4: That was very, very painful. It was painful because he already decided you’re not going. I spoke to a few friends and some of them told me, look, that say you have to look for a new job if you want to do it. I don’t want to look for a new job like that. I like the company. I like the the work environment.

S5: Do you think there’s something about your personality that gives off this vibe that that is convincing other people that you’re not a leader?

S4: I want to think that that’s not the case. Usually I get along with people and I mean, I’m in software, but for a software guy, I’m a people’s person. I do believe I could lead people. I do believe I could help people solve things. And if I want something, I usually go get it. On the other hand, you might be right that sometimes when things are hard, if there is an argument, I’d rather just give up and do whatever.


S7: Which brings us to our expert this week who says that doing whatever can sometimes work against you, especially if you’re asking for more.

S1: I’m Alex Carter. I’m a professor at Columbia Law School where I teach mediation. I’m the author of Ask for More 10 questions to negotiate anything.

S3: Alex first got interested in negotiation when she was in law school. She had volunteered to serve as a mediator, trying to help two sides in a lawsuit come to a settlement rather than going to court. In the first case she ever worked on was between a shopper and a New York City Department store.

S1: It was somebody who had gone in to go shopping for a hat for Sunday service, and when she tried to pull a hat down off the rack, the rack itself came down and hit her in the head. And she she had sustained, I think, a small cut that had been stitched up. But she was suing for quite a larger amount, more than the emergency room bill. And it really came down to what she saw was the problem, that she had been really upset and afraid that this had happened and that the people at the department store hadn’t really seemed to show enough sympathy for it.


S5: When Alex sat down at the table and tried to help the woman and the lawyer representing the department store come to a settlement, she was surprised because it seemed like all the women really wanted was just an apology. The department store had spent thousands of dollars on lawyers, but until the mediation, the woman never felt like she’d been told. We’re really sorry.

S1: When we walked out of there, she said to me, I can’t tell you how much better I feel I’m at peace because somebody really listened to me. I think we all want someone to listen to us and say we’ve been heard and that most conflicts in the world, whether it’s a shopper at a department store trying to buy a 50 dollar hat or whether it’s, you know, two major multinational corporations that have litigation coming out of a merger, a lot of them are about people not feeling that they’ve been hurt.


S5: Do you find that the you get in disputes yourself and that you’re in situations where you have to to mediate?

S1: For a number of years as a young professional, I felt so much more at ease helping other people negotiate for themselves in mediation than I did advocating for myself as a negotiator. And it wasn’t until the first time I ever negotiated for my own salary. And I actually ended up calling a senior woman in my field and I said, can I ask some advice? I’m not sure what to do? And she said, I’m going to tell you what to do, Alex. You’re going to go in and you’re going to ask for more, because when you teach people how to value you, you teach them how to value all of us, meaning women. And so if you’re not going to do it for yourself, I want you to do it for the person who’s coming behind you. Do it for the sisterhood.


S5: OK, so so. So Johnny then is kind of confronting this question, which is it sounds like in the past he’s gone a couple of times and he said, hey, I’d like a raise. And his bosses say, yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll talk about that someday. And then they never talk about it. What’s the first piece of advice you would give him?

S1: Before I give him a piece of advice, Johnny, I’d like to ask you a question. And this is a question that. I recommend that people ask themselves before they go in and really advocate, you said before, if I want something, I usually go get it. And if things are hard, I keep pushing. I don’t give up. I’d like you to tell me a time when you did that successfully in the past.

S4: A lot of my daily work is that a lot of my daily work is we have a problem. We need to find a solution. Let’s push until we find it. But in my eyes, that that’s small potatoes because I do that all the time.

S6: The fact that I immigrated without my family, coming with a computer science degree from a third world country into a first world country and trying to to make it here, that’s not something that’s easy. And I and I did it.

S1: So here’s what I would say, Johnny. I want to note that I was listening carefully to you, and you started by minimizing yourself. You started by telling me about your success as a software engineer and really saying, but that’s just expected. You then went on to describe a really significant success that you immigrated to a country where you didn’t know anybody. You know, what I hear is that you just have difficulty being tenacious when it’s for yourself. And so when you go in having just thought about a prior success, not only do you have some of those strategies to access, but Johnny even asking yourself that question, how have I been successful in the past that actually puts you in a more powerful, more creative, more flexible state that’s going to help you do better when you do go into ask for yourself.


S3: Here’s our first rule. Before you go in and ask for a raise or a promotion, you have to convince yourself that you deserve this. Otherwise, your hesitation is going to be obvious and it’s going to make it easy for someone to say no. So before you make the ask, sit down and think about all those successes you’ve had in the past and how you’re bringing those same strengths and experiences to this job. Anticipate the skeptical questions your boss might ask and figure out convincing responses. Prove to yourself that you deserve this promotion because unless you really believe it, no one else will either.

S2: When we come back, Alex will show Johnny how to make ARray’s seem like it’s something not only he deserves, but that the company thinks is in their own best interest. So hopefully I’ve convinced you to stick around.

S5: We’re back with negotiation expert Alex Carter and our listener Johnny, who wants to ask for a promotion, Johnny has been struggling to figure out how to ask for more in his current job, partly because he’s afraid of hurting his relationship with his boss.

S4: One of the things that it’s always been bothering me. I don’t want to bypass anybody. And I have a good relationship with my manager. But on the other hand, I want to grow and I don’t want to make him feel bad. But I also I mean, I know that if I grow, he’ll probably miss me because I’m a very integral part of the team.

S3: What about situations like that, though, Johnny?

S1: Have you shared your needs with your manager?

S4: Well, I’ve never I have talked to him and I and I told him I want to have more responsibility. And but I’ve never I’ve never put it in a way where he is basically saying goodbye.


S1: Well, I don’t know if it’s that you’re saying goodbye. And I’m imagining a scenario where you go into your manager and you lead with an acknowledgement, you know, how much it’s meant to you to be working for him in this position, you know, and saying, here’s what I need for the next stage of my career and I’m wondering if I can enlist you to help me grow and help me continue to influence people.

S4: I think that’s great advice. I I’ve never, never thought about it. I always thought it was it was something that’s going to happen to me.

S1: You know, I think a lot of people think negotiation means a transactional back and forth over money. It means haggling and it means being kind of aggressive in order to succeed. I teach that negotiation is steering relationships, whether it’s with your manager, whether it’s with your four girls in your home. And I perceive you to be somebody who builds relationships of trust. And I want you to know that negotiation is just an extension of that.

S7: Here’s our next rule. You don’t have to aggressively demand a promotion. Instead, what you want is a negotiation that’s built on relationships. I’m on asking your boss to help you succeed rather than gearing up for battle. And so Johnny’s apparent downfall, the fact that he’s always deferred to what’s best for others and for the company, that he’s someone that his boss really likes and he wants to get along with his boss, perhaps he could use that to his advantage.

S1: One of the tips that I was going to give you, Johnny, is when you go in to make the ask, make what’s called an eye, we ask, in other words, here’s what I’m requesting and here’s how we are all going to benefit.


S5: So, Alex, when you negotiated your own salary and you asked for that raise, how did you frame that as an eye, we ask?

S1: I said I went in and I said, here’s what I’m asking for. Here are the ways in which my experience and what I’m going to bring to the table more than justifies that ask. And here are all of the reasons why you want to give me the job at this level, because here’s what I’m going to bring that no other candidate in your pool brought. And that’s why you selected me. And did it work? They offered me more immediately without blinking. In fact, if I could go back now, I would have negotiated another couple of rounds because I think I could have I could have hung in there more. I think sometimes people are surprised to know that when you work up the courage to ask, people are expecting that on the other end they expect people to advocate for themselves.

S5: And so more often than not, if you ask, you’ll get a yes, but but how do we calibrate the risk of when that means that we’re asking for too much?

S1: I think people overly fear the no when in fact, a lot of times if you persevere, you can get past a no, you can turn a no into a yes simply by asking a question, which is what are your concerns or tell me your concerns.

S5: Do you feel like you ever get scared of of the know that you hesitate to ask for things because you don’t want to put your manager in a position where they have to say no for sure, for sure that happens.


S6: But I did talk to my manager back at the beginning of the year and he said, OK, we’ll we’ll talk about it.

S4: And then things happened. And I haven’t pushed it, pushed anything about it, because in my mind is OK now, this is not the time because everything that’s happening in the world.

S1: Yeah. I think sometimes we assume that silence is a no when really the silence may have nothing to do with us. And if we check in and say, I know that there’s a lot going on, I wanted to make sure our conversation didn’t get lost. So what would be a good time for us to talk again about my future at the company? Yes. On the one hand, right now, times may be more difficult financially. On the other hand, isn’t this a time when your company should spend every dollar they have wisely? And why not spend it on somebody like you who’s proven that he can deliver very successful products even in the midst of a pandemic?

S4: That’s a great point.

S9: I guess I always put myself in their shoes and then I just advocate for them in my head before I even go and advocate for myself.

S1: When people want to be placed into managerial positions, it’s in their interest to self advocate because not only do you create the ability to, you know, do value for the company, but you show people what kind of manager you will be. Yeah, you show them how you can lead on behalf of the company like you led on behalf of yourself.

S5: That’s interesting. So when Johnnie goes in to advocate for himself, how should we think about making the ask?


S1: You know, if Johnnie were to go in and say, can you give me a 10 percent raise or can you promote me? That is a yes, no question. And especially during a time of stress. What’s the easiest answer for somebody to give to a yes or no question? It’s no, it’s an automatic no. Instead of that, I like for people to ask really open questions, open questions. Start with what, how or an imperative mood like tell me. So if Johnnie goes in instead and says, here is my desire to move up, tell me what we can do together to get me there, that is a completely different conversation that really invites almost compels the other person to participate with Johnnie in the search for a solution.

S3: Here’s our next rule, instead of making this request all about what you want, make it about how you can help your company and understand how you can best do that. Ask your boss open ended questions. Ask him what are your concerns? What do you need? The goal is to make asking for a raise into a puzzle that you both want to solve shoulder to shoulder.

S5: Jenny, let me ask you, if you went and you talked to your manager and you tried to ask some of those window questions, you tried to to learn as much as you could about how you getting a promotion could help your manager, what questions would you ask him?

S4: I guess I’m learning a lot about myself here, but the truth is, if I if I go to my manager tonight and I asked him, I feel he’s going to be afraid to let me go. And I’m not sure he he actually wants that.


S1: Johnny, what I’m hearing from you is that you think this is going on, but you don’t know for sure. You’re almost psyching yourself out before you have the conversation, I think.

S6: I mean, you’re right. I have nothing to lose.

S5: Well, Johnny, let me ask let me ask this. You said you had four daughters, right? Yeah. How old are they?

S6: The smallest one is a year and a half. The oldest one is 11 and every age in between.

S5: So let’s say the 11 year old came to you and she said the same thing that you’ve been saying to Alex. She said, you know, I want to be a part of this play, but but it’s probably just going to create problems for my teacher if I ask for a starring role. And I’m not certain that it’s going to work out. And and and, you know, I’m just waiting for her to tell me, like, you’re going to be a star instead of telling her that I want this. How would that make you feel to hear your 11 year old saying things like that?

S6: It would make me feel really bad. It will make me feel that I’m not giving her the push that she needs to push herself. I mean, sometimes we get no and I guess it’s it’s OK. But I would be very, very disappointed if she doesn’t even try. And because that’s that’s the No. Already.

S1: I mean, aren’t you worthy of the same advice and encouragement that you would give your daughter? You know, sometimes when I’m talking to people and they’re worried about advocating for themselves and then they’re reminded about what kind of world they want their kids to live in, you know, and how they would advocate on behalf of their kids. It really focuses them in summoning up the willpower to go out and to. Make their own dreams come true.


S5: Alex, let me ask, you know, when it’s a group that like women or like African-Americans. Groups that traditionally have have been excluded from some of those conversations. How does your advice change?

S1: So one aspect of my advice that is different, if people are if they have less power for whatever reason, is to seek allies and to practice something called amplification. This is a strategy that was used in the first Obama White House where women were outnumbered among Obama’s senior staff. And they noticed that when they were in that room that a woman would make a point and then a man would make the same point and everybody would say, oh, Bob, what a great point. And centered the discussion around Bob. And so what the women started doing was one woman would make a point and then another person would raise her hand and say, I just want to echo Lilly’s excellent point. So in other words, they would speak her name and they would give her credit. And by working together to amplify each other’s voices, they actually started gaining the attention of President Obama, who called on women more often and they gained gender parity in the White House in the second term.

S7: And so this is our final rule. It’s really hard to walk this path alone. It’s hard for all of us, but particularly for people who have been excluded from these conversations in the past. And so we should look out for each other. We should cheer on our colleagues, and we should encourage them to get promotions, because that’s how we all get ahead. And if you’re struggling, reach out to your peers, ask them for advice and for help. And when you see someone else who ought to be asking for more, encourage them to make that ask. Think of everyone who’s going to come after you, who’s going to benefit from your success.


S10: I think you should hang up this call and get on your manager’s calendar, but get on the calendar for a time that allows you some time to prepare and get really clear on what you’re going in to do, but also to really reflect on why you deserve this.

S11: I think that’s great advice on the one hand that that gets the momentum of this talk into the into the next talk. On the other hand, that also gives me a deadline, which I obviously need. So thank you.

S5: Alex, what’s the toughest negotiation you were ever involved with and and how did things turn out?

S1: One of the things that has been so challenging about the last few years, but especially the last month, is that my father’s been ill. And then a month ago, I got a call from my father’s hospice facility saying that he had been diagnosed with covid. So if you can’t cure the disease of a loved one, what are the solvable problems around that? And so I focused on the problem of how can I create connection when we can’t be together? I started singing to him when we would face time and finding ways that I knew he could understand to connect with him. That would bring both of us some joy and some peace. My dad survived, by the way he came out of it, and he’s still with us. But I would say that’s been in some respects, the most difficult negotiation of my life and the one where I’ve had to lean hardest into what I teach professionally.

S5: Do you feel like you learned something about negotiating with yourself through through the struggle with your dad?


S1: I absolutely did negotiation is about steering relationships, and the most important relationship of your life is the one you have with yourself and the last couple of years, but in particular the last month has really brought that home to me, that when I negotiate with myself and I listen to myself, it’s about so much more than negotiating salary.

S10: It’s really about waking up every day with a sense of peace and clarity in a world that can feel so scary or out of control.

S7: Thank you so much to for reaching out to us and Alex Carter for her fantastic advice, you should definitely look up her book, which is named Ask for more 10 questions to Negotiate Anything. And the last time we checked in with Johnny, by the way, he had just talked with his boss.

S12: Hi, guys. Yesterday, I took the opportunity to talk to my boss. I talk to him about what I need. I talk to him, what I feel, and contrary to what I thought it was going to happen, apparently I’m getting a raise. I’m getting more responsibility, a better job title. So it was a great success. Thanks, Alex, for the great advice things, Charles and the team. Thanks a lot, guys.

S2: Congrats on the promotion. It’s fantastic news, if you like this episode. You should definitely check out some of our other episodes on work life, including how to switch careers before it’s too late, which, you know, if you ask for the promotion and you don’t get it and maybe it’s time to start looking elsewhere, you can find that episode and others in our How to podcast feed and to make sure that you never miss a new episode. You should definitely subscribe to our show. It’s simple and it is totally and completely free. You know what else is free? Sending us an email. And if you need help with a problem, you should definitely send us a note at how to insulate dotcom. Or you can also leave us a voicemail at six four six four nine five four zero zero one. And we’ll do everything we can to try and find you a solution. How TOS executive producer is Derek John, Rachel Allen is a production assistant and Marc Jacobs, our engineer. Our theme music is by Janice Brown. June Thomas is the senior managing producer and Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate podcasts. Gabriel Roth is Slate’s editorial director of Audio. I’m Charles Duhigg. Thanks for listening.