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Learn & Practice

Workplace Wednesday: Ask for that Raise

By The Healthy Minds Team

In this week’s Workplace Wednesday we explore how you can negotiate with kindness and compassion in the workplace.

Supporting your own well-being can have far reaching benefits – beyond just your personal capacity to focus or remain calm. As we’ve noted many times in this weekly column, the workplace is the perfect space to leverage the skills you’ve built while training your mind. This week – one of the hardest of “hard conversations” – how to negotiate for a pay raise with presence, kindness, and compassion.

We recently learned about a “Compassionate Curiosity Framework” from Kwame Christian, Director, American Negotiation Institute, which has a lot of overlap with many of the specific skills for managing difficult situations in the Healthy Minds Framework for Well-Being

When it comes to asking for a promotion or a salary increase, or really anything from one’s supervisor, the conversation can be fraught with anxiety. In addition, for women and BIPOC employees there are additional unspoken systemic issues layered into these highly charged conversations. (For example, a survey from 2018 revealed that non-white men were 25 percent more likely to be turned down for a raise than white men, and when women of color ask for a raise, they are 19 percent less likely than white men to get one, according to this same survey by PayScale.)

Using a little from Kwame Christian’s Compassionate Curiosity Framework and a little from the Healthy Minds @Work program – here are some tips for negotiating in the workplace – with kindness.

  • Tip #1: Process on your own first – with insight. The third pillar in the Healthy Minds Framework for Well-Being, Insight, is all about getting curious about why you feel and do the things you feel and do. So if you are facing a tough conversation about a potential pay raise – acknowledge the emotion present and dig into the drivers of said emotion. This is very beneficial if done as a series of “whys?” So for example, “I am scared to bring a salary request up to my supervisor.” Why? “I am worried she will be angry at me and our relationship will change.” Why? “Because I don’t want to suffer any consequences.” Why? “Because she might change how she treats me or I might lose my job.” Why? “Because that would create a stressful experience for me and I might not be able to take care of my family.” No wonder you’re feeling stress about this conversation – that’s a scary thought. Give yourself validation and compassion for those feelings. By doing this, you can process the emotion before the actual conversation.

  • Tip #2: Know your stuff. The first place to start is your own work. Review your successes and projects since your last raise. Identify clear, quantifiable results driven by your work. Next, review salary ranges for your function and your level in your area – this can help ground your discussion with data. If all signs logically point to a raise or a promotion, then your discussion will not be driven by emotion but by the worth of your work.

  • Tip #3: Treat it as a discussion – you’re in this together. With curiosity and questions, you can discuss something difficult with your supervisor if the intention is “joint problem solving” (as mentioned in the Compassionate Curiosity Framework). You can share your data-driven information, and then ask questions. For example, “I’m curious to get your perspective on this information?” Give space and time for your supervisor to process questions that might arise for him or her. You can say, “I know you were not expecting this information this morning, so please let me know what questions you have.” If there is hesitation, ask more questions. “Can you tell me what your biggest concerns are?” This again treats the conversation as something you are both in together. You are working together to solve the issue of the results you have provided through your work, and the correct compensation needed to acknowledge those results.

  • Tip #4: Celebrate. You did it! You had a really hard conversation that you probably did not want to have. Regardless of whether or not you get that raise or promotion, you took a difficult situation and made it comfortable and manageable. And, hey, you might even get some more money out of it to support yourself. Good for you.

Difficult conversations in the workplace do not have to be avoided as long as you have thoughtful planning and smart communication skills. Best of luck with your next one.


Learn more about how the Healthy Minds Framework can support your workplace well-being with our Healthy Minds @Work program. Dive deeper into the scientific framework for well-being by registering for our Healthy Minds Masterclass: Founders Edition.


HM@Work Mental Health Workplace Wednesdays