Dear Matt: I’ve been promoted and want to negotiate my salary. Is this possible?

Matt says: You can negotiate salary during an internal promotion, but the playing field is often tilted in favor of the employer, says Jim Greenway, EVP of Marketing and Sales Effectiveness for Lee Hecht Harrison (, a career transition services provider. Your employer knows your current salary, and that can weaken your bargaining position. “This struggle to earn salary commensurate with the current market as you move up within an organization is the reason many employees choose to move from one organization to another to increase income,” says Greenway.

Your leverage is that you have a successful track record with the company. Once the promotion has been presented it will be your job to make a case for why you should be earning more, says Greenway. It has nothing to do with your personal situation (“I have two kids in college”); it should focus exclusively on the demands of the new position — hours, level of responsibility, number of people supervised, increased travel, level of client contact, value of projects, revenue generated.

“Emphasize your knowledge of both the company and industry, something an external applicant can’t match, and be prepared to offer tangible proof of your strong contributions and performance record,” says Greenway.

Mention any certifications earned or continued education completed. What has been the company’s return on its investment in you? You must be willing to sell yourself, and with certain positions that require negotiation skills (e.g. sales, procurement, real estate, legal, collections, financial), some back-and-forth is actually expected and respected.

Unfortunately, most companies have set salary increase structures in place, based on experience, level or title, says Jena Brown, a Twin Cities-based talent acquisition operations consultant. That’s why if you accept the promotion you may have to wait until your first performance review to negotiate. Do your homework. If the employer says they’re limited by the grade level of the position, ask when it was last evaluated; the job responsibilities may have grown to the point where the salary range could be upgraded. Also check out,, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Lee Hecht Harrison’s 2014 Salary Guide for data that can help you determine position value.

Be prepared for the company to say no, then ask for what you consider the next best thing, says Brown — more vacation time, a flexible schedule, working from home, or reimbursements for cellphone, commuting costs, additional certifications or learning and development. “Build a business case proving your value and performance over a period of time. You want it to be clear you’ve already been performing at the level you were promoted to.”

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