Former FBI hostage negotiator explains how to get a raise

May 4, 2015

If you want to make more money and don’t have the option of attending Cal Tech, you might have to ask your boss for a raise. But before you do, you might want to get some tips from a negotiator—specifically, an FBI hostage negotiator.

In The Atlantic, Bourree Lam has posted an interview with Chris Voss, now an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, who spent 24 years at the FBI.

Voss advises that if you go into a salary negotiation with a prepared script and one number in mind, you may have blinders on that prevent you from seeing other possibilities. And keep the interaction pleasant. “…there’s some data out there that says that people are six times more likely to get what they want if they’re likable,” Voss tells Lam. He explains that in a hostage negotiation, “The nicer you are, the harder you can push.”

If your request for a raise meets resistance, he suggests telling your boss, “It seems like there’s nothing you can do.” In an effort to avoid looking powerless, the boss may want to search for answers. But you should do this in a deferential manner. Employers, he says, “…don’t want a colleague who gives in, but they also don’t want a colleague who’s a jerk.”

And when Lam asks about mentioning competing offers, Voss advises against it. “You never want the other side to feel like you’re taking them hostage,” he says.

Finally Voss comments on fairness. “If we’re in a deal, and I want to be a cutthroat, I’m going to say, ‘Look, I’ve given you a fair offer.’ Now, for you to protest against that, what I’ve just done is accuse you of being unfair towards me.” He offers a better approach: “Before I get to the offer, I’ll say, ‘I want to make sure you feel I’ve treated you fairly. And the minute you think I haven’t, I want you to tell me.’”

You can read the complete interview here.

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