How to ask your boss for a raise


by Deirdre Elphick-Moore

Advice is often conflicting: Don’t give your number first, or always do. And, start with a number you don’t really expect to get…

A frequent piece of advice, hallowed in many business school textbooks on negotiation, is to avoid giving a range, because an opponent or in this case, a manager will seize on the low end.

Not only is that advice wrong, but done right, a range actually leads to better results than suggesting one number, according to a new study from Columbia University.

But, there’s little advice out there on how to figure out the correct range, or at what point in your negotiations to share it.

The researchers suggest that a “bolstering range” can be effective in your negotiations

This means setting a fairly ambitious number at the bottom range, equivalent to the one you would have used as a single point offer, and then a higher number as the top range.

It goes against conventional wisdom that says people have selective attention, that they focus exclusively and narrowly on the number most attractive to them. In fact, the research authors demonstrate that we’re a little bit more complicated than that.

First, a range shapes expectations about an acceptable counteroffer

When there’s a number explicitly framed as a base, people assume you’re unlikely to take something below it. People don’t necessarily make the same assumption when given a single number.

Second, there’s the politeness effect

Managers are less likely to move lower than the bottom number because they feel it would be insulting. And offering a range is generally seen as a sign of flexibility, even when the actual numbers are relatively high.

Within their research, they conducted five experiments. In each case, a bolstering range led to better counteroffers, there were higher estimates of the lowest price someone would accept, and a resolution.

And, they found starting with a single, high number had a negative impact and simply shut down negotiations.

It’s not all about money

But the bigger pay packet isn’t the only benefit of offering a bolstering range. People forget that it’s not all about money; the relationship with a superior post-negotiations matters too.

Across the experiments, people offering the higher range weren’t viewed as any more aggressive or obnoxious than those who offered a single point, even though the high end of their range was much larger. But they were seen as more flexible and confident.

So if you’re not making the first offer in a negotiation, consider doing so (the research on how that anchors negotiations is well established), and once you do, make it a bolstering range.

You can set your baseline number more confidently if you know your market worth i.e. what you could expect to be paid elsewhere.

There are also factors that influence your value to the organisation you are currently with, for example, depth of experience, knowledge of the industry and/or business, ability to influence key people and strong relationships with stakeholders, to name a few.

It is a good idea to be clear about these factors as they will help you justify your bolstering range during the salary negotiations.

That’s the WHAT and WHY. For workshops that help you unlock the HOW, contact

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