First, make it a one-time deal. Note that a bonus doesn’t increase overhead fixed costs since it’s just for performance during the period, the month, quarter or year.
Second, make sure that the bonus you are asking for is very specific. Tie it to a piece of work you did that added value to the company. Calculate the value of that work if possible.
Third, find their criteria. What are the company’s standards for giving bonuses? Meet them. Ask if anyone else has had a bonus and what they did to get it. What is the typical size of a bonus based on value given, what percentage, for example?
Fourth, come up with a good reason. Even if it’s not a specific business purpose, if you have a good reason (medical bills, education, home office, something for the spouse or kids), it will increase persuasiveness. Defraying the cost of rising prices might be a reason.
Fifth, link it to other deals. Did they promise you a raise, bonus or promotion in the past but couldn’t deliver because of the recession? Now is the time to ask for a limited bonus to make up for it.
Six, fix their worries. You can trade a bonus for things they want from you in the future; the need for work at certain times or tasks; contacts; information; a cost reduction project from vendors.
Seven, make small talk. After you have done all the research above, your boss still has to be comfortable giving you more money. So, before you start talking about a raise, ask how his/her day was. Talk about the weather, sports or events of the day. People give you more when you connect with them.
Eight, hear their perceptions. Especially if they are negative, hear them out. Ask them to tell you more; you’ll get more information on how they think. What do and don’t they value? It will help you persuade them, now or later. The negotiation is over when you say it is.
Nine, find intangibles. Even if they can’t give you a monetary bonus, a fallback position is what they might give you that’s intangible: more vacation, a high-profile project to advance your career, a promotion now and the bonus later, a better office, something to show their gratitude for the extra work you put in.
Ten, don’t be greedy. Let them suggest something first; you can counter with your calculations if needed. It’s okay to be incremental; some bonus now, some later. Don’t threaten to leave unless you have another offer in hand and would take it. You will create bad blood otherwise and even if you stay, the relationship will suffer.
Stuart Diamond is the author of Getting More, www.gettingmore.com