When we think about negotiation at work, we may typically imagine asking for a higher salary. But if you know how to negotiate benefits, you could come out with more than a pay raise. Whether or not your employer is able to increase your pay, there may be more wiggle room in other areas of your job that you hadn't thought about, and you won't know until you ask.
Women are less likely than men to negotiate in general, and there's an understandable reason for that. One University of Texas study found that women asked for $7000 less than men on average. But a study in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes found that people are more likely to think less of women than men when they negotiate. So, while you shouldn't let anyone shame you for negotiating, don't let anyone shame you for not doing so. Depending on your specific employer, negotiating may carry some risk, so you should make the call for yourself whether it's worth it. But it's not OK for them to hold it against you to ask for more pay, benefits, or anything.
If you want to negotiate benefits, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Figure Out What Exactly Is Being Offered
Read your contract carefully when accepting a job offer, and if any benefits aren't mentioned specifically, find out what exactly the company's policies are on family and sick leave, vacation time, professional development, and flexible hours. Ask questions like "how often are employees allowed to work from home?" You don't want to ask for something you already have. Save your negotiation power for the extra perks.
Know Your Options
The term "benefits" encompasses a lot of things, from your hours to your title. According to a United States Office of Personnel Management survey, the most popular benefits are pension plans, savings plans, and health insurance. But many companies also offer less conventional perks, like sponsored professional development, the ability to work from home, and even the ability to bring your dog to work.
If you're not sure which benefits your company is open to and want to up your chances of getting what you ask for, try asking your coworkers how much time off they get, how often they work from home, or whatever else is relevant. You could also ask people outside your company what kinds of perks they get. If there's anything you can think of that could make your job better that nobody you know has, Google it and see if companies ever offer it.
Say What They'll Get Out Of It
When negotiating in general, it's a good idea to make your request two-sided. Think about how the extra benefits are going to benefit your employer, too. Maybe working from home will let you focus. Perhaps more vacation days will allow you to be more productive when you do come in. Generally, happy employees do a better job, so there's got to be something in it for them.
Acknowledge Your Contributions
People, especially women, may be discouraged from tooting their own horns, but your supervisor may not be aware of all the accomplishments that make you deserving of additional benefits. So don't be afraid to say what you've brought to the company so far and what you plan to bring in the future.