How to Negotiate a Salary Raise in Covid Time

My article on negotiating a salary raise in COVID times was published in The Tribune, a leading National Daily in India, on Monday, 17 August 2020.

Negotiating a salary raise in Covid 19 times. “Impossible, Huh, You must be daft,” are some of the typical responses to this statement. As the world struggles with a tremendous setback, most people are hanging onto their jobs perilously. The threat of the job cutting axe has invaded our conscious and unconscious persona. Government employees in India who thought they had secure jobs got to know that liquor consumption has to be encouraged in societies for their wages to be paid. (Read here and here). Statista did a survey which showed that average Indian household income dipped by a whopping 45.7% in April 2020 from Feb 2020.

Confidence backed with a solid body of examples showcasing your strengths and the value you bring to the table is important in these uncertain times, when no one is sure of what is next. Here’s how you can effectively negotiate a salary raise in Covid 19 times.


When entire industries get almost wiped out – think hotels and restaurants, or the downturn is so steep that the upturn is going to take a few years, you need to go back afresh to your career map. You can do this easily by checking out the consumer behaviour reports that the good folks at McKinsey and Accenture have written. I really like this pictorial description of the industries which are going up or down in different markets by McKinsey. The report also talks about lower brand loyalty and omni channel. Clearly, digitization is here to stay. The consumer sectors which have seen an uptake in India are alcohol, non-food child products, pet care services, fitness and wellness, groceries, household supplies, personal care and home entertainment. Auto sector has also shown some green shoots.

You could also look at industry outlook reports prepared by various analysts at leading financial firms, review world bank reports on industry or sector outlook, and also keep track of policy announcements made by the government. This coupled with company specific research to understand how they have withstood the ravages of the pandemic, their future plans, leadership and vision should give you a fair idea of what to run after. Only when you know what your target is can you customise your pitch and then negotiate. If the outlook is bleak, you need to decide when to cut your losses.


For a negotiation to be successful, you need to establish yourself as the front runner by far. Creating an impactful resume, a good social media presence on platforms like LinkedIn is a must have. If you are changing sectors, then establish your key transferable strengths. Showcase your achievements for these skills which will be useful for the target role. Acquire those certifications which are a must have. Polish your interview skills. It is very important to reach the final interview stage. SMART answers showcasing examples is a must. For some more tips to ensure that you are not overlooked, read here. You need to establish how you can improve the company’s top line or reduce their bottom line.

TIP: Be non-committal when asked the salary question in the beginning of the interview process. It’s a war for jobs these days with the extremely high nos of talent laid off. You need to ensure that you don’t raise any red flags right at the beginning.

INTERNAL SELL: If you are already working in a company which is experiencing an upswing, now is the time to sell your hard work internally. Don’t leave this to just the performance management cycle. Leverage your regular one-on-one’s to showcase your contribution and build your case for a promotion and/or the job raise. Selling yourself internally is often under rated. It is always better to ask for a raise at a place you are succeeding rather than wait for a higher paying job in the future. I recommend making a one-page contribution snapshot explaining the situation, actions and results. Remember, you help your boss to help you when you make your contribution snapshot and sell yourself. It is certainly not to be looked down on.


Negotiation is all about give and take. Sure, there is an element of surprise that either party could have up their sleeve or like poker, one of them may be an ace at bluffing. You also need to work around 2 factors – 1) Virtual Negotiation and 2) Not being a complete 100% fit for the role being applied for. Having said that, it is not as if you as a candidate don’t have a room to play.

  • Know your worth: Research salaries by checking out resources on what you could be worth. Glassdoor, Ambition Box and Quora are popular for researching salaries. You should definitely also talk to others in the industry.
  • What problems can you solve: List the top pain points you can solve, the tasks that you can take off from your manager, the new perspectives or skills that you get to the table. Back it up with examples. Use these data points during the negotiation.
  • Be prepared with alternatives: For both internal and external negotiations, seeking a significant pay bump is always a challenge. Offer alternatives such as a performance linked bonus, a timeframe to revisit the salary and do the increments in instalments.
  • Be cued in to the other person: The good thing about a virtual negotiation is that the typical frills of power like a big office don’t exist. Establish an emotional rapport with the negotiator and listen to feedback. Ask clarifying questions and don’t come across as someone who just gives an ultimatum. Buy time if need be. Authenticity almost always wins.

Remember you don’t get what you don’t ask for. So, get rid of any doubts in your mind and start nailing your career strategy to get what you deserve.

The writer is an HR Advisor and Career Coach (

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