How to get the money you deserve

Jun 15, 2011 by

You may remember a couple months ago I posted about a two-workshop series Alyssa Best and I were giving for women on negotiating salary (at the beginning of a new job and during the review process of an existing job). The workshops were a success and we’re planning offer them again in the future. The next time we may open them up for men as well which I think would be beneficial. For this particular workshops series though, we both felt it important to focus exclusively on women.

Why? Well consider these devastating facts from the book Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever (you can purchase it if you’re so inclined):

  • In surveys, 2.5 times more women than men said they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating.
  • Men initiate negotiations about four times as often as women.
  • Women are more pessimistic about how much is available when they do negotiate and so they typically ask for and get less when they do negotiate—on average, 30 percent less than men.
  • 20 percent of adult women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even though they often recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary. [emphasis mine]

Like I said: devastating.

Women seem afraid to negotiate, they don’t tend ask for what they need and deserve when they actually do negotiate and then they end up with less money than men over the course of a life time. Consider this (also from the book):

  • By not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 by age 60—and men are more than four times as likely as women to negotiate a first salary.
  • Another study calculated that women who consistently negotiate their salary increases earn at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don’t. [emphasis mine]

Are you kidding??? $1 million more just for negotiating your salary! It seems easy right? So why aren’t women doing it?

When we asked the women in our workshops about barriers to negotiation, they cited several: many said they perceived negotiations as conflicts and wanted to avoid them; some said they actually thought they didn’t deserve more money than they were offered; others didn’t know how much they were worth and still others were so grateful to get a job offer (or have an existing job) that they didn’t want to present any resistance for fear that job might be taken away.

It’s easy enough for someone who has never experienced these barriers to dismiss them, but that doesn’t make them any less real for those who do. We offered all kinds of tips and solutions (if you didn’t come to the last workshops series, you should definitely consider coming to the next one. Keep an eye on my blog feed or Twitter stream for that announcement) and I wanted to share some specific tips to help you break down the barriers.

  • Negotiations as conflicts – Just to state the obvious: negotiations aren’t conflicts; the more you think of them as such, the more you will manifest confrontational behaviors yourself. Think of negotiations as conversations – two parties discussing each others’ needs and desires. Remember that the person you are negotiating with (i.e., the person who offered you the job or your supervisor at work) may be just as uncomfortable. If you can make the conversation pleasant and associate it with something less stressful like having a cup of coffee, lunch or just bracket the negotiation with informal chatting, it will seem much less confrontational.
  • You don’t deserve more money – This one may be the most baffling to me personally, but I can understand as a woman (and a nonprofit professional) how one could feel that way. First and foremost, you have to own your worth – you are good enough and dammit you deserve more money! If shoring up yourself doesn’t work, think about your family: if you have a partner, children or parents you may already be caring for them and/or contributing to the family’s income. If not, then chances are very, very good that you will someday. Moreover, once you get older you’re going to need to have something to fall back on; if you don’t make money now you sure as hell won’t have any when you retire (or you’ll just never retire and work until you die…not a pleasant thought).
  • You don’t know how much you are worth – This one is a little easier to tackle. First, do lots of research. There are tons of nonprofit salary surveys and websites that provide comparative salary info based on your location and job role – use them! Second, even if you can’t find the info you need you can figure this out yourself. How much do you need – bare minimum – to survive? Include rent/mortgage, transportation, medical expenses, utilities, food, toiletries, retirement and regular savings (yes these are basic necessities), etc. Then add in some extras: money for entertainment, for that vacation you want to take and for that weekly massage. With all of that, you have a basic line item. I’d encourage you to then add 20% or so to that line item to get a more well-rounded figure of what you’re worth. You work your butt off and you deserve to make money for it.
  • You are grateful for that offer or existing job – I can also understand this one given the ever present meme about the economy. But let me let you in on a little secret: I’ve done a lot of hiring recently and it has been VERY difficult to find a good candidate for these jobs. We need someone who can rub two sentences together to make a paragraph, has some sense of the kind of work we do and isn’t afraid to hit the ground running. I think these are fairly basic and yet we’ve still had trouble hiring. In the meantime, we’re struggling to try to cover the workload the new person will take on. What does this mean? By the time you get offered that job, you are the best candidate and the organization is desperate to have you start working. They are NOT going to say no or drop the job offer just because you ask for more money. Same deal if you’re in a job already: it costs thousands of dollars (probably 10s of thousands) for an organization to have to perform a whole new search, hire and then train someone new. They aren’t going to fire you because you asked for more money especially if you do kick ass work and have proven what you’re worth. And if they do rescind the job offer or fire you? You should count your blessings because that organization is obviously ridiculous and not worth your professional time.

What are some other barriers that you have experienced when negotiating? How do you build yourself up to prepare for that negotiation? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Flick photo courtesy of user jollyUK

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