I can still remember the moment when I realized two male peers were making 20% more than I was despite our roles, responsibilities and time in our jobs being almost identical. The company had just handed out our expected United Way contributions and the HR director made the mistake of saying the number on our forms was based on 5% of our annual salaries. Since my male peers were sitting beside me, it was not hard to see that my contribution was lower than theirs. I quickly did the math in my head. Now what? Sure, I had suspected they might be making more but now I knew.
I didn’t necessarily handle the issue as I would have liked. I remember talking with my boss about it and letting my emotions get the best of me as he tried to explain the reasoning.
Indeed research from Stanford Business School and Margaret Neale, confirms that women can leave as much as $1-$1.5 million of salary on the table simply because they do not like to negotiate for themselves. The same research reveals women are good negotiators, ironically, when they negotiate for others! But women aren’t the only ones who may hate to negotiate. Many of us are afraid to ask for what we want because we fear it will lead to loss of job, disappointment from our boss, conflict or more work! Those who are more conflict averse may shy away from the whole unpleasantness of asking for something more—even when they deserve it.
Our passion for helping leaders grapple with this issue is why we wrote the book, Tough Talk: Ten Tips for Disarming Difficult Conversations. Our work inside numerous organizations with thousands of leaders at all levels shows there are 3 keys to getting what you want in negotiations:
- Prepare for the conversation- the single most important thing to do before you sit down to have the conversation. Download our easy to use prep sheet. Taking time to look at the facts from all angles helps you assess the right way to approach the conversation calmly and in control.
- Know what you are worth- understanding how your role contributes to the bottom line of an organization is vitally important. And, understanding what the marketplace is willing to pay is just as crucial. A website like www.Salary.com is a great place to start.
- Make things happen, deliver results- and find a way to claim your accomplishments. Set up quarterly meetings with your boss to review your results and opportunities. We see too many people still hoping their boss will notice how strong their performance is and give them the raise or the new promotion.
Eventually, I did get the salary adjustment I asked my boss for and the experience really helped me negotiate a new promotion the following year. While it was shocking to get the proof of what I was being paid relative to my peers, it really did help me to know my worth.
Do you find it difficult to know what you are worth at work? We would love to hear you share your most successful negotiation story with us.