Illustrations by José Luis Merino
Growing up in the church, I was often told, “Ask and you shall receive.” But I was always terrified to ask. I was concerned that I might fall out of favor with whoever had offered me something that I should be grateful for. And I wanted to come across as having it all together, not as someone who needed help. While those feelings are quite common, that doesn’t mean the church folks were wrong. Being silent won’t help you negotiate a higher salary. According to the 2016 Ellevate Network Impact Survey, 63% of women surveyed didn’t ask for a raise, but 75% of women who did ask received one.
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FEAR #1 I don’t know how much to ask for.
This is a legitimate concern that you can address by doing your homework so you have the necessary data to be a fierce, well-informed negotiator. “If you’re grounded in objective data, you’ll be confident that what you’re asking for is fair,” says compensation and negotiation expert Kim Keating. Whether you’re a business executive, a counter person at a fast-food chain or a sales associate at a big retailer, you still work for a corporation and a certain structure comes with the territory. Enter information such as job title and location into websites like payscale.com, salary.com and glassdoor.com, and you’ll be able to get a general sense of salaries for your position.
FEAR #2 If I negotiate, I’m going to be perceived as ungrateful or too aggressive.
The most effective way to bypass negative perception is to make the driving factor in your negotiation the company’s goals, not your own. You might have a mortgage to pay off or a vacation to save for, but that’s not your boss’s or hiring manager’s priority. Start by demonstrating that you’ve fully embraced the larger vision. For example, “I’m excited about ABC becoming the market leader in our industry.” Then explain how your contribution will help achieve that outcome. As in, “My experience and track record in XYZ will better position us to be number one.” (If you’re seeking an increase at a current job, this is the perfect time to cite any accomplishments that have helped the company achieve its goals.) Next, connect the dots: “I’d love to have a conversation about how my compensation can match my contribution.” Then be quiet! Too often women undermine their case by overexplaining.
FEAR #3 By negotiating, I’m risking losing my job or having my offer rescinded.
First, try shifting your mind-set to manage your emotions. The likelihood of getting fired or having an offer rescinded simply because you negotiated is very small. Keep in mind that 75% of women who asked for more money received it. And chances are the remaining 25% weren’t out of a job as a result of their advocacy. According to the National Women’s Law Center, the average American woman will be paid nearly $419,000 less than a man over a 40-year career, so you’re risking far more by not asking for a higher wage. The best strategy for pushing back against this fear is to know your value and imagine a Plan B. With freelancing on the rise and more and more women starting businesses, women have more options than ever before and exceptional talent is difficult to recruit and retain. You’re far more valuable than you think. Even if you’re happily employed, be open to new opportunities and occasionally interview with other companies. Although you may decide to stay with your current employer, you’ll feel more confident when negotiating an increase because you’ll have a stronger sense of your own market value.
TIffany Dufu is the chief leadership officer at Levo and author of Drop the Ball.