Women are notorious confrontation avoiders and for many of us negotiating fits smack bang in the middle of the confrontation no go zone.
To us, negotiation means conflict and conflict tests our like-ability, something we women consider almost central to our existence.
And when it comes to negotiating our salaries, or anything linked to our value, our default setting is to understate our contribution and as a result our value.
The culprit behind our negotiation aversion ?
The horrible spectre of imposter syndrome, our mindset monster, the one that tells us we are not good enough or not deserving of what our contribution is in reality worth.
As the result of this fear of negotiation and the huge dose of the aforementioned imposter syndrome which drives it, we avoid negotiating our salary.
And while negotiating our salary is vital throughout our careers it is never more so than when we first enter the job market as this literally sets the tone and the measure for future salary increase.
Linda Babcock in her book “Women don’t ask” illustrated the cost of not getting this right at the outset.
She looked at the salaries of 2 people, let’s assume they are Sam and Kim. Both are starting employment at the same company in the same roles. Sam accepts the salary offer of £100,000. Kim negotiates and ends up at £107,000.
They both stay at the company for 35 years receiving the same promotions and raises and they both contribute the same percentage to their pension. Sam however ends up having to work 8 years more than Kim to retire with the same amount of money.
So while the initial £7,000 differential doesn’t seem like much of a difference the 8 additional years of work certainly look like more of a big deal.
If you fall firmly into the negotiation avoidance camp and didn’t get to tackle this early in your career ,you are not alone. It is estimated that 60% of women avoid a salary discussion and when in such a discussion, 68% don’t feel comfortable negotiating. However while you may have missed out on setting the bar at the correct level at the outset it is not too late to grab the bull by the horns and start negotiating now.
Here are some tips to tackling the thorny task of salary negotiation
Know how much you want to earn and why
We often make the mistake of entering these discussions with no goal in mind. It is extremely important that we start with the number we want as our guiding perspective, to keep our eye on the prize and our focus on attaining our objective.
In establishing our goal, it is vitally important that we are able to quantify and communicate the value we are bringing to the establishment and align our ask with that.
Do your research
This is about establishing the value of what we will, or do currently, contribute.
This research is important for a number of reasons;
Firstly we have much lower expectations of what we deserve than our male counterparts do and as a result are more likely to assume a lower value as a reasonable amount.
Carrying out research across our network and on the relevant salary websites such as glassdoor will help us to establish a realistic market related value.
Secondly, information is powerful. Taking supporting documentation into the negotiation to support the facts we are stating, can be a game changer as it not only evidences that we have done our homework it also adds third party credibility.
Know that a salary negotiation is expected
Nothing ventured nothing gained.
And nobody enters a negotiation by offering up their best level, ever.
So, know that most companies are expecting you to negotiate, and in some cases they are even using it to test your mettle and your willingness to push boundaries.
Keep a journal of your accomplishments.
Be very detailed in terms of the value you have added, be it monetary, productivity related or otherwise in making a positive change for your employer.
This may feel slightly ridiculous but it is not only hugely helpful in setting targets and measuring yourself against these targets, but also creates a record for when you enter a negotiation.
Keep it positive
Remember a negotiation is in fact not a confrontation it is merely a discussion aimed at achieving a solution agreeable to both parties.
This is you simply entering such a reasonable and valid discussion about meeting the company’s needs, providing a solution and quantifying what the value of that solution is.
With that in mind focus on the objective of achieving an amicable outcome where both parties come out satisfied.
Learn to be assertive
“People pleasers” are paid less, they do more for free and end up doing tasks that are not acknowledged. I can tell you all about this from first-hand experience.
The cure for people pleasing?
And assertiveness is built as follows;
By quitting apologising
‘I’m sorry to ask but …. “, “I hope you don’t mind me asking ……… and so on. Not exactly power language.
The first step to assertiveness and successful negotiating is changing your language, and again remember when it comes to negotiating your salary, you are not asking for a favour. This is you establishing a value consistent with the service you are providing.
So start the conversation without an apology or an introduction screaming of you being on the backfoot.
By being assertive in everyday life
As someone who avoids confrontation at all costs, saying I am not well versed in assertiveness is a huge understatement.
A case in point, I had my first coffee Frappacino at Starbucks this week. Bit of a long story but bear with me.
I am not a mad lover of weird coffee concoctions but do love coffee. Temperatures hit an extremely hot 34 degrees in London and I needed a coffee fix.
A Frappacino seemed a good choice and seeing as my husband often defaults to them when he can’t handle a hot coffee, I had social evidence it can’t be that bad.
I took a sip and wanted to spit it straight out. It was beyond nasty. It cost close on £4 though so disposing of it into the nearest garbage bin wasn’t a viable option.
And still I hesitated to send it back.
I tried another sip, and confirmed it was gag worthy. It seemed a million drinking miles between the full frappacino and the last sip.
Accepting that finishing it was totally out of the question and at the risk of wasting my £4, I pulled out my underused and very shrivelled up assertiveness and told the barista who very accommodatingly whipped up something a lot more palatable.
By practising assertiveness in our everyday experiences we can start to build and strengthen that assertiveness muscle for when it counts !
And if all of this fails ?
Have a backup plan.
A salary is much more than the money. Consider where you can receive value from other benefits? Cutting your hours, creating more flexibility in your working situation, increasing your paid leave, adding additional medical coverage and so on.
Put some choices on the table for your employer to consider potential alternatives.
Schedule a date to revisit
If your employer had some valid counters to your request, create targets that you can both agree and set a date to revisit your request at a point in time that you can negate the counter arguments either through achieving the targets or alternatively through up-skilling.
Always keep in mind that as you increase your salary along the way you are also increasing your future earnings potential and it is never too late to start!