Many studies have shown that women don’t negotiate as often as men. According to NPR, for instance, men are four times more likely than women to ask for a salary raise. Women don’t think of asking; or if they do, they find the idea too intimidating to pursue. This is incredibly costly over time, because even a small raise would mean bigger annual raises and possibly bigger bonuses as well, year after year. In fact, according to Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University, not negotiating a fair salary at the beginning of your career is like leaving anywhere between $1 million and $1.5 million on the table in lost earnings over your lifetime. Yikes.
Okay, so now that we understand just what’s at stake, how do we negotiate a fair salary?
- Ask yourself the question first. The fact is, most people have no idea whether they are being compensated fairly. Awareness is a big issue – and unfortunately, women in particular don’t tend to give the question much attention. For many women, there’s a real reluctance to confront the question at all. So the first step is to stop and ask yourself: Am I being paid fairly? Then, take it a step further. Ask yourself, What would happen if I asked my employer this question? Get comfortable with the idea of asking. It’s an important question that deserves to be addressed.
- Get the data. As if our discomfort with the question of fair compensation weren’t bad enough, many of us of us who do consider the question often guess wrong. According research cited in Harvard Business Review, people often misjudge how their compensation compares to the going market rate:
“Perceptions don’t always reflect reality, even if employers are paying the same – or more – than similar companies. In fact, a whopping two thirds of people who are being paid the market rate believe they’re actually underpaid, representing a huge discrepancy.”
So, don’t rely on assumptions or hearsay. To be in a strong position to negotiate a fair salary, you need to get the facts and be sure they are current: What is someone in a comparable role, in the same industry, being paid today?
If possible, engage a professional salary consultant or salary coach who has access to specific data about your job from specialized (paid) data services. The free salary data sites like Salary.com, Glassdoor.com and Payscale.com generally rely on self-reported data, so it can be a case of garbage in, garbage out. Accuracy of information will bolster your confidence as the negotiations warm up.
- Strategize with a coach. Once you have the salary information you need, it’s time to plan for the actual salary discussion. Consider asking a professional salary coach for help. A good coach will be able to assess your situation and recommend specific tactics to use in your negotiation. For example, the coach might recommend working out a long-term plan with your boss to earn a raise in the future. The more specific the plan is, the better: specify deliverables and a time frame for each. Once you meet the agreed-upon goals, your boss will find it very difficult to refuse you the raise you just demonstrated you deserve.