Ijeoma S. Nwatu is a freelance writer and book lover who covers lifestyle content, women leaders, culture, and more.
You’ve practiced your power pose. You’ve finalized your outfit. You even have a playlist to get you in the right frame of mind. It is time for your salary negotiation.
Yes, asking for a raise can be tricky and terrifying—so much so that, according to InHerSight research, 60 percent of women haven’t asked for a raise in the past 12 months. Regardless of your ask, the last thing you want to do is ruin your chances or your working relationships in the process. In fact, there are a few areas to avoid entirely. Prior to taking (or initiating!) the meeting, err on the side of caution when uttering or hearing these words:
“I need the money.”
Full stop. Remove your personal circumstances when negotiating your salary. Rent or mortgage is going up, your pet is dying, and you are in the midst of wedding planning. None of these situations have anything to do with a pay increase. The negotiation process is not about feelings. Remember, you are selling yourself, and it is unlikely your employer will pay you for a change in your personal life.
“But my coworker has a higher salary.”
Word might have gotten around that your cubicle-mate makes more money than you. According to Brooke Hunter, principal consultant at Ethical Leadership Services, it is best to avoid assumptions because you do not have all the details about their compensation. Furthermore, you do not want to veer into personal bias. Keep the conversation professional, and do not bring someone else’s salary into the mix.
“We don’t have the budget to pay you what you want.”
Before you hurl Rihanna lyrics during your meeting, remember that your immediate boss or even your boss’ boss may not have the authority to offer and guarantee a raise. State your case with receipts, seek counsel, and perhaps you will win an ally or two. If your boss serves as an ally and advocates on your behalf, your chances of earning that raise is better. Hunter recommends you have a suggested timeline and follow up within that timeframe, for example in six to nine months.
“When I was your age, I was happy to be working at a company that gave cost-of-living raises. You should be happy with 3 percent, too."
As a manager, do not reference your own career experience(s) when discussing an employee's salary. Instead of leaving for another job, your team member is interested in earning more in their current role. If the employee is a high-performer and works well with others, actively listen to their needs. Even if you cannot secure a raise, offer other benefits and incentives including flextime, more paid time off (PTO), professional development training, and updated equipment. A bonus of this alternative plan? InHerSight has found that women rank salary satisfaction second to only one thing: paid time off.
“If I don’t get the raise, I will quit.”
As an employee, this is a drastic measure. As a manager, this is a drastic response. Both parties can leave the meeting happy or at least satisfied. Employees and staff can fight hard for a pay increase and seek additional benefits. It is important to get whatever is agreed upon in writing. For managers, get creative in supporting your staff. If you find that one of your employees moves around while they work, perhaps using your budget to buy a laptop and hotspot, a standing desk, or other items that will help them feel more comfortable at work.
Salary negotiations are necessary evils and especially important for women. The search engine job site, Indeed, surveyed 1,000 U.S. employees and found men earn higher raises than women. Almost half of the men reported pay increase between 4 to 6 percent, while most women saw a raise of 3 percent or less. Negotiating your salary is a crucial time to talk about your performance, value to the company, market rates, and getting compensated relative to your work and the job market. It is also a great time for supervisors to show appreciation for the hard work their employees produce for them and the overall business.
This article is part of InHerSight’s month-long coverage of equal pay. Timed with Equal Pay Day, the series looks at how the pay gap affects women of all backgrounds and in all industries.