She Works Hard For The Money

Love, Self

Asking for a raise is probably one of the toughest things you have to do in managing your career. Women can particularly struggle with these conversations. Through my career in Human Resources and as an executive coach, I’ve seen lots of people navigate these talks. Here are five steps women can follow to stack the odds in their favor of a successful outcome:

Step 1: Prepare your Manager. Let your boss know, in advance, that you want to talk about your pay. This can be as simple as an email that says “In our next catch-up meeting, I’d like to discuss my salary with you.” Salary can be a tricky and even intimidating topic for managers, especially if they don’t feel like they have all the information. They likely want to do right by you, so give them a chance to get his/her thoughts together before you meet. It will lead to a much more productive conversation. 

Step 2: Do your Homework. Before you talk with your boss, 1) know what you’re asking for and 2) what you are worth. It's best to use a few difference sources for your research. Here are some ways you can gather intel:

  • Web research - There is some good information on the web about salaries., and give you general salary guidelines for your role, industry, geographic market and sometimes company. It’s best to look in a couple of places. The information on the web is never 100% correct, but it will give you a general idea of what your role is worth.
  • Talk to recruiters – If you’re in a professional role, chances are that a recruiter or headhunter has called on you once or twice. They get a commission every time they place someone, and the good recruiters are interested in establishing a long term relationship with you. So, there’s nothing saying you can’t ask them they think you are worth today. Remember it’s their job to know the going rate for a role. The good recruiters will give you their opinion.
  • Talk to your peers - Do you have friends in your network that have similar jobs? Discreetly ask them what they make. This will give you some information on where you stack up. The only caution – use your judgment about who to ask. You don’t want others spreading the word you are fishing for salary info - especially within your own organization.

Once you’ve gotten all the info, you have a much better sense of what your role pays. You can bring your increase proposal into the conversation with confidence that what you’re asking for is based in reality. 

Step 3: Get yourself mentally ready. As a coach, this the place I see most people struggle the most. They know they work hard and do right by their employers, but they are still afraid to ask for what they want. Even when an employee has a great relationship with their manager, it can still be hard to bring up pay.  I’ve heard people say, “I don’t want to make them mad” or "I'm afraid of how they'll respond." 

So how do you prepare? Practice with a friend or loved one how you want the conversation to go. Roll play out exactly what you’ll say and how you’ll say it. Then go over all the different ways your boss might react. Practice how you’ll react and respond.  

Step 4: State and Stop. Now that you’ve prepared your boss and done your homework, you have your meeting. First, state the facts as you see them simply and clearly. You can say something like,

“I’ve been with the company for five years and in my current role for three. In that time, I’ve gotten great performance reviews and I’ve been Employee of the Month twice. I’ve done some research, and it appears as though my current salary is low. I believe that I am ready and deserving of an increase by X amount. I respectfully ask you to consider my contributions and would like to hear how you think we can increase my salary.” 

Second, stop. I've heard this advice and it works. If you stop talking, you’re signaling that you believe you deserve this salary. Rambling on will make you look as if you’re trying to justify your request. Also, research shows that when women become emotional in work settings, it can erode their credibility. So keep your cool and wait for your boss to respond. 

Step 5: Prepare for All Possibilities. Think proactively about the possible outcomes of your request and how you feel about them. If get an increase and it is reasonably close to what you’ve asked for, congrats! Hopefully, you feel good about the result of your efforts. If you don’t get an increase - or the raise much lower than you hoped - consider what this means to you. And let your manager know the outcome is not what you anticipated before taking any moves. They may wish to revisit the discussion or give you more context around their decision.

Remember: You are proactively managing your career when you initiate salary discussions. Regardless of the outcome, the confidence of knowing that you are in charge of your professional life will only lead to good things in the long run.

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Margaret Billy Quandt is an executive coach and leadership consultant with Metro & Wythe Leadership.  Contact her for more information on the power of coaching and how it can help you in your career.