Improving your earning power—increasing the size of your paycheck—involves fine-tuning skills that have less to do with math (or money) and more to do with negotiating (for money). If you're like many women, one of the things you "hate" most about money is asking for it. That has to change.
You probably have little difficulty negotiating for things other than money. Your teenager wants a later curfew? Your babysitter wants to borrow the car? You want your town to institute a system of policing the parks at night? You have absolutely no difficulty in presenting a coherent argument, in making your case, in being sure that you are heard, and in laying down the law.
But when the subject is money and the beneficiary is you, somehow it all falls apart. There are four emotionally charged reasons that this happens:
You don't believe you deserve it.
You don't believe other people think you deserve it.
You know you deserve more, but not how much more.
You know precisely how much more you deserve, but you don't know how to get it.
You need to stand up for yourself—and your money. This is a crucial skill to add to your workplace toolbox. When you start out receiving a smaller-than-necessary raise, whatever subsequent raises you get build on that smaller base. That means you end up more behind down the road. Add in the fact that women's raises—because women take breaks from the workforce to care for kids or for elderly parents—tend to be sporadic, and that when women reenter the workforce, they do so for less money, and well, you get the picture.
You need to acknowledge that negotiating does not mean being pushy. Getting what you're worth, as long as you have the conversation appropriately, is the polite thing to do. Harboring resentment because you're not being paid what you're worth is far more dangerous. It's then that the whistle on your teakettle is going to blow.
Negotiating is also not personal. What do you think the person across the table is thinking as you throw numbers back and forth? Do you think he or she is sizing you up, thinking: "Hmmmm, Suzie or Charlotte or Lily or Gail, she isn't really worth another $175 a week. I don't like the outfit she's wearing today. Besides, she can't even roast a decent chicken. She can't do the crossword puzzle in ink." Not even close. That person is thinking about himself or herself. His needs. Her budget. What will make his or her life easier? And how can that be accomplished for as little money as possible so that there will be enough in the till to give a raise to the next person who asks? It's not about being your friend. It's about getting the job done. If you keep that in mind throughout the process, you'll have an easier time getting through it. And remember: Negotiating is productive.
If you do not negotiate—if you do not ask—the answer will always be no.
How to Negotiate for More Money continues...
Let me repeat that: If you do not negotiate—if you do not ask for what you want—then the answer will always be no. So whether your aim is a raise or a better price on your next new car or house, here are the rules you need to follow to get the very best deal.
Gather All the Information When you are negotiating for anything, you have to think of yourself as a lawyer. You're Angie Harmon from Law & Order. You're Kinsey Millhone from Sue Grafton's novels. And that means before you say word one, before you form your hypothesis or make your case, you get the goods. If it's a salary you're negotiating for, then you've been online to see what similar jobs are offering, you're talking to headhunters to see what sort of offer you might expect, and you know how that compensation is structured in terms of wages, commissions, and bonuses if it isn't paid as straight salary.
Sometimes the best nuggets of information come from people who hold similar jobs. I recommend posing the question like this: "I'm thinking of getting a job doing x, y, or z. How much do people with experience like mine typically get paid?" That gives those on the receiving end of the question the liberty to reveal all the information without saying that they're revealing their own salaries (which, generally, they will be). That's very helpful. In the same vein, if it's a car you're buying, you know how much the dealer paid for it and how much of a markup it's typically fetching. You know what the best financing rates are today, and you've secured financing before you even walk into the dealership. You need to be prepared; otherwise you won't have answers to the questions you're inevitably going to face.
Visualize the Result Wanting a raise or a new car isn't specific enough. You need to know how much of a raise (in actual dollars) you want to get out of this conversation. When your boss asks what your number is, suggest one that is 10 percent higher than your actual number. That gives your employer room to negotiate. (Neither side wants to seem to give in too easily.) Also, enter this negotiation with a list of things you might be willing to accept other than money—more vacation time, a title bump, the flexibility to spend part of your time working from home. Even if a particular employer does not have enough wiggle room to give you a bump in salary, having a list of backup options means you don't have to walk away empty-handed.
Be Prepared to Walk I once had an employer suggest to me that I get another offer before I ask for a raise. That way, as he put it, he'd have ammunition to take to his boss that could be used to get me more money. It worked. But it could have backfired. If you go to your employer with another offer in your back pocket (or, for that matter, to a car dealer, or to anyone else you're negotiating with), you have to be willing to walk if you don't get what you're asking for. If you're not willing to walk, don't play that card. You might find yourself headed out the door before you're fully ready to leave.
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Why do you get the smaller office or pay more for certain things—cars are the most prominent example—than do those on the planet with a little more testosterone? You may earn less than the men in your office who do similar work because the women who came before you earned less. You may pay more on a new car than a man pays because the woman who came before you paid more. Biases like these can be fought. But you have to be willing to fight them.
Know What You Are Contributing to the Bottom Line If you're asking for money, point out to the boss how you've made money for the company, saved money for the company, or contributed something that has led to the advancement of everybody around you. If you're buying something, point out to the salesman how much of a profit he stands to make on this car or this house. And do both without one drop of apology in your voice. Do not start with, "I know the company has had a tough year," or "You may not be able to do this, but I thought I'd ask." That's not how men do it. They believe they deserve more money (or a better deal), so they walk in the door assuming they'll get what they're asking for. Not surprisingly, they often do.
Give a Little to Get a Little I have received the best deals—on both purchases and salaries—when I stopped behaving like a bulldog and started listening to what the person on the other side of the transaction needed to make a deal happen for me. In the case of the car, I had a number in my head—a monthly payment—I wanted to hit. The salesman couldn't do it on a new car coming off the lot. He tried. We ran the numbers several different ways, with his financing choices and the financing I brought in my back pocket. Finally, I just opened the window and asked: Is there any way you could make this work? He left the room. He came back. And when he did he said, "How about a demo? I have a six-month-old demo. I can give you the full warranty, and I can come in below your number." I took a look. It had 6,000 miles on it and was in perfect condition. Done deal. Likewise, in previous job negotiations, I've promised employers things I knew they could take to the bank in exchange for a greater salary up front or for other things I valued, such as an options package and more flexibility to work from home.
Be Willing To Do Things Others Are Not Take traveling for business as an example. It's a considerable strain so it's not something that everyone is willing to do. But it is something that can get you paid more handsomely. The same is true of working evenings, weekends, early mornings, or at far-flung locales. And the same is true of buying a car in a particular color that isn't moving quickly off the lot or with a package of options that hasn't proven to be especially popular.
Stop Making Lateral Moves Lastly, and this has everything to do with job choice and selection rather than negotiation, if you want to be paid more, it's time to stop making lateral moves. You may be unhappy for a whole host of reasons, but you have to understand that men don't leave a job simply to get out, as women tend to do. When men get out, they move up. You need to do the same.