Workshops Teach Salary Negotiation
At a recent workshop in downtown Boston, the mostly female audience was asked whether their anxiety level goes up when they ask for a raise or negotiate a salary for a new job.
Hands shot up, and the room erupted in boisterous conversation. “I’m worried about being perceived as being greedy,” volunteered one woman. Another said that her employer told her she earns less than her coworkers because she’s only in her 20s – “even though I’m doing exactly the same things!”
Workshop facilitator Lauren Creamer explained that many women find it difficult to ask for a raise, because they face a double standard that treats them differently than men. “Women are expected to behave a certain way. They’re either nice or competitive and aggressive,” she said. Asking for a raise can be perceived as too aggressive.
Over a lifetime, lower pay for the same jobs their male coworkers are doing put millions of women behind the 8 ball when they’re trying to pay back student loans, buy a house, and save for retirement.
To help them overcome their fear of asking for a raise, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) is introducing salary negotiation workshops around the country. “Pay equity – and financial security – is one of our major goals right now,” said AAUW’s Alexandra Howley, who coordinates the Massachusetts program with the Boston mayor’s office and the state government.
In AAUW’s workshop in Boston last month, Creamer and Robbin Beauchamp gave advice in four areas to the women – and three men – attending.
Know Your Value
- Before negotiating a raise, be clear on the unique benefits you bring to your workplace – effective facilitator, top salesperson, organizer, etc.
- When applying for a new position, tailor your skills and experience to fit the job description in a way that highlights your value to a prospective employer.
Know Your Target Salary
- Look up the salaries of jobs with similar experience levels and skills. Salary.com gives the median pay and the high end of the salary range for about 25,000 positions. Some universities and governments post salary ranges for each pay grade on their websites.
- Determine your target salary before either asking for a raise at your current job or negotiating a salary in a new position.
- Know your resistance point: what salary level is so low that you’d walk away from it?
- Employers expect people to negotiate – so prepare. A good way to do that is to take notes to the meeting to remind yourself of salient points.
- Since women tend to be underpaid, disclosing your current salary in a job interview only perpetuates the pay gap with men. Many cities and states ban employers from asking about your salary history.
- The best way to ask for a raise at work is by capitalizing on your accomplishments or suggesting additional duties – perhaps to lighten your boss’ workload.
- In a meeting, read and respond to the boss’ or HR executive’s body language and tone. “Have a conversation – not a confrontation,” Beauchamp said.
- A job offer should include a salary offer. Don’t respond right away. Ask for a few days to think about it and carefully assess whether it’s right for you.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
- Find a friend or relative to practice discussing your compensation.
- If there is a pause in the conversation with a boss or an HR person, women are particularly tempted to fill the silence. Don’t. Practice waiting for a response to your request.
- After concluding a negotiation with a new employer, ask for the job and salary offer in writing.
In some situations, it’s necessary to accept the fact that the compensation you require is more than an employer is willing to offer. “If they keep saying ‘no,’ you have a choice. It’s always a choice to leave,” Beauchamp said.
Walking away can be particularly effective in the current, strong job market in which employers are fiercely competing for workers.
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