Cave in… or leave the cave?

I’ve  had  lots of comments on my series of posts on women :  salary negotiation and the gender divide ( Let’s go girls… Negotiate!   and   Don’t be Afraid of “No” ). Thank you!

One topic still to be covered is the issue of us ladies stepping up to the negotiating table in our current organisations, as much as six times less than our male counterparts. This can mean a loss to net life income of up to half a million dollars. So, let’s look at what can be done about that.  Just to be clear, this is only about women taking control of their own situations and dealing with passivity, rather than covering flagrant cases of outright discrimination (bullying?) where there are separate procedures both internal and legal to take care of those sort of issues.

Easier than you think!

It’s complex, but  not harder, or impossible, or any of other those self sabotaging words  to initiate salary negotiate at this point. The process just needs a minimally different type of preparation and understanding.  And can be learned which is very important. So it’s all good.

So where to start?

This has been going on for a while, right? Feeling discontented and “put on”, so another few months won’t make any difference, seeing these guys making more money than you? But  you’re in a marathon, not a sprint, so intensive training is required to undo lots of bad habits and perceptions (theirs and yours)  to position yourself for the finishing line.

Laying the foundations: Now is the time to be strategic, active  not re-active.

Reality check : The suggestions that I am going to make are based on the premise that you are at least a competent performer! If you have any chinks in your armour – absenteeism, missed deadlines, any performance warnings – deal with those first.

Also make sure that your understanding of your situation is based on fact. Perception can be  misleading. You may have been in the job longer, but if Joe and Pete in the next offices earn more than you,  if they have an MBA and a PhD in Rocket Science, speak 3 languages or are more measurably productive in some other way, then your case isn’t necessarily clear-cut.  Sitting at your desk whingeing about your workload, miserable conditions and generally playing the victim will not help.

Squeaky wheels sometimes get changed instead of oiled.

So back to basics

Salary negotiationKnow yourself.  Decide on your life and professional goals. Where are your strengths and skills and where do you ultimately want to go with them? Understand your transferable skills.

Know your metrics ( e.g  turnover, transactions per day, customer satisfaction ratings, etc.) You are the product, so manage your business! What have you achieved and contributed or could possibly contribute further in the future? This is something that women tend to struggle with; especially those in soft functions. It is imperative you know exactly how you add value to your business.

Positioning : try and volunteer for projects with strong visibility. Some shameless self promotion never goes amiss when preparing for salary negotiation. What you are doing is paving the way to create opportunity. Start taking greater initiative, even if your efforts are turned down at least you are practising  being assertive. If you keep getting negative responses,  establish  if there is a pattern. What can you change?

Ask for feedback:  get into the habit of doing this and also asking if there’s anything you could be doing differently to meet expectations.  Do not use the word better.  Respond with an email of thanks to positive comments.  It’s good to have a trail, even a soft one, so that everyone starts believing your message about how good you are and the high standard of your work.  Including you!

Personal Development : if there is an area of personal development you can undertake which will increase your added value – do it, even if currently it might be at your own expense. Discuss this with your boss – and make sure that he/she is aware of what you are doing and connect this effort  to future added value for the company.

Know your market. Where do you sit on the salary spectrum both within the organisation and outside it? Facts.

Craft your elevator sound bites: your USPs and success stories.

Anticipate objections :  “no budget, it’s a recession, you’re a poor performer (yes, they might play dirty,) we’re going bankrupt, “boss is busy “etc.)  If there is any implied criticism you should have your feedback email trail to back you up. In any situation that is potentially intimidating,  ask for precise examples and dates of the issues.  That normally de-fuses situations.

Rehearse your  constructive communication strategy:  Socratic questions ( What makes you say/think that? How do you reach that decision?  etc.)  and Attentive Listening  (“Help me understand”,  I feel that… my experience is “)

Set your ideal outcome and the fall back position you can live with ( benefits in kind, shorter hours, review in 6 months, childcare , working from home, flexi-time etc.) benefits in kind have a high monetised value when grossed up.

Prepare for “No:”  Remember you love “no.. , ” make it work and use all the strategies you’ve prepared. “No” is when the negotiation starts, but have a clear plan if the  answer is final.

Know your audience :   You  have  worked in this organisation for some time and have a relationship with the players. You know the corporate culture and have observed him/her in other or similar situations. What are their own goals and aspirations  and what is the business plan for the department? You are prepared,  but be cautious. You might have coached yourself into neutral mode  for this  transaction, but there is no guarantee that the person sitting across the table from you will be in biz mode too. They might see this request as some sort of personal slight on their managerial skills and become ego defensive. That is not your problem.  Maintain  your cool no matter what,  but  be aware that this is the point when  any negotiation could become adversarial.  They  may not even have realised that there is a new, evolved, assertive you in front of them.

Living in the village

Now it is important to be clear in your own mind what you are prepared to settle for and what happens if your request is firmly rejected in any form. You still have to  “live in the village  ” to quote my friend Wally Bock . So if you decide to let it go, it’s important not to close doors and to remain measured and business like. The alternative is of course outside the cave.

One size fits all

A number of you emailed or messaged me, truthfully a little angrily and frustrated. Your stories were of being single parents, living in areas of  high unemployment, with domestic circumstances that limited your flexibility and mobility. Plus your company is the main employer in the region and could call the salary shots, so voting with your feet was not an option. “What  have you got to say about that? You’re targeting high fliers! ” you commented  somewhat belligerently!   But coaching is not elitist.

Without knowing all the individual circumstances and if these concerns are real, or FEARs  (false expectations appearing real)  the answer is that there is no one answer.  But no I’m not – these strategies are a one size fits all. They can be tweaked and adapted to fit most situations.

My suggestion is that you focus on you. Add to your skill set and if this can’t be done in a professional context in your existing company, set yourself some goals for personal development. Think long-term. No situation is ever static, so at least you will be prepared for any changes that may arise. Kids graduate, companies get taken over, recessions end and opportunities come around when you least expect them. Can you work from home or take on-line classes for example?

There are always a multitude of possibilities. You just have to be open to seeing them. In the words of someone even  older and definitely wiser than myself  (Seneca)

 “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”

5 thoughts on “Cave in… or leave the cave?

  1. Pingback: Momentor » Blog Archive » 11/27/09: Top Career Posts this Week

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  3. Pingback: Let’s go girls … negotiate! « Dorothy Dalton

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