Written by: Jillian Climie.
As women, we face one of the impossible conundrums of the workplace: the likability bias. Women are liked less by peers and superiors when they assert themselves, and being liked matters – it can significantly impact your career journey in a company. However, if women are too likable or agreeable in the workplace, they are seen as less effective and less competent. The balancing act between trying to be perceived as both likable and effective is a tough one, and most women are very aware of this bias on a daily basis. They know that having a more aggressive leadership style means their likability is being sacrificed. They realize people will not see them as a leader if they are too accommodating or nice.
These biases impact how women negotiate their compensation (or choose not to). I have seen too many women not bring up money because they fear they will be perceived as aggressive. We can't be immune to biases – but what we can do is understand them and leverage them, instead of letting them stop us from asking for what we deserve.
I am a strong believer that asking for more compensation and benefits, whether that be salary, a sign-on bonus, severance or paid time off, does not need to be a negative experience. You can ask for more compensation in a positive way, while still being clear, confident and direct in what you want. Below I’ve outlined some tips on how to do this.
1. Start positive.
Starting off on a positive note can help set the stage that the conversation does not have to be a negative experience for you or the person you're negotiating with. Noting how excited you are for specific aspects of the role (if it is a new offer) or how you can't wait to continue growing with the company (if it is a promotion) can be impactful in setting the tone. Being genuine about what you like about the opportunity is powerful – it demonstrates you care about the role and the company, which is what managers or new employers are looking for. Starting the conversation in this way acknowledges the likability bias we face, and that we can be judged more harshly in negotiations. But even more importantly, it will set you up to feel confident in your next step: directly asking for what you deserve.
2. Be clear and concise in your ask.
When asking for more money, do your best to know exactly what you want, and be able to concisely articulate it. This demonstrates confidence. Outlining different things you would be happy with (e.g., a salary increase or more vacation days or a sign-on bonus) shows you can be swayed by the person on the other side of the table. Being clear and concise also means the conversation doesn't need to be long. You have done the preparation to know what you want and you’re articulating it in a confident way for the other person to respond to. This demonstrates leadership. We so often think that negotiating can be seen as negative, but I've seen many employers and managers incredibly impressed by a candidate's ability to negotiate.
3. Communicate why you are asking for this (it is for the manager's benefit).
The reason why you're asking for more money is because you want to work at the company. Your manager or new employer would rather know that you want more money than have you blindly leave the company or reject the offer. Especially as the Great Resignation continues, and good talent becomes harder to find, being transparent about what you want can be to your manager’s benefit. Outlining that you're bringing up compensation so you can be open and honest with them can actually be a great turning point in a manager-employee relationship. Talking about compensation should not be taboo; it should be part of an ongoing dialogue (just like your performance). No manager wants to lose a good employee because of compensation.
4. Realize this is a part of your manager's job.
Sometimes we build up asking for more money into a big event – we stress about it and delay it until it becomes overwhelming. Really, it's just a part of your manager’s job. They have had these conversations before, and they will have them again. Especially if you're negotiating with someone from Human Resources or Talent Acquisition, this is a part of their day to day. Recognizing this helps take some of the pressure and emotion out of the conversation. Practicing what you'll say and framing it positively can help you to feel comfortable, and realize this is just a part of being an employee. You rarely get things you don’t ask for, especially when it comes to compensation – so the sooner you start doing this, the easier (and less eventful) it becomes.
5. Leverage resources, prepare and practice.
The more prepared you feel for a compensation negotiation, the less stressful it will be for you, and the more likely it will go smoothly. We spend so much time working hard for our employers, but we don't spend a lot of time making sure we are getting the best possible compensation package for ourselves. Do your research and preparation to confirm you feel confident in what you're asking for. Leverage online databases, mentors, and peers – and if needed, utilize advisors to support you through it (see our one-on-one compensation negotiation services at The Thoughtful Co). Allocate lots of time to practice so you know exactly what you'll say and how you'll respond to different scenarios or offers. Invest in yourself; a relatively small amount of time and money up front can meaningfully impact your wealth over the long-term. And it can ensure the negotiation is a positive one.
Women face different biases in the workplace than men, and this can make negotiating your compensation feel impossible. I promise you, it's not. Understanding that these conversations do not have to be negative, and can actually reflect positively on you in the workplace, is important. If you need support in preparing for a compensation negotiation, we offer 1:1 sessions, negotiation scripts, contract reviews, financial modelling and much more – please reach out at email@example.com.