Written by Anne McSorley Tuesday, February 28 2012
My client, a high-powered vice-president of finance, starts her coaching session with a sigh. “I hate salary negotiations as much as I hate trying on bathing suits.” I get it. Vulnerability, conflict, criticism, self-doubt. There are dozens of reasons why women have a tough time negotiating on their own behalf — from the messaging of the ages to “be nice” to a value system that puts life/work balance before money. However, in our hierarchical culture, money shows value and worth — yours.
Here then, are five steps to successful negotiation whether you are new on the job or a seasoned veteran. I promise if you follow each of these with the same verve and determination that got you in the meeting in the first place, you will be satisfied not only with your salary but with your own self-regard.
Start with due diligence. Know your worth from the specific talents you bring to the job, to the salary scale across your industry and then add 10 percent. Why? Because if you are in a position to negotiate, they like you, they really do. That part of the contract has been decided — you are hired. If you are tenured, they want to keep you, and if you are new, they picked you! Include in your research a review of what it would cost to replace you. Armed with the facts and figures of your position, you are ready to confidently put aside the doubt that you don’t know the actual worth of the job. This is the easiest step of your process, and it is the foundation of your negotiation. Nothing says self-assured more than knowing the facts.
Examine your thinking. Start by asking yourself why you are anxious about the process. Undoubtedly, some of your feelings stem from the inequities that still persist in the workplace. And never underestimate your own ability to denigrate. Critical self-talk about what you deserve and what you don’t will undermine the process if you do not stop it in its tracks. Practice restraint and detach yourself from the destructive thinking. Write it down. Start with the critical messaging and counter each sentence with an empowering honest rebuke. Turn “The economy is suffering and most salaries are frozen” to “While there are economic challenges, I bring a level of success to the job that justifies an increase.” Arm yourself with 10 true statements about your performance and the reasons for your increase. Believe it; you deserve it. Imagine you are mentoring your daughter or a good friend. What would you tell her?
Recognize conflict is not a bad thing. Of course, it’s not. Conflict is the basis of change and creativity. However, many women feel as if this promotes an unpleasant view of who they are — it’s just not nice. Instead of an either/or view of conflict, incorporate the idea of being respectful and conflictual. You can still be nice! Because you are prepared with the facts and your thinking is in line, there is no need to be anything less than civil in your negotiations. Remember, the goal is the same for you and your employer — to continue or start a successful collaboration.
Model your ability to negotiate… for yourself and later, your employer. Your employer expects you as you go forward in your career to negotiate in good faith for them as a manager and an ambassador for their brand. Incorporate their proven strategies of success, and use them on your behalf.
Practice, practice, practice. First, by yourself. As painful as it may feel, record yourself. A simple 30-second smart phone recording will let you hear your style. Do you sound timid? Scared? Emotional? Practice a confident, strong interesting story, and then use those same inflections as you practice your conversation around salary. Next, try it out on someone you trust. Keep your sentences short. Ask for specific feedback and suggestions. Do it until you are energized by the results.
Don’t skip any of these steps. By the time you walk into your salary discussion, you will feel ready to have an honest, open and powerful discussion. And with your increase, it may be time to splurge on a new bathing suit!
Here are some more tips on maximizing your potential as a woman in the corporate world:
A Seat at the Table
Secrets of Superior Sales Performance
Liz Cornish to Women: Banish the Inner Critic
Anne McSorley is an accomplished business consultant and executive coach for nearly 20 years. She is a partner in WorkBest Consulting, LLC and her work largely centers on behavioral risk management, mediation and workplace consultation. Her executive coaching practice includes C-level executives and middle managers throughout the United States and internationally. You can learn more about McSorley at workbestconsulting.com. And she is always interested in your workplace behavior anecdote.