Making the Ask: A Lesson in Salary Negotiation
Asking for a raise can be an intimidating process - one that takes guts, preparation, research, and support. Looking back on my career, I often stumbled; I had the guts but lacked the other 3 strategies. What I learned was invaluable.
I was working long hours as an HR business partner in tech, supporting a global team. I had a lot of responsibility, and my foot was always on the gas. My fuel tank was my grit.
One day I got a call from the holy grail of tech companies. I wasn’t interested in a new job but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join the free lunch movement. Early on I asked the recruiter to share the approved salary budget for the role, and I quickly learned I was underpaid in my current position. The new role was in a comparable industry, smaller in scope and had no global responsibility. AND they were offering a salary of at least 30% more. I was shocked! Was I really THAT underpaid?! Was I selling myself short?
How I learned to ask for what I want.
The experience catapulted me into action.
I’d considered asking for a raise in the past, but my negotiation tool belt was empty. How would I be perceived if I asked for more - would my boss think I was being greedy? I hoped my company would see how hard I was working, do the right thing, and take care of me. I didn't realize that working hard and keeping my head down was not enough. It was up to me to self-advocate.
With little preparation and no coaching, I marched into my boss’s office and made an emotional request: “I’ve been contacted by an outside company, and I realize I’m being underpaid here. I’d like you to consider giving me a raise.” It was the same approached I’d seen men use and be successful.
It did not go well.
Clearly caught off guard, my boss said he would consider it. But weeks went by and I heard nothing. When I raised it again, he told me he was angry at me for asking him. His answer was no.
He had an emotional response because I had an emotional ask; I acted impulsively out of frustration. I also made a few other key mistakes. I hedged my bets on one data point, based on a company that pays at the very high end of the market range. I didn’t factor in my boss (audience), that I was a woman (unconscious bias) or prepare examples of my contribution (case building). I failed to build a holistic case to prove that I was underpaid.
Asking for a raise without preparation is like bungee jumping at work; it’s risky.
My ask was a humbling experience, but it was a lesson I’m grateful for. While the company ultimately lost me, it set me on the path to close the gender wage gap and inspire women to advocate for themselves at work for raises, promotions, and seats at the table. And that is exactly the work I do today.
Are you ready to learn how to ask for what you want and get it?