How to Overcome Your Fear of Salary Negotiation [Guest Interview]

Do you wish you knew exactly what to say to your boss to receive a promotion and raise but the risks of negotiating your salary are holding you back? In a recent interview with Shannon O’Brien of The Whole U Podcast, I reveal the reasoning behind why negotiating your worth is feared, but why it is necessary for both the employee, and employer. You’ll discover how you can:

  1. Become your own best advocate and successfully negotiate your salary
  2. Prepare your case for a salary negotiation
  3. Establish boundaries of what you say “yes” to and what you will say “no” to

    Tune into “Own Your Worth, and Negotiate!” below…

    Shannon O’Brien: Welcome to The Whole U Podcast. I’m Shannon O’Brien. These episodes explore topics related to pursuing your life’s work and living a balanced, purposeful life. We dive into subjects related to wellness, career and service. We hope you feel engaged in the conversations, share your comments and click subscribe.

    Shannon O’Brien: I’m so excited for you all to hear my conversation with Ashley Paré, the CEO and founder of Own Your Worth, an organization on a mission to break us ceilings through confident leadership. Today we discuss a career topic that most people, myself included, would rather avoid and that is negotiation. Our discussion was very rich and explored the reasoning behind why negotiating your worth is feared but necessary for both the employee and employer.

    Shannon O’Brien: Ashley coaches clients to take confident action, create impact and earn more. She leverages over 12 years of global corporate human resource experience and works with organizations to create inclusive cultures. Ashley is a TEDx speaker and has been featured in the New York Times, Glamour, CNN Money, Good Morning America and more. She resides with her husband in Boston and you can learn more about her work at

    Shannon O’Brien: Ashley, thanks so much for being with us on The Whole U Podcast.

    Ashley Paré: Thank you Shannon. Hello. I’m excited to be here.

    Shannon O’Brien: Let’s start off by talking about your wonderful TEDx talk, How to Have Your Cake and Negotiate Too, which I’ll link below in the show notes as well. Tell us about how you opened the talk.

    Ashley Paré: I came across the old home videos and at this sixth birthday party of mine, I just proclaimed to all my party goers that I wanted the biggest piece of my cake. In my career I realized along the way that I had stopped being that bold, I had stopped really saying, speaking my truth and really asking for what I wanted. And so that story for me was powerful because I realized that I let go of and innocent and bold, brave self at some point.

    Ashley Paré: So I decided to open my TEDx talk with that because I think many of us can relate and just personally when I saw that video replayed in front of me, I didn’t even recognize that little girl anymore. I forgot that’s how I used to be.

    Shannon O’Brien: I’m sure a lot of people could empathize with it as you said. Certainly I could, this little girl saying I want the biggest piece. And it is sad that that confidence and standing up for what we want fades or diminishes over time. Can you pinpoint when it diminished for you?

    Ashley Paré: I think for me it was, from a career standpoint anyway, definitely a couple of years into my career because I negotiated salaries right afterschool. I negotiated my very first job offer. It wasn’t until I had a couple of years experience under my belt where I started seeing and experiencing and feeling some of the challenges in corporate America. So I think my boldness and my confidence diminished over the years because I started realizing that there were potential consequences for me speaking up.

    Ashley Paré: So I think it was just like kind of dwindling away over time because I didn’t really have good mentors or a good network of resources to actually understand how I should be growing my career or what I could be doing. I learned a lot on my own and I think that just eventually led to me staying silent out of fear.

    Shannon O’Brien: And obviously because of the work you do, you’re advocating for yourself and others to own their worth. Was there a circumstance or an event that happened in your life where you felt like you owned your worth for the first time? So here’s this little girl asking for a piece of cake, but your adult self asking for what you thought you deserved.

    Ashley Paré: Being in HR, I was almost always advocating for either employees or other managers or just on the company’s behalf. And so it was always about doing my best for someone else to move things along. I got to the place where I realized I was giving a lot and I wasn’t asking to receive what I really wanted. And so the resentment and kind of the burnout had built up at that point in my career.

    Ashley Paré: So finally, after getting a phone call from an outside organization, it triggered something where I was like you know what? Why am I not standing up for myself? Why am I not asking for it? So I finally just decided because it was also an emotional time for me where I felt unseen and for a long time that I was just like you know what? Screw it kind of. I’m just going to ask for what I want because I know I deserve it.

    Ashley Paré: In that moment it was more of an emotional owning my worth versus a prepared owning my worth. That’s kind of the pivotal moment where I realized that I needed to do the work moving forward to really set my own boundaries and be really, really clear on what I say yes to.

    Shannon O’Brien: Part of your job was to help other people advocate for themselves and potentially ask for a raise or negotiate. How do you define negotiation?

    Ashley Paré: From a corporate standpoint negotiation is the process that we undergo to find a mutual solution or come to an agreement around how we’ll work together, what the service will be, what the goods will be and what in return will be received, either from a monetary standpoint or it could be something else. I really believe negotiation is a conversation or multiple conversations versus winning or losing. I don’t necessarily see it, as a lawyer might explain it where two people are on either sides. For me, negotiation is really just about determining what you want to say yes to and what you’ll say no to.

    Shannon O’Brien: I liked that you said that it’s not just one conversation, it could be multiple conversations because I think some people might have it in their head like oh no, my chance is over I only have this one chance. But I love in your definition that there could be multiple conversations. I also love in your definition that it’s a two way street, that there’s maybe two winners there. So the negotiation is clearly something that’s beneficial for an employee asking for maybe a monetary raise. But what do you see as the benefits for an employer as well?

    Ashley Paré: Most organizations expect employees to negotiate and a lot of managers will almost use it as a way to see how confident you are, to see if you’re walking your talk. But it’s just also built into the way that we create offers, in the US specifically. So I think from the benefit side of the employer side is you get to have this conversation at the beginning of a relationship, if it’s a new job offer. And even internally if you’re asking for a raise. The benefit to the company is you build a deeper relationship with an employee, you can gain their trust, you will create recognition and by finding a solution that works for both sides.

    Ashley Paré: So in the end, for an employer, it’s about employee engagement and employee retention and ensuring that you’re able to retain your top talent because you see them, because you’re paying people fairly and competitively. And that’s what is required, especially in the market today, to enable employers to reach their all goals, to earn revenues. Employees are very important and I think the benefit to them is that they’re going to get happy and engaged employees.

    Shannon O’Brien: How do you determine the best time to negotiate with your current organization? I mean, you said that maybe at the beginning is a good time, but is it too late if you haven’t negotiated before you start your job?

    Ashley Paré: No, I don’t believe, there’s never a hole that you can’t dig yourself out of meaning if you feel like you’ve shot yourself in the foot or because you didn’t speak up, there’s never, I mean the time is now. There’s always an opportunity for you to start thinking about what it is you want and building a case to make an ask. So from a timing perspective, you have the most leverage to negotiate before you say yes to a company, primarily because the company wants you to join. You’re not onboard yet. They want to, if you’re the top candidate, if you’re getting that offer, they really want you to say yes and so you have a lot of leverage before you’re onboard. Once you’re with internal to the company, it can be a little bit more difficult with the politics, with the yearly systems, with the programs and policies that are in place. But it’s not impossible. I’ve seen my clients receive anywhere from $20,000 to $45,000 promotions, especially if someone’s underpaid.

    Ashley Paré: So from a timing perspective, if you’re an employee thinking about asking for a raise and/or a promotion inside your organization, it really starts with you preparing. So what have you done recently? What have you done over the last three to six months that’s either above and beyond or outside your current role or job description? Did you complete a really great project? One of my clients just organized this huge event for her organization. So this is a prime time to start getting feedback and building a case in terms of your impact. If you’ve just saved a client or brought in a new client. So really thinking about your value to the organization.

    Ashley Paré: No matter where you are within the performance review cycle of your company, if you have one of those, I like to tell people you need to give yourself anywhere from two to four, sometimes two to six months depending on the environment within your organization to actually get a raise because there’s a lot of moving pieces and a lot of approvals. So timing wise it’s really just having that conversation with your boss. Hey boss, I would love to talk about my future with this company. I want to talk to you about potentially a path to promotion and I want to put together a case and I wanted to loop you in to get your support in this. So it’s really just starting the conversation, knowing that budgets are usually more flexible outside of the annual review process.

    Shannon O’Brien: That sounds like a really great script that you just provided, starting this conversation to create a path, a pathway. So again, just as you said where this could be multiple conversations and not just one, it might not happen overnight. Maybe people are expecting that the best case scenario is the boss says yes and you get your raise tomorrow. But to know realistically that there are these things behind the scenes that might need to happen from red tape and bureaucracy, just the way that the company is going to allow this in their budget. So it sounds like you’re saying is don’t expect change to happen overnight.

    Shannon O’Brien: What do you think holds people back from these conversations? From being from being confident enough to negotiate at work? We often hear about women not finding their voice and doing this, but maybe also certain cultures may not feel confident or maybe there’s an international worker in the United States, English is not their first language. I can imagine a number of scenarios when you don’t negotiate from the beginning in your first job, maybe you’re less likely to negotiate in your second job and your third job.

    Ashley Paré: It’s multilayered. A lot of the work I do with my clients is really about helping them shift their relationship with money, which is really shifting their relationship with their self worth and their self confidence. And it’s multilayered. So what holds people back like from the surface is, in my case specifically as well is I was just afraid to hear no, I thought that the answer was going to be no and I wasn’t ready to deal with that because I didn’t know what I should do.

    Ashley Paré: So sometimes we’re afraid of hearing no. Sometimes we’re afraid that there will be retaliation or that somehow it’s going to ruin a relationship that we have with our boss, especially if we’ve worked with someone for awhile and we have a close relationship. I find that for women in general, it makes it harder to negotiate with people that we have a closer relationship with. And that’s where we touch on the our worthiness piece.

    Ashley Paré: But in terms of the money relationship piece, many people aren’t comfortable speaking about money in general and that is layered in terms of our gender, in terms of our socioeconomic status and how we’re raised from a cultural standpoint. So some of my Latina clients have shared with me that right there in their culture, not only are women maybe seen as they’re being raised to be at home, it’s also not just polite to talk about money. So when we’re raised with certain beliefs around money or really just what people will call bragging, talking about how great we are, it really comes to a head when we think about asking for what we want at work because it’s not the language that we’re used to saying and it also brings up a lot of emotions around our relationship to asking for what we want.

    Ashley Paré: So there are many things that hold people back, but I would say taking a look at what your own fear actually is, so giving yourself permission to really just connect with well, what am I really afraid of here? I call it going down our fear staircase. So if we go into the basement of our fears, once we are aware that maybe our worst case scenario is that the company might say no, it really does empower us to decide okay, if they do say no, then what?

    Ashley Paré: I’ve worked with a lot of clients who have negotiated and it went so badly that they were afraid to do it again and through coaching through just this work, it’s really possible to set yourself up for success and to feel confident. And although I heard that no in my story, my own story I continue and have gone on to successfully negotiate it’s. But it took a lot of that emotional healing to get over that rejection and really just realize it’s not only about me, it’s about the company as well.

    Shannon O’Brien: I love your image of the fear staircase and being in the basement. So what is the worst case scenario? And you said that some of your clients have had the worst case scenario. Maybe hearing no, maybe having a retaliation or relationship be effected in a negative way. I can really see how you said that it’s multilevel and very deep about our worthiness.

    Shannon O’Brien: People have these fears and sometimes the fear could be legitimate. Sometimes there will be an hour that these consequences do happen. But I imagine that’s not always the case.

    Ashley Paré: Organizations that are thoughtful or enlightened or just really care and think about their people programs, it’s just part of the everyday business. It comes down to sometimes the values and culture, underlying culture over an organization. But from the worst case scenarios and stories that I’ve either experienced or heard of, it usually ends up being that that employee just didn’t want to be at that company anymore anyway because it didn’t align with their own personal values.

    Ashley Paré: So if the worst case scenario actually were to happen, usually it’s giving you the information you need to decide what to do about your career and your future. But in most cases, my clients have heard from their managers after negotiating like wow, thank you so much for your preparedness. I really appreciate your approach here. Thank you for making this easy for me to take to my boss. So things can go really well. And again, it’s a way to build a deeper relationship with your manager and/or your organization.

    Ashley Paré: So in a good organization with good management, it’s going to gain your respect.

    Shannon O’Brien: That’s a perfect way to think about it, is like if I get to know, maybe it’s a no because I don’t belong here or maybe it’s a no because it’s the wrong time. So it’s kind of reframing that no and being okay with the outcome or being grateful for the outcome to give you more information.

    Shannon O’Brien: As a final point for our listeners, can you give some examples of professional language for effective negotiation? What can our listeners say to their employers if they are ready to negotiate for a higher salary?

    Ashley Paré: I think it’s really important to prepare, again, preparation is really key here. But prepare a specific script. You should never ask for a raise for the first time in front of your boss. Meaning you need to get comfortable with the language by practicing ahead of time. It’s okay to bring your paperwork and your script into this meeting. So really, some language that can be really helpful is, in terms of actually making the ask, it’s like dear boss, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me today. I’m really excited about my future with our company. I’ve been giving some thought to my current role versus my responsibilities and I want to talk with you today about my future on our team and how I feel that I’m actually operating at the next level. So I’ve pulled together some examples, but I really do value your input in terms of creating a path forward here for a potential promotion.

    Ashley Paré: I’ll give you a second in terms of actually using numbers. Do you share your range that you want? Do you tell the company? When do you tell the company? Do you get them to give you a number of first? And my advice and what I’ve seen work really well for my clients is to get very specific about what you want because the employer doesn’t know how to make you happy if you don’t ask for it.

    Ashley Paré: So if you want $110,000 base salary, you’d have to ask for $110,000 to $120,000. Say to your boss hey, I’m looking for a raise to bring me up to market value. I’d be looking for something between $100,000 to $120,000. Is that within our budget?

    Shannon O’Brien: So helpful. Sounds intuitive or basic, but yeah, not everyone does that.

    Ashley Paré: No. And that comes back down to the money relationship. If we can’t say it out loud ourselves, this is where I say we put our own glass ceilings over our head, if we’re not comfortable with those numbers, then it’s going to be really hard to start receiving it from someone else.

    Shannon O’Brien: Yeah. To know your number, to know your worth, to own your worth, to use your company name. This is a very personal subject, I think, for all of us, our connection to money because money does make the world go round. It’s not a dirty thing. It’s not a topic that we should avoid, we should face it.

    Shannon O’Brien: That being said, I think it’s extremely useful to speak with a therapist or a coach like yourself to get coaching and advising around these topics if you’re not comfortable with it already. So having said that, can you tell our listeners with best way to learn more about you and get in touch with you?

    Ashley Paré: Please feel free to head on over to my website, which is and feel free to check out my TEDx talk. If you’d like to reach me directly, just shoot me an email. You can find it on my website and I’d be happy to hear from you.

    Shannon O’Brien: Thank you so much, Ashley, for your time. I’m going to include all of the links below this conversation so people can check out your website and hopefully get in touch with you to learn more. Thank you so much.

    Ashley Paré: Thank you Shannon.

    Shannon O’Brien: For more insights on wellness, career and service, checkout whole Thanks for listening and I’m wishing you a balanced, purposeful day.