t’s an unfortunate fact that has been reiterated for decades in many different ways: women, in general, find it harder to ask for what they want. A 2015 study by Glamour showed that 57% of women have never even asked for a raise, compared with only 46% of men; illustrating that whether it be more money, flexible hours, a promotion, or more time off, women are less likely to assert themselves in the workplace.
It certainly doesn’t help when influential people – male bosses in particular – fail to realise how helping women ask for what they deserve can actually help business. At a conference celebrating women in technology, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella inadvertently confirmed one the deepest fears many women face when requesting a raise; many bosses don’t expect them to ask at all. When Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, asked what advice Nadella had for women who were afraid of asking for a promotion or raise, he replied “It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.”
Luckily, women aren’t buying this kind of advice anymore. As Ellis Chase, a business coach at Columbia Business School put it: “One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that being productive, smart and working like a dog is going to get you recognition and compensation which of course is not true for anyone.”
When it comes to negotiating, women can sometimes find themselves at a double disadvantage. They tend to be less likely to negotiate in the first place, and when they do, research shows that they tend to get more push-back when requesting pay raises from male bosses.
Fortunately, the science of how to get what you want has come a long way and there are steps that even the most reticent self-promoter can take to overcome negotiation anxiety and ultimately get what she wants. Here are 12 steps to help anyone negotiate successfully.
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Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Asking for a raise, promotion, or any other perk isn’t something anyone should decide or execute overnight. Consider instead, a carefully planned strategy designed to yield results. Keeping a detailed list of achievements with specific numbers and ways you’ve met or exceeded targets will not only help convince your boss that you deserve a raise, but it will help keep you motivated too. Don’t forget to talk about your future plans, recommends career coach Eileen Wolkstein. She tells Forbes, “You don’t just get paid for what you did,” she says. “You get paid for what you’re going to contribute.”
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Build a strong network
This step may not be an obvious one, but having the right connections in your industry can provide a wealth of valuable information when it comes to negotiating. Career coach and networking expert Anita Attridge notes that women are less likely to network with senior staff and influencers – connections that can become crucial when seeking a promotion.
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Know how much you're worth
When going in for a salary negotiation, you’ll need to be realistic. Negotiation expert Jack Chapman suggests determining your job’s salary range by doing some research. Sites like Glassdoor and Salary are great places to start. Chapman says that your fair market value will be a combination of “your objectively researched value, your individual value and your future value.” According to Attridge, this is also another area in which a strong network can work in your favour. Casting a wide net both in your industry and in the HR field can make all the difference in determining a suitable pay range.
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Timing is everything
Did you just secure a lucrative deal or deliver a proposal that has your entire department buzzing? If on top of these achievements you also have a solid track record, this is a perfect time to capitalise on it. Similarly, make sure it’s a good time for your boss to hear your request. If she or he hasn’t been doing as well as you, either personally or professionally, it won’t be an optimal time to receive a raise request. There’s some evidence to suggest that mornings might be the best time of the day to approach your boss. A 2013 study by Maryam Kouchaki and Isaac H. Smith found evidence that people tend to make more moral decisions early in the day and less ethical ones as the day progresses.
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Leave emotion out of it
Asking for a raise can be an inherently emotional experience. Anxiety, fear of a negative response and sometimes even anger, can come into play. Those feelings are normal, but should not be taken into the negotiation room. A boss will be much less receptive to an emotional request. Remember to keep the conversation professional.
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Find out how the company is doing
It almost goes without saying, but if your numbers are good when the company’s aren’t, any bids for raises or promotions can come across as misguided. Australian entrepreneur and CEO of Business Chicks, Emma Isaacs suggests staying on top of of your company’s performance. She tells The Cusp, “If the company is in a period of growth and hitting record sales numbers, those are great signs that there are opportunities to be rewarded.”
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Know how and when to request a meeting
Biron Clark from Business proposes approaching the subject of a raise on its own rather combining your request with another meeting. “To set this up, send an email telling your boss there is something you’d like to discuss. Ask them to please let you know when they have 30 minutes available,” he suggests.
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Once you’ve figured out the fair salary range for your role, keep your request toward the higher end of that figure. “This leaves room for you to still be well-compensated if your manager meets you somewhere in the middle,” Clark says.
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You get no points for coyness when it comes to requesting a raise or promotion. If you’ve been planning the perfect pitch for a while, you probably know exactly what you want to say. It may seem obvious to you, but don’t assume your boss knows your intentions. Margie Warrell writes in Forbes, “Whether you want your colleague to communicate with you more often about a team project, or put you forward for a more senior role, it’s crucial to be assertive in conveying what you want.”
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Don’t back yourself into a corner
You’ve worked so hard for this and know you deserve it, but as tempting as it may be to give an ultimatum, don’t do it, as it can cause irreparable damage to the relationship between you and your boss. Psychology Today advises to always give the other person a way out, so that if you don’t get the answer you desire, you leave room for further negotiation at a future point.
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Get it in writing
Congratulations, your hard work paid off and your manager has agreed to a raise! If this is the case, remember to make it official and get any promises in writing. “I was promised a raise during a meeting, which never materialised. When I questioned it, I was told it wouldn’t be possible within the time frame I’d originally been told. I ended up getting it six months later,” a 33-year old journalist, who chose to remain anonymous told Buzzfeed. The easiest way to do this is by following up with a thank you/confirmation email detailing everything that was discussed in your negotiation meeting.
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Remember that ‘no’ isn’t forever
There are many reasons a request can be denied. Maybe it’s really not a good time for the company to promote you or agree to your salary request. However, don’t give up hope as this doesn’t mean that you won’t get the chance to ask again. Don’t let the fear of rejection put you off, after all, what do you have to lose?
Words by Minerva Jaquier