Did you negotiate your salary?

“We’ve all heard it before: By not negotiating, women sacrifice thousands of dollars by the end of their professional lives. Recent research has revealed, however, that the number is closer to half a million.”[1] This quote comes from an article on the Glass Hammer which cites that 52% of male MBA graduates surveyed negotiate their salaries, compared with 12% of female MBA graduates. And when the researcher had people evaluate those negotiations (on video) the women were perceived as demanding, while the men were not.

Should you negotiate? The article says “yes” and hits on many of the whys. I’d add a few tips:

  • Do your research. In addition to the resources cited in the article, visit Glass Door to see what salaries other people have reported at the same company. Talk to people at other organizations in the same field.
  • “The first person to speak loses,” conventional wisdom says. Not necessarily: "In our studies, we found that the final outcome of a negotiation is affected by whether the buyer or the seller makes the first offer. Specifically, when a seller makes the first offer, the final settlement price tends to be higher than when the buyer makes the first offer.”[2] Speaking first allows you to set the floor, and dictate what the minimum is you are willing to accept.
  • Be comfortable with your “floor.” A few jobs ago I gave the hiring manager a salary range. I reached a bit for the ceiling figuring: “you don’t know if you don’t ask.” I was also a bit modest on the floor because I didn’t want to appear greedy. When the offer came back, it was my floor. I stuttered, but I couldn’t negotiate up from there, I’d already told them I’d accept that number.
  • Remember the intangibles. This article only addresses financial compensation. While I agree that it’s the primary form of compensation (and the wage gap between men and women is real), it’s not the only way you can be paid for doing your job. Same salary with more time off = higher hourly wage. Or would your employer allow you to work from home 2 days per week, so you can save on commuting time and dry cleaning costs? Are bonuses or commissions available?

What do you lose if you don’t negotiate?

  • As this article points out, you leave money on the table.
  • Probably your last chance to influence your salary. Aside from a serious promotion and a major increase in responsibility, the best you can expect at most jobs is annual cost-of-living adjustments. Your salary - for however long you work at a job - is based primarily on your negotiations when you first enter that job.
  • You leave respect on the table. Not many employers will say, “Actually, we should be paying you more.” If you don’t know what your skills are worth financially, don’t expect them to tell you. 

How do you avoid looking demanding? 

  • You aren't demanding anything; this is a conversation - built on trust and mutual respect (which you would have hopefully built through the interview process).
  • Plan your answers to salary questions. Just like you prepare answers to other interview questions, prepare for these. Knowing exactly what you will say will help you communicate with confidence. Have facts and figures to back your position up: “The average salary for someone performing this type of work with my skills and experience is $X.” Role-play if you have to.
  • Focus on the value of your work, and what you will bring to the position.  Can you cite sales goals reached at your last job? Or money you saved your previous employer? Even if you can't quantify the financial value of your work, by focusing on the value of the work, you point out what they are asking for – it’s not just a random number you made up.
  • Treat it as a business transaction - the job isn't your identity and the salary isn't your identity.


[1] Negotiation November – Why Women Need to Start Negotiating Early on the Glass Hammer. A friend of mine from grad school was quoted in the article (Kate Farrar), which is how I found it.

[2]  Adam D. Galinsky of Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and Roderick I. Swaab of INSEAD


Re-branding: Last week we talked about developing your brand at work.

But what if you have been at your job for a while and you aren’t crazy about the brand you have developed (whether actively or passively)? How can you adjust your attitude - and brand - midstream?

Let’s take a look at two examples of products that have rebranded:


One the left, you have Dominos. A few years ago they realized their customers thought their pizza “tasted like cardboard.” Do you remember their really honest commercials featuring everyone from chefs to executives talking about their commitment to make a pizza you would love?

Then, on the right is Old Spice. The target audience for this blog is women, not men. You're not the main consumers of Old Spice, but when I put this picture up, you know what I'm talking about, don't you?

(Besides, how often will I get to post a picture of an attractive, shirtless man on my blog? I couldn't pass that up! - keep reading & you'll get to see a video of him too)

Both of these products re-branded:

  • Dominos started over. They realized their customers were unsatisfied. They said “we made mistakes and we want to make it right.” They created new recipes and invited people to give them another chance. They were aiming to keep the same customers but to satisfy them better.
  • Old Spice is a 70-year-old brand and likely had the clientele to support that. According to an article I read in Business Week their goal with their rebranding campaign wasn’t to influence their current clientele, they wanted to capture their competitor’s market share of younger deodorant users.

My own re-branding: At a previous job I took on a “newbie” attitude, afraid to make any recommendations or assert myself. I was surprised when, a year later, people were still coddling me, giving me extra affirmation, and hesitant to give me challenging assignments.

The brand I’d built was that of a cautious, easily overwhelmed young colleague, rather than the confident, trusted peer I wanted to be (and believed I could be).

I think that it’s necessary and appropriate sometimes to take the “Dominos route” and re-brand to the same audience, especially when you are staying in the same job. In this example though, I took the Old Spice route – I targeted a new group of people. I continued to work with my team, but I also looked for opportunities outside my normal assignments. I demonstrated my competency to new colleagues, all the while continuing to work hard on my regular tasks.

I grew my experience and “raised my stock” within the organization. New colleagues started to trust my expertise. My re-branding spread, and even my old team realized I had more potential than they first thought.

Some tips for re-branding:

  • Know what you want your new brand to be. Both Dominos and Old Spice were very explicit about their brand and their target audience. If you haven’t done the homework from last week’s post – think about (and write down) the 3-to-5 words you want to describe your brand at work.
  • Be persistent. Neither Old Spice nor Dominos won people over in one interaction. Dominos knew they’d have to change people’s minds, to get them to re-consider. Old Spice, for example, created a campaign that included 186 online videos where Isaiah Mustafa interacted with the public. For you, this means that even though someone may expect you to act like your “old self” and treat you accordingly, you have to continue to “be your new brand."
  • Give stuff away. Old Spice gave away free samples. Dominos gave everyone a chance to try their new pizza recipes for free. You can do the same thing: volunteer for an additional project even if it involves staying late. It’s not unreasonable for people to need to try a product to become convinced of its value.

You can do it. You can rebrand. Everything I read about Dominos and Old Spice tells me it’s hard work, but it can be done.

And… just because I can: (video of Isaiah Mustafa) [embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=3R2cnxz27LI[/embed]