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.

Digital image
Digital image

Should you still negotiate your salary and risk being perceived as demanding? How? And what do you leave on the table if you don’t negotiate?

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.
  • Conventional wisdom says, “the first person to speak loses.” 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, what is the minimum 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 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 you’re 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.
  • 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 impact your work had on others, it can translate into a number.
  • 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