Tag: salary negotiating

On Asking For More Money

I have been terrible at negotiating rates. I haven’t been great at asking for raises. For years I made $10/hour as a pseudo-manager at my retail job, and found out much later that everybody in the same position was making at least three dollars more than me. Even now, when asked how much my rates are as a writer, I’m tempted to lowball myself, convinced I’ll come across as greedy or unappreciative if I toss out an amount that seems too high.

And yet, if you ask me how much you should charge for something, I’ll tell you to ask for as much as you really want. Why? Because the worst that can happen is a lower counter-offer. Also, because your work — and you — should be valued.

Growing up, I was raised to be grateful to even have a job, so I spent about 90% of my working life settling for the first dollar amount that came my way. I never thought to ask for more money in my ten years of customer service (see: fear of being fired), so by the time I started writing, I was settling for $2 or $5 per essay, convinced that if I asked for more I’d never write again. (Actually.)

Which was obviously never the case because that’s not how businesses work. Unless you live in a Dickens novel, asking for a pay increase — or even setting minimum rates when asked what you charge — won’t jeopardize your future or get you fired. You may be denied (and boy have I), but no reasonable employer will be aghast at your gall to better your financial situation. I mean, no:? do not march into an office or rattle off an email with a sense of entitlement and/or “fuck you” rhetoric, but to simply ask for more? Why wouldn’t you?

Still, it’s easier for me to say that than to actually do it. In fact, it was only within the last year that I started to decline work based on how much someone was willing to pay for the amount of writing that was required. And even then, I still felt the echoes of my early working life when I believed I should be grateful to even be asked. And that’s a confining way to live, especially since, if you’re a self-employed person, you’re your only advocate. In short, you’re the only person who’s going to stand up for you and make sure that you’re being treated fairly. You’re the only person who’s going to make sure that you’re being compensated in a way that allows you to survive. And if you’re too scared, you’re going to get screwed.

You’re the only person who’s going to stand up for you and make sure that you’re being treated fairly.

It took a friend of mine framing it that way to make me understand. As a writer herself, she told me that she asked for double the minimum she’d typically accept because the worst thing that could possibly happen would be to earn a rate she already felt comfortable with. And I was in awe. First, because I’d been too scared to say to my own editors, “I’ve been writing for you for a few years, so can I have more money?” and second, because she was so fearless. Or more specifically, she showed me there was nothing to be afraid of — particularly while reminding me that if an editor (or any employer) is going to get so angry at your request for more money that they fire you, they aren’t people you want to work for anyway.

But that fear still exists, especially if you need the money. When I got a writing job earning $10/piece, I couldn’t believe it would only take ten essays to earn a whole $100. And because I was so afraid writing would be taken away from me (the first job I actually loved), I accepted the lowest of low and figured it was on me to turn out freakish amounts of content to make sure I could pay my bills. I still couldn’t. And while there were a few extenuating circumstances that added to my financial issues, I now realize I could’ve also asked to make more for what I was putting out.

And that takes some getting used to — the idea you’re actually worth something. Especially if you’re working in an industry that’s undergoing its own transformation, or in an economy where work can feel like a privilege. So I started small. Where I’d been waiting to turn work in before asking what I’d be paid for it (I know), I began asking in the introductory emails what a publication’s going rates were. Then, if they were reasonable, I’d run with an idea. Or if they were low, I’d look at my schedule and any upcoming projects before deciding whether or not this extra assignment would add to my life or make me feel stressed.

Of course, I’d have to actively remind myself that I was worth being paid fairly for my work — and also that no one worth writing for would blacklist me for asking for a fair wage. Which I also learned easily:? upon asking an editor for a rate increase, she was honest and told me rates were fixed but we could talk about different types of work for more money. In short, everybody survived. And nobody lost their shit over me being greedy or unappreciative — because again, that’s not how (good) businesses work.

Plus, you’ve got to look out for you. And if you’re telling yourself that you’re not worth as much as everybody else, you’re giving the people you work for the opportunity to say the same. So get paid. Get money. And while it may take a while to feel confident executing that, remember how confident you are in your work and how you deserve to be valued. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Anne T. Donahue writes for MTV News, Refinery29, The Guardian and other outlets. She is in a loving and committed relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio.


Photo by Jonathan Klok

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Why Salary Transparency Improves the Workplace (and how to do it)

Talking about money can feel super uncomfortable. Imagine how awkward it would feel to ask a co-worker how much they make. The conversation becomes even more risky when you consider that 23% of companies ban discussion of salary and 38% discourage it.

Yet salary transparency is growing in popularity. More people are sharing compensation details with each other. Resources like Glassdoor, Salary.com and PayScale.com have further legitimized salary transparency.

Believe it or not, this could actually be a good thing.?Salary transparency can improve your workplace in four ways:

  1. Increases your negotiation leverage
  2. Decreases the gender and race pay gap
  3. Forces better HR practices
  4. Increases engagement (i.e. you’ll like your job more)

1. Transparency improves your negotiating power

Before you joined your company, salary consideration was likely near the top of your list. Were you terrified of asking for more than what was offered? You are not alone. Turns out that many groups, like the majority of women and people in technical fields (e.g. engineers), don’t feel comfortable talking about salary.

Or maybe you really needed the job and didn’t want to rock the boat by asking for more. If you fall into these buckets, you could benefit the most from salary transparency.

One of the reasons companies have the upper hand in salary negotiations is that they know what everyone in the company is paid. They have an idea of what?s fair. But you don?t. A tech startup isn?t going to pay the same rate as Google. You may think you?re getting a great deal, but you have no frame of reference. Even resources like Glassdoor and Salary.com are far from perfect.

Salary transparency improves your ability to negotiate a better salary …or it might not. Remember, salary transparency works both ways. If you’re looking for a big jump in salary and it’s out of the published range, you’re going to have to make a very strong case.

Related: 3 Unconventional Strategies That Get You Promoted

2. It helps close the pay gap

No matter how you feel about the gender pay gap, it?s real and observable. In fact, the breakdowns of gender pay by race and state are staggering and symptomatic of more complex societal issues. There are steps we can take steps to close this gap.

Dane Atkinson of SumAll practices extreme salary transparency. He makes all employee salaries public for anyone to see.

?Salary transparency is the single best protection against gender bias, racial bias or orientation bias.??~ Dane Atkinson, Founder, SumAll

Salary transparency lets everyone know what their company thinks their contribution is worth. What would happen if the entire office learned that the women were paid less than the men? Suddenly, there is hard data that cannot be denied. If your office culture lends itself to seeking this kind of transparency, it can create a more equitable and trustworthy culture. Even if your office decides not to do it, now you know the kind of office you?re working in.

So.. why did he get that salary anyway?

Chart of Salary-Negotiations-Men-Women

89% of companies set aside funds for salary negotiations. And yet, only 30% of women even bother to negotiate.

Pay differences are of course oftentimes justified. Top performers deserve top salaries. If you’ve exceeded performance expectations, pay differences make sense.

But that’s not the only reason why people have higher salaries. As it turns out, many companies adopt an art over science approach when it comes to compensation. Unfortunately, that can result in compensation imbalances.

For example, studies show that men are significantly more likely to engage in salary negotiations. That alone can widen the pay gap.

Related: How to Have a Better Negotiation with your Boss

3. Salary transparency forces HR to be really good

Every company tracks their employees’ salaries. But not all of them track why those salaries are what they are. If your entire office knows everyone’s pay, everyone will know when those pay rates change. HR will have to make sure that the reasons for those changes are sound. Your collective knowledge makes management accountable to all of you.

Managing compensation is one of HR?s most important responsibilities. If you think talking about it is hard, imagine trying to justify a pay gap of $20,000 between two employees in a similar role.? Transparency creates incentives for HR and management to work together to determine salaries fairly.

4. …it also increases trust and engagement

Think about it. What kind of company would you trust more: one where salaries (or salary ranges) were made public or kept secret? If everyone was on the same page regarding what it takes to make it to a certain position with a certain salary, then everyone (employees and the company) would be more accountable to each other.

That being said…read your employee handbook

Some of you are at companies that forbid or discourage disclosing your pay.?You should be familiar with your company’s policy and the consequences of violating those policies. If salary transparency is that important of an issue for you, consult your HR handbook, your HR team, or a labor relations professional, and decide how far you want to go with it.

Related: How to Find Purpose in Your Job

These companies made it work

Salary transparency may sound radical, but there are companies putting this in place right now. There’s early evidence that salary transparency is associated with higher work performance, which your boss should absolutely love. Even big companies are adopting this model. Whole Foods believes salary transparency improves the workplace so much that they’ve had this policy in place since 1986.

Members of the startup community have also reaped the benefits of salary transparency. Namaste Solar?is a solar energy company in Boulder, CO that began with an employee-owned co-op model. Not only are salary ranges transparent, but employees also get equal voting rights on issues as important as board member placements. The result? They are one of the only profitable solar companies in the country, and they’ve been around for 13 years.?Namaste’s founder, Blake Jones, has credited his company’s success to that high level of transparency.

There’s something to be said for Namaste’s success and the trust that seems to have been built into the company’s culture via this level of transparency.

Related: Three keys to success from the founder of the Container Store

Try it out… just be skillful.

One of the biggest fears people have when they even think about talking about salary? Reactions from co-workers. One of my old professors said it best when she said ?people don?t ask why you?re making that much money. They?re asking why they?re not making that much money.?

But before you march into HR or your boss’ office:

  1. Do your research. Find out the pay range for your role and your geography using the online resources in this article. Keep in mind: location makes a big difference.
  2. Try bringing up salary with a few people you trust. If they are co-workers, read your employee handbook first.
  3. Don’t forget to count benefits when comparing to others. That bonus pool, healthcare package and free gym membership are worth something.
  4. Make sure your own contribution is up to par before asking for more. Build your case.

A lot of times, you?ll find that pay differences are justified. Most companies don?t mean to sow discontent with their pay policies. But if you find something is off, discuss it with your superiors. Just be sure to do it in a skillful way. Learning how advocate for yourself and, by extension, the good of the company is one of the best skills you can master.


 

?Photo by?Alexis Brown?

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