Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Dec 18, 2009

Salary Negotiations

Instructors: Caroline Bender
Guest Lecturer: WEBB, Gardener/Blogger, It’s My Garden

At a recent faculty meeting, we presented a short video from a WKMG (Orlando, FL) news story about salary negotiations and differences between male and female styles, showing 2 female candidates blowing the opportunity to define their worth, and the male candidate taking control of the interview to his own advantage.

Contributor “Webb,” commented, “Doesn't it … tick you off that we are so poor at negotiating salary. We turn to mush. Can't tell you how many times I've done it.”

We immediately gave her the floor.

“My first job out of grad school was as a counselor in the community college system – a state job. I am fairly sure that at that time (in the dark ages!) I had not heard of "negotiating" for salary, and I think I truly thought that STATE salaries were "fair", by which I meant "all the same".
"They offered me what seemed like a fortune - it was actually 3 times what I had been making as a secretary right out of college. I said "thank you very much, what day shall I show up?" Never even THOUGHT about negotiating!
"About six months later I learned from the one other woman in our group that the men in my job ALL started at 25% - seriously 25% - more than I did, AND a couple of them had negotiated to start as Assistant Professors instead of Instructors. I was so hurt and angry; felt really mistreated and betrayed by my boss.”

We knew Webb’s experience was not unusual, but we were still surprised by the statistics that back that up. In their 2003 book Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever offer the hard facts of their research:  In surveys, 2.5 times more women than men said they feel "a great deal of apprehension" about negotiating.
  • Women are more pessimistic about how much is available when they do negotiate, so they typically ask for and get less when they do negotiate—on average, 30 percent less than men.
  • 20 percent of adult women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even though they often recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.
  • 63% of Saturn buyers (the list price = your automobile price) are women.
  • By not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 by age 60—and men are more than four times as likely as women to negotiate a first salary.
Webb says, “when I moved to another community college, I tried to negotiate an increase then, but was told that once in the system, they couldn't give me more than the 'step' increase for that year. And that's when I learned that one could have negotiated faculty rank.” She reflects, “I assumed that state salaries were set in stone and never even tried to find out if there was a range or any room for negotiation. Sadly, I had two friends already in the system who would probably have been happy to tell me the ins and outs of state pay ranges. Had I bothered to ask them, I might have done better.”
Webb missed one of the first steps in her job hunt, which was to do her research. “In the dark ages,” as she says, such information was closely guarded, but she recognizes that her inside sources could have helped set her expectation. Notice too, that salary team members was no secret from the other woman on her team! “There is no reason now not to know what the job pays in your area, in your state, in companies the size of the one with which you are interviewing,” says Webb. “ One should be able to find a calculator that will take into account one's experience.”

Salary information is fairly easy to come by today, using Internet search tools and resources. Salary.com is the easiest first level source. The Salary wizard tool averages salaries for jobs like yours in your location to give you a range you can expect. Base Salary ranges are offered at no charge; for a fee, Salary will compare your individual experience against its data to give you a more focused range using the experience calculator idea Webb talks about.

For example: A first year college counselor in Richmond, Va. today ranges anywhere from 37-64K, with most between 45 and 55. Add Webb’s M.Ed, and a state college size, and Salary estimates $50,000. This same position in New York City, the Bell curve peaks closer to $60,000 In Helena, MT: 45,000. It literally pays to know your market.

We do not suggest that male applicants do this research, but we do suggest that it matters less to them. They are not necessarily trying to reach consensus, to find a figure both parties can agree on. They are trying to Win, as the candidate in the news video says. 

In a recent appearance at the Massachusetts Conference for Women,  Women for Hire's Tory Johnson described one of Babcock's research experiments, where participants were invited to play a game in exchange for a fee of "$5-12," as stated on the flier.  Fliers were also present on the game tables where the game took place. At the end of the game, facilitators thanked the participants for playing, and offered $5.  Male participants were 9 times more likely to ask for the higher end of the offered range than the female participants.  (see full description in Women Don't Ask.)

Babcock and Laschever comment, “Women more often than men take a 'collaborative' or cooperative approach to negotiation that has been shown to produce agreements that are better for both sides. Women are more likely than men to listen to the needs and concerns of the other side, communicate their own priorities and pressures, and try to find solutions that benefit all parties—to find the win/win solutions.”

When the power dynamic is skewed, such as in a job interview or performance review, women will likely defer as a way of keeping the win/win as even as possible. This is sometimes read (by women and men) as “I don’t want so-and-so to be mad at me,” or “I want them to like me,” and the negotiator may actually be feeling that in the moment, but the root cause is closer to “I want to reach an outcome that makes us both happy, not just one of us.”

When asked what advice she would give a negotiator, based on her prior experience, Webb admitted, I can't honestly say that I do much better today - 30 years later! I usually decide what I want and ask for $5000 more. The last two jobs have said 'that's fine,' which tells me that I asked for too little!"   Again, research is better than a gut feel. Webb believed she was playing hardball when she picked the $5000 figure, forgetting for the moment that she had been underpaid for years and that salaries had ballooned. “I picked the $5000 higher amount because I thought it really was 'too high' and gave me room to come down to what I really wanted. When I got it immediately I realized that they would have gone higher, but at that point had no idea how to ask for even more - still don't.”

In their follow-up, Ask for it: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, Babcock and Laschever outline a program for understanding one’s worth and asking for it.

This does not mean changing your personality, or being “more like men.” In fact, Babcock and Laschever assure the reader that “Women can ask for what they want in ways that feel comfortable to them… women have excellent relationship skills and good intuition about what's going on with the people around them, and this can help.” Negotiating can still be a way to getting to mutually beneficial outcomes – men who play to “win” every discussion could stand to learn this too. What Babcock and Laschever want to reinforce is that women should ask for what they want, and not limit themselves to what they can accept.

Take a look at the Women Don’t Ask website for more interviews with the authors, and to watch for appearances in your area. The Finishing School is eager for a review of either Women Don’t Ask or Ask for It from our readership.

Tell us your negotiation stories! What worked, what didn’t? Comment on this post or contact us through our Facebook page.

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