A Higher Salary? The Worst They Can Say Is No.

I recently interviewed David Larson, from www.negotiatingsalary.com.  Daivd is a professional negotiator who focuses on women in the workplace.  I reached out to him for an interview because women’s topics have always interested me.   When I first started negotiating with factories in China over 10 years ago I would change my name to Thomas Sauvage in order to get the respect and timely replies I required for the brands I represented.

More recently my interest in women and discrimination in the workplace peaked due to recent interview in which my marital and family status was scrutinized and then I was offered a part time job for a few dollars above minimum wage!   Wait! That’s not all… to top it off…the hiring manager said the reason he wanted me to leave by 2 pm was so that I could get home in time to make dinner!  Really?  Yes, really.  (See my blog post here.)

The part of my conversations with David  that was the most startling revelation to me was that women are sabotaging their own success.  Read on to learn more about this captivating topic and how you can succeed in getting what you deserve!   Men should be just as interested in this topic as clearly this is a society issue that affects everyone who has mothers, daughters and wives who bring home a paycheck or are going to someday be in the workforce.

You Can Do It!

Why do you think women tend to get lower offers than men for the same jobs?

According to the most recent research, women make on average 22% less than men for doing the same jobs. Of this underpayment, it’s been estimated that 64% can be attributed to factors that are in some part under the woman’s control.

These include but are not limited to taking time off work to have babies, not negotiating a starting salary and failing to ask for raises.

Just because these factors are under the woman’s control does not mean they are fair.  Why should the financial burden of having babies be placed on women’s shoulders (and the man involved doesn’t have to lose any income)? Why should women have to ask for a raise when they already deserve one? The answers to these questions are ones that we need to seek out as a society.

But let’s forget about the 64% of the underpayment that is attributable to identifiable factors within a woman’s control. That leaves, 36% of the remaining underpayment that is outside of a woman’s control and is not clearly identifiable. This 36% is where the sexism comes in. But let me make a clear distinction here: Instead, we’re dealing with a much more pernicious problem...accidental sexism.

Accidental sexism occurs when HR representatives and bosses undervalue women without realizing that they are doing it. In fact, a good deal of the time, the accidental sexist is a woman herself. According to research done in 2012, 71% of Human Resource Managers are women. Most of the discrimination against women is coming from other women. And most of the time they are doing it without realizing they’re doing it.

How does accidental sexism work?  Our Society has established norms of how men and women should behave. When men negotiate aggressively, they are viewed favorably by HR Managers and seen as “confident.” When women negotiate aggressively, they are viewed unfavorably by HR Managers and seen as “bitchy.”   Studies have shown that just changing the name on a resume from “Charles” to “Charlene” (and leaving all other details the same) can make the difference between getting paid a fair salary and getting rejected for being too pushy. The sad part is that the HR Managers don’t even consciously realize they are holding female job candidates to a different set of standards than the men.

My Daughter and I. Equal Pay Benefits Everyone. 

What are a few of the strategies you use to help people get better salaries?

Over the last 10 years, worker productivity has risen sharply, but employee wages have remained essentially flat.  Essentially this means that most employees are long overdue for a raise. Most employees in most American jobs are currently underpaid. With that in mind, all we have to do is ask the right way and we will get the money we deserve.

What is our strategy? Our strategy is to ask. Most employees never do.

Is the timeless adage "the worst they can say is no?" still true today?

Yes, this is still true, but hearing “No” is not as bad as you might think. If we put together a very logical, structured, fair request for a higher salary or raise, and the employer turns it down, then my client just learned something important. This employer is not a fair person and it’s probably time to look for a job somewhere else.

Are there any proven benefits to negotiating via email instead of in person?

Email has been found to reduce the impact of unconscious bias against gender, race, accent, attractiveness, national origin, etc. (Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz 1998). When you negotiate via email, the HR Manager isn’t looking at your face and making judgments based on the way you look. Unconsciously, we judge each other every day, and in a negotiation these judgments play a big role. Email strips away a lot of that.

With email, the pace of communication is much slower than it would be in person. This extra time reduces your opponent’s ability to make snap emotional decisions and leads to email being a more rational medium. (Bhappu and Crews, 2005).

Most importantly for me, email is a cold medium. Because your opponent can’t see your face, he can’t try to read you and call your bluff. Reading body language reactions is the most powerful weapon of an HR Manager. If you negotiate over email, you take away this capability.

Finally, with email you can carefully choose every word you use. And of course, you can hire someone like me to actually write the email for you.

Do you have a few secret weapon tips you can offer women/men in negotiation?

Here’s my best tip. Ask for an early review. If you can negotiate a 6-month review that means that in 6 months your employer will review your work and potentially give you another raise. You just have to make sure you do a great job in that first 6 months. And of course, if you don’t ask for an early review the right way, you won’t get it. Most people never think to ask for this one, but a lot of employers are willing to give it out.

What is the worst that can happen in the negotiation process?

One time I have seen an offer withdrawn, but there were extraneous personal complications my client faced because of her previous relationship with the employer.

When one hires you to negotiate on their behalf, do they usually get the higher salary?  I have a 97% success rate.

To learn more about David Larson and how he can help you get a better offer go to www.negotiatingsalary.com

Ask, the worst they can say is no, and you have a 97% chance that they will say yes! 

P.S. David's practice is not limited to women, he also negotiates on behalf of professional  men.


Tara Sauvage
Designer/Fashion Business Consultant

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