Working for Justice

Q&A with Anne Collier

Posted May 13th, 2015 by in Wages and Overtime Law.

In recent Q&A, I talked with Debrah Farnell, a financial advisor, about how she counsels women to make the most of their money (a subject that Kate K. has also posted on recently).  I asked her whether she counsels her clients in talking about money at their job.  She mentioned that her friend Anne Collier, executive coach and trainer and founder of Arudia, would be a good person to talk with, and I was excited to connect with her.

Kate:

Anne, when applying for a new job, when is the appropriate time to begin a conversation about compensation?

Anne:

I advise clients not to initiate the compensation conversation.  It’s best to wait until the potential employer raises compensation to avoid the perception that you are more interested in compensation than the work or fit with the organization.  If the employer doesn’t raise the issue of compensation before making an offer, once you receive an offer the issue of compensation is on the table, ripe for discussion.

It is important to prepare for the compensation conversation.  Know the market and know your priorities.  Ask yourself: does this particular job provide an opportunity you can’t pass up, even at a below market salary?  What is the minimum salary you are willing to work for? Or are you in a position that you are basically happy with and are willing to move only if it’s financially worth it?  An important part of a successful negotiation is knowing your goals and objectives – what is really important to you?

As a coach, I have learned not to assume that I know what is important to any particular person.  Some clients want to make as much money as possible, while other clients are motivated by factors such as geography, leaving their current employer, having more time to spend with their families, or wanting to give back through government or non-profit service.  How a person negotiates for compensation will depend on his or her priorities.

Kate:

What if you did not negotiate your compensation when you started your job?  Is it too late to negotiate your salary?  If not, how do you initiate and handle that conversation?

Anne:

It’s not too late.  And, again, it is important that you be prepared; Be able to answer these questions:  Why is it that you think a salary increase is appropriate?  Why do you think you have a shot at a raise?  Maybe it is because you have looked at the market and realized you are being paid less than your counterparts at other organizations.  Or maybe you bring something very special and valuable, such as a particular expertise that justifies paying you more than your counterparts.  Maybe your level of effort is higher because you put in more hours than is typical for your industry or firm.

Regardless of your reasons, you need to be prepared to articulate and explain them.  If you are comparing yourself to the market, you need to be prepared to show what the market is.  I’ve been on both sides of these negotiations, and as a business owner I want to pay market; I do not want key employees to leave because I don’t pay market rates.  So you stand a better shot at getting a compensation increase if you prepare.

Kate:

Do you advise your clients, particularly your female clients, to have conversations on their compensation regardless of whether they can articulate a strong reason?  For example, what if your research indicates your compensation is consistent with the market – does that mean you should not bring up your compensation?

Anne:

Research shows that men ask for a raise more than women do; I would never tell a woman not to ask, but I would still advise her to tie her request to objective facts that support the request.  Even if all you can say is that you’ve worked very hard to help the employer achieve a goal that resulted in a lot of revenue or that you have had consistently excellent reviews, you should still provide an objectively measurable reason to justify paying you more.

In essence, rather than framing your request in terms of what you think you “deserve,” you will likely be more effective if you rely on facts.  And, even if all you can say is that the high quality of your work warrants an increase, sticking to the objective facts can make the process more comfortable because the conversation will feel less personal – it’ll be about the work, not you personally.

An upside of this strategy is that even if your request is denied, you likely won’t have damaged – or worry that you’ve damaged – the relationship.  You should feel proud of how you handled yourself – whether you got what you wanted or not.

Kate:

What are some pitfalls you counsel women to avoid in these conversations?

Anne:

Rather than talking as you might have done when you were a child complaining that your sister was treated differently than you by whining “It’s not fair!,” say something like “I’ve looked around and researched the market for my work and it looks like I am being underpaid by about X%.” Talk about what the market is paying and what the job demands; be prepared to talk about salaries for comparable positions and to rely on objective measures of your work.

I also counsel women to watch their tone of voice and to practice in advance.  The more confident you sound, the more likely it is that you will be successful.  Your tone of voice should be the same as in a casual, but serious-ish conversation.  In other words, don’t sound stressed.

Finally, do not use personal excuses, but instead, stick with what is relevant to your compensation.

Kate:

[Blogger’s Note: Personal reasons such as these can also be used to justify underpaying women.  Check out my post: “You Don’t Need The Money—You Have a Nice Engagement Ring”]

I think many women are concerned that raising this issue will make them seem ungrateful, negative, or difficult to get along with.  Do you have advice on how to overcome this?

Anne:

Recognize that it makes sense you are feeling vulnerable.  By asking for more pay you are opening yourself up to criticism, to the question of whether you are worth it.  You feel vulnerable because you are, at that moment, vulnerable.  And that’s why it is so important to get yourself in the right mindset.  To be effective, approach the negotiation in a matter-of-fact manner, after having done your research.  Again, don’t personalize it – it’s about objective facts, which are your performance and work.

Kate:

Relatedly, I think a lot of women want to be team players and are afraid that in asking for more money, it will seem that they are not, that they have no regard for other demands on their employer’s money.  Do you have advice for women concerned about this?

Anne:

It is important to keep in mind that your employer makes choices in how they allocate their money.  The people making compensation decisions also pay themselves, and that is a choice they are making.  If your employer is making the choice not to pay you what you are worth, you can explain that to them without seeming oblivious of their other obligations.  And if your employer continues to underpay you and you decide to stay, recognize that you have made that choice and be happy there until you choose to leave.

Kate:

I have read the Tips from the Coach section of your website, and your messages on confidence – part of what clients and colleagues pay for is your confidence – reminded me of The Confidence Code (and the related Atlantic article The Confidence Gap).  The authors’ theme is that confidence matters more than competence and that women are less confident (or at least project less confidence) than men.  They also identify the problem that, for women, confidence can have an inverse relationship with likeability (a theme I have also come across in Hanna Rosen’s “The End of Men” and Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”).  I want to be liked and I want to be successful – is that possible?

Anne:

Yes.  I definitely think it is possible to be well liked and well compensated.  It’s all about how you handle it.  Don’t stay in a position and resent your compensation while you don’t do anything about it.  Consider this: if you telegraph resentment you are likely to make others uncomfortable and damage your likability.

Kate:

On a personal note, as a woman who has been very successful in her work, do you have advice for other women?

Anne:

Know your value and be persistent.  Hold your ground and know whether you are willing to walk away.  For example, my rates are not inexpensive.  I think I am a good value, but of course I could have a lot more business if I cut my rates in half or even worked for free.  But I am clear about my own value and comfortable with letting prospective clients walk away.

What does it take to pull that off?   You have to be clear about your value and willing to hold your ground.  Know yourself and your value.

* * * * *

I think many women can benefit from Anne’s advice on how to broach the issue of compensation and I hope that employers will take steps to address and remedy the problem.  If not, it may be employers are not making objective decisions based on the market, but instead are motivated by bias or discrimination.  For more information on how my firm helps women facing these issues, click here.

Kate Mueting

Kate Mueting

Kate Mueting is a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Sanford Heisler Sharp. Ms. Mueting is responsible for managing much of the KPMG gender discrimination litigation and also represents employees in other individual and class discrimination and overtime cases. Learn More

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