A few weeks ago we all heard about Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s misguided comments at the Grace Hopper Conference when he was asked to give advice, to a room full of women, on the best way to negotiate for a raise. He said, “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise.” He went on to say, "That might be one of the initial 'super powers,' that quite frankly, women (who) don’t ask for a raise have. It’s good karma. It will come back.”
Naturally, when this blew up in the media, it was in his best interest to apologize and recant what he said, which he did in a letter to Microsoft employees and via Twitter.
Ok, fine. Whatever.
This whole thing really got me thinking though and I couldn’t stop processing it. What frustrated me most about Mr. Nadella’s comment about women relying on karma is that it completely missed the mark in understanding women’s frustration and confusion around how to negotiate and ask for a raise in the first place.
How I heard his message was, “ladies, we don’t want you to ask for a raise, we will give you one, if and when we feel you deserve it. Be patient.” Research shows that most women buy into this philosophy anyway. Thanks, Mr. Nadella, for helping to perpetuate a message that doesn’t serve or inspire us, and in fact, takes us back 30 years! Grrrrrr.
Research shows that men ask for what they want four times as often as women do, which has led to them obtaining higher salaries, even if just by a small percentage, yet it adds up over time. I’m going to hazard a guess that karma didn’t get them higher salaries than women.
Several years ago, I’ll never forget when my boyfriend, at the time, told me that he made $50K over the top range of the role he was in. I was flabbergasted…and also very curious how he made that happen. He said it was simple…he didn’t want to be promoted to the next level (too much bureaucracy) but was a very high performer. He leveraged this by realizing that if they wanted to keep him, they would need to make it worth his while. He made $50K his target and kept fighting for it until they gave it to him. Truthfully, my reaction was “You can get paid over the top of the range?” It made me start to wonder how many times I put boundaries around what I thought was possible and then decided it wasn’t even worth asking.
Women are also reminded that asking for a raise (or something we want) can backfire on us and put us in a poor light. Apparently, it makes us appear greedy and ungrateful. Men don’t acquire the same stigma against them…they come across as confident and assertive. If that’s true, then for women, negotiating for what we want feels dangerous and scary. After hearing my boyfriend’s story, I was intrigued but also convinced that it wouldn’t go so well for me if I tried the same thing. I told myself that I have a great job, why rock the boat and risk being seen as greedy. I’m probably not as high of a performer as him. The list of things that would keep me from getting a raise added up until there was no desire to ask and take the chance in the first place. And so I didn’t. It makes me crazy now wondering what could have happened if I’d gone for it.
Sadly, for women, it becomes much safer to stay quiet and be grateful for what we already have. And so the gender salary gap continues…
In order for shifts to take place, it is required that we all play a part in modifying our behavior. We need to try something different. This is not just up to us women to fix. We need a movement, not the government to implement laws that solve the gender salary gap issue. Does it even feel right to be paid equally when we all bring something a little different to our job?
The point is to be paid what we’re worth regardless of gender.
With conscious effort and awareness, there are four super simple ways to start moving the needle.
Women: Start Asking More Often
All too frequently, we make assumptions that someone won’t give us something that we want. We play out the scenario in our head and all we hear is “NO”. We can hear all the objections. So we don’t bother to ask. We stay safe, carry on, and the resentment and frustration builds. It doesn’t bring out our best self or best work. There is a cost to not asking. And it’s not just being denied what we’d like to have. Bottom line, get into the practice of asking for what you want. Recognize the assumptions and potential objections you are bringing and ask anyway. You’ll learn some valuable information no matter what! Start small and then build up to a bigger ask.
Women: Help Other Women Negotiate
As much as I hate to say this, women aren’t always the best at encouraging and supporting each other. If we aren’t a confident negotiator ourselves, we can have a tendency to shoot other women down when they negotiate with us, or worse, suddenly see them as aggressive and unlikeable. Here is your chance to recognize her for taking the risk, even if you can’t give her what she’s asking for.
Men: We Need You To Support Women Too
Much like women need to support other women, men have an opportunity to encourage women to negotiate as well. If you notice that a female employee isn’t asking for what she wants, nudge her to take the chance. Remind her that she might not get what she wants but by swinging out, she’s letting others know that she doesn’t want to get cheated and deserves more. When she does negotiate, please try to empathize with how difficult it might be for her. Find ways to help her be at ease and let her know if you’re happy that she’s initiating the conversation.
Expect to Hear No
This might seem counter-intuitive but part of negotiating is expecting to hear “no”. The good news is that it’s only the starting point. Most people’s reaction to a request to change something is not usually “definitely…let’s do it!” It’s human nature to resist change. Expect the resistance and then stay. Stay through the resistance and get curious about it. Give the other person time to think about the request and come back to you with additional thoughts or a decision. A negotiation can go on for days, weeks, or even months. A negotiation is rarely complete in one conversation. I also believe it is in our nature to want to please other people. We don’t really enjoy saying no. By giving things time, you might be surprised by what opportunity can arise that wasn’t there before….all because you asked.
Is there something you’ve been wanting or needing for a while but convinced yourself that you’ll never get it? This is the time to ask. Step up to the plate and swing. If you rely on karma, the best you can hope for is getting walked to first base. So swing that bat, swing for the fences. You might strike out once in a while but keep stepping up and swinging. That’s what negotiating is all about. Keep swinging for the home run.