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BY Bonnie Marcus

How to Avoid the Number One Mistake Women Make When Negotiating for a Raise

By Bonnie Marcus

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Photo credit: Pixabay (headshot photo by John Abbott)

For years we’ve heard that the number one mistake women make negotiating for a raise is that they don’t ask for one. In fact, in their 2003 book Women Don’t Ask, authors Linda Babcock and Sara Lashever confirmed that hypothesis based on their research at the time. Women don’t negotiate as often or as well as men.

But now there is new research that reveals that may be changing. Younger women, specifically women under 40, are asking for raises as often as men, and are successful in negotiating a higher salary. That’s great news!

If it’s true that we’re getting bolder and learning to advocate more for ourselves, we will undoubtedly be in the position to have to negotiate for a raise. And we need to know how to do it well.

Certainly, you need to do your homework and research similar companies in your industry and geography to understand comparable salary ranges, but the most powerful tool in any negotiation whether it’s for a salary increase, promotion, or new position, is your value proposition.

It has been my experience, coaching hundreds of professional women since 2007, that by far, the biggest blunder we make when negotiating for a raise is not understanding our value.

Let’s face it. How can you possibly negotiate for yourself if you don’t understand the most persuasive piece of information in a negotiation? In other words, why should a company give you an increase? It’s never about how hard you work, your challenging workload, the long hours you put in, because that’s your job! It’s the value your work brings to the organization that matters. That’s what your boss and your company care about. And if you are able to communicate that with confidence, you have a much greater chance of getting a well-deserved raise.

How do you know what your value proposition is?

In my book, The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, I devote a full chapter to this. But in a nutshell, here’s some quick advice.

Think about a few of the successful situations you have been involved in at work, and determine how you contributed to that success. If you weren’t leading the project, what was your contribution to the team? What is it about your work and the manner in which you approach the work that leads to specific positive business outcomes?

After you recall several of these projects, a pattern will emerge about your contribution. That’s your value proposition. That’s your secret sauce.

Next reach out to a trusted colleague, mentor, or supervisor or former boss and ask them for feedback on this. It’s important to understand how others perceive you as well. Perhaps they will validate it or give you more ideas of what they see your unique contribution to be. That gives you great insight.

Whatever your value proposition, what’s important in the negotiation is to communicate how this will help the company reach its objectives. What your boss and your company really need to know is how you are going to help them in the future. Position your value proposition as a benefit to the company, not to you personally. That gives you the ammunition to get a raise.

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Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed, is an executive coach, author and keynote speaker focused on women's advancement in the workplace. A former corporate executive and CEO, Bonnie is the author of The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, and co-author of Lost Leaders in the Pipeline: Capitalizing on Women's Ambition to Offset the Future Leadership Shortage.

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