The Struggles of Salary Negotiation

When it comes to salary negotiations, things have changed quite a bit from what they were fifty or even twenty years ago. Most importantly, today there are sites like Glassdoor or other salary calculator tools available to general public where one can look up the average salary rate for their profession. I would say that there is definite power in having that knowledge and it will certainly make anyone’s negotiations much stronger if they know their market value. However, it still doesn’t help with the deeper underlying issue – people are still afraid and feel very uncomfortable talking about money.

Now, let’s talk about salary and gender. In the past, it was a common knowledge that women on average were getting paid less than their male colleagues. Now that it is 2018, are we still dealing with this problem that seems so… last century? Do women today still get paid less than men for the same roles? It may be hard to answer this question because every role is more or less unique. Besides, the available online resources may tell you the average salary ranges for a typical role, but none of them openly list individual salaries for statistical analysis. That is considered confidential information and, in our culture, it is still considered bad etiquette to discuss your salary with your colleagues.

In my line of work as a career coach, I ask people about their salaries all the time and people don’t usually keep it a secret, knowing that I am only here to help them get paid more. So, based on their answers, I have learned a great deal about the money psychology. First of all, it has nothing to do with gender, he or she who asks for more, gets paid more. Period. I learned that many people, particularly women will not answer the question of how much money they want directly. Most will give me a long explanation, sometimes even being defensive as if I am about to judge them or disagree with them. They are prepared to fight back and defend their position in case if I make them wrong for what they want. And then they give me the number which sounds perfectly reasonable, sometimes even on the lower end of the market value.

In my career programs, I offer coaching in many different areas of job search, such as resume development, search strategies, interview preparation and offer negotiations among others. I work with both men and women and what I find interesting is the fact that while both genders seek advice equally on all other topics, there is a significantly higher percentage of women who will actually reach out to me to discuss salary negotiations. Many women would request a coaching call just on salary negotiations and skip everything else. Most women will actually tell me that negotiations topic would be the most helpful to them. The majority of men, on the other hand, will simply skip this discussion. We stay in communication before the interview, I coach them on interview preparation and then they will get back to me after a week or two to let me know if they got a job offer or not. That’s it. Not a single question or even mention of a salary. There are some exceptions, of course, but it’s a handful.

Here is what I’m curious about: do men already know how to negotiate and don’t need any help in this matter or is it because they simply don’t want to discuss this topic? Do most men feel pretty confident when it comes to asking for money or do they simply not want to admit that they are uncomfortable?

In the end, when it comes to offer negotiations, self-confidence is the key. Regardless of your gender, the only way you can get paid more is if you believe in how much you’re worth.

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