How to Psych Yourself Up for a Salary Negotiation

Negotiating is one way to be empowered and take control of your finances.

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What would you say to someone who's concerned that she might seem demanding or that the economy is still uncertain?

There is some validity to it, so I don't dismiss it offhandedly. Besides knowing if you are over-delivering, you would want to know, "how is my company doing financially?" If your company is kind of sick and hurting, then no, I am not going to encourage you to go and ask for a raise even if you're doing everything right. I do think there are some realities to the job market.

However, there is a lot of brand new research in 2012 showing us that more employees than ever have confidence that they'll be getting raises this year and that more employers plan to hand them out. People are getting more comfortable, they are more willing to pay based on merit, and I think if anything, there's less of a trend toward treating every employee and rewarding every employee the same exact way.

[See How to Master the Art of Negotiation.]

You interviewed several successful female executives for you book. Was there anything that surprised you?

Those interviews were great because they included people's mistakes, and that always makes for a better interview than just your most shining moments. But there was a data point that I found pretty compelling. When I asked the women that quantitative question: "Assuming a woman's career success equals 100 percent, what percentage of that is made up by her effectiveness at pushing back?" I was happily surprised to hear such an affirmative answer, but on average, the women said that 60 percent of a woman's success hinges on being a good self advocate. Yes, technical skills and your academic pedigree manner, and so do people skills. But if a woman doesn't have command of her own voice, she's not going to go very far.

I think that is going to be especially important for the youngest women who aren't necessarily that happy with the American workplace and find it too rigid, that you can't work from anywhere at most companies today. I think for those young women, if they want to see change, they're going to have to be very good at negotiating and showing why it should be done another way.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I'm amazed how many people tell me about something that they don't like, like let's say a policy at work, and if I ask them, "Well why don't you negotiate that?" They'll often say, "Because that's the way it's done."

I think there's something that might be cultural for Americans that we might not like about asking for special treatment. It makes a request suddenly about deservedness, whereas in other cultures, it's more common to negotiate. But I think that we shouldn't be too married to "is there a precedent or not?" Challenge it! Who cares if no one's done it before?