I was recently catching up on an episode of Mad Men. In the episode Roger asks Peggy to work through the weekend to finish a project for a client. In exchange for doing this, and doing it fast, he offers her $10. Rather than saying yes and agreeing to what her boss has asked, Peggy takes the opportunity to ask for what she wants – more money. $400 to be exact.
Here is what happened:
Peggy: Hold on a second. You want me to work up an entire corporate image campaign for 10 bucks?
Roger: I can make you do it for nothing. I’m the boss.
Peggy: You’re right. The work is $10. The lie is extra.
Roger: Incredible. What do you make a week, sweetheart?
Peggy: Oh, you don’t know. That’s helpful…
Roger; You know, I could fire you.
Peggy: Great. There are some portfolios in Joan’s office. You could find someone tonight.
Roger: Why are you doing this to me?
Peggy: Because you’re being very demanding for someone who has no other choice. Dazzle me.
Roger: Fine. How much do you want?
Peggy: How much you got?
Peggy: Give me all of it.
Roger: Jesus. (Hands $$ to her) This better be good.
Peggy: You want me to take your watch?
The entire time I was watching this exchange the only thing I could think is Go Peggy! Boy has she come a long way from not knowing how to interact with the boys and not asking for what she wanted and deserved. Sure, some may see Peggy’s actions as unprofessional, but I see them as a step in the right direction for her and women in general.
Too often women are afraid to ask for what they want and are less likely than men to use negotiation to further their own ambitions and goals. While I have often assumed that women in their 20′s and 30′s are able to ask for, and get, what they want through negotiation more than women in their 40′s and 50′s, this fact just simply isn’t true. While younger women feel that they act the same as their male counterparts, they don’t.
The result of women failing to negotiate is less pay. Apparently a woman’s failure to negotiate for just her first salary results in her sacrificing more than half a million dollars over the course of her career. YIKES! Not only is this staggering, but this number strikes home for me. At my first job interview my husband told me to be prepared to negotiate my salary. Rather than taking his advice, I listened to the best woman I know, my mom, who told me that they likely wouldn’t ask me what I wanted to make. So, I went into the interview not expecting them to ask me what I wanted to be paid. When that question came up I submissively sat there and allowed my future boss to set my salary at a number far lower than I would have suggested. I guess I sat there because I was just so grateful to have the opportunity in such a bad economy. Could this have cost me half a million dollars? Who knows, but the thought is scary.
In addition to the financial losses, women who don’t ask for what they want often advance more slowly in their career than equally qualified men. Why is this? Because men are the ones who are not afraid to ask for a big, prestigious assignment. Men are the ones to raise their hand when no one else will. Men are the ones that are more likely to put themselves out there. According to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, women expect that their hard work will be recognized and rewarded without having to ask. The truth is that this just isn’t how it works.
So what are women to do? Behave more like men? The answer is no. We all know that an overly aggressive women who asks for what she wants is often perceived as pushy and bitchy, while a man who does the same thing is seen as tough. While I don’t like it, society places a double standard on this behavior and doesn’t really allow women the opportunity to be the same as men when it comes to asking for what they want and moving ahead in their careers. Rather than being upfront and aggressive, Babcock and Laschever suggest asking for what you want in a more friendly and social way. Don’t play hardball, simply ask.
How do we know when it is ok to negotiate? Rather than thinking about what time is the most appropriate time, women should assume that most things in the work environment are negotiable. You want an office and not a cubicle, ask. You want a printer in your office so you don’t have to get up every time you print something, ask. You think you deserve a raise, tell them why you think this. The worst thing that could happen is whomever you are asking says no. It is also important to try to use your intuitive skills. Women generally have great intuitive skills and often know when something is wrong, so use this to your advantage when deciding when is the appropriate time.
But our economy is in a recession, is my boss really likely to give me a raise? Again, the worst thing he could say is no. Would you rather sit around wondering? I hope not. If you are uncomfortable asking flat-out for a raise then do some investigation to determine what other people in your situation are making. Talk to your friends and work and see what they have asked for and received. If someone with the same experience is making more than you, use that to your advantage when asking for a raise (of course be careful not to name-drop as that may get the other employee in trouble).
There are multiple things I want, should I ask for them at the same time? No. The idea is not to overload whomever it is you are talking to. Rather than putting it all out there, it is better to do incremental negotiating. One step at a time. Do not overload the person with your wants and desires.
Remember, asking for what you want is not bad. If you are worried that your wants are inappropriate, ask others what they think. It is always good to get a second opinion to determine whether your wants and needs are realistic. Finally, you cannot expect your boss to be a mind reader. Too often my husband and I get in an argument and at the end he says, “well why didn’t you tell me that’s what you wanted?” The truth is that men and women communicate differently, so you cannot expect a male boss to understand things from your perspective and to know exactly what you want. Stop expecting people to be mind-readers and get out there and ask for what you want!
Have you asked for something that you wanted at work? How were you perceived? How did you feel afterwards?