Last week I had the joy of needing to go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. I know. I can feel your sympathy already. The lines. The forms. The conflicting information! My task was to transfer license plates from my mother who sold her 18-year-old car with 30,000 miles to me. I knew it would not be simple but I didn’t realize how complicated it would be. Three different registry employees gave me incorrect information.
I want to blame the three different employees but I cannot completely blame them. I was speaking a different language from them and thus I was making no progress. What I thought were license plates were in actuality “lottery plates”. Once I learned this correct insider lingo – I was welcomed with open arms and information. Oh I still had extra forms and more visits to the registry but at least I saw the path to accomplishing the task at hand. Three lunch hours later and the “lottery plates” have successfully been transferred.
I share this story with you because sometimes it is just a change in the language that can help you accomplish your true goal. You want more money for the job you do. You want to be paid on par with the men who do the job you do. You may think of it as a raise but asking for a raise will put your request into one bucket. Ask for the same amount of money from the same person and call it a salary adjustment instead of a raise and your request goes into an entirely different bucket.
Raises are typically decided across the board. Each manager is given X% for raises for all employees. Should one person gets X%+ than another person needs to get X%- to even everything out. But say the words, “I need to talk about a salary adjustment” and you are no longer tied to the zero sum game of department raises. A salary adjustment is an acknowledgement that your salary is not in line with the salaries for the job you do. True at the end of the day it is money coming from the same company but your request will be looked at differently. Most importantly, your request will not be tied to the raises any other person in your department receives.
You probably think you will need to do extra work since this request will be looked at differently. Refer back to 10 Things to Know Before You Talk Salary and you will have everything you need. The most important information will be the industry salaries for your job. The key to an argument for a salary adjustment is to show that you are making a considerable amount less than the industry standard. Unfortunately, this requirement should not be that big a hurdle since women typically make 20%+ less than men. Also, be aware that this conversation can happen at anytime. You should not wait until performance review time to discuss a salary adjustment. Whenever you have proof that you are being underpaid is a good time to discuss a salary adjustment.