Taking a Compliment Can Equal a Better Pay Raise

Do you often find yourself downplaying compliments?  Does this sound familiar?

Friend 1:  Hey you look great.   That new hairstyle works for you.

You:  Oh, I so wish my hair was thicker but this does seem to look okay.

Friend 2:  Wow, that’s a great dress. You really do have amazing fashion sense.

You:  This old thing.  I don’t even remember where I got it.  I pull it out for all the dressy events. I’m sure you will see it again and again.

 As a woman, you are not alone in our discomfort to accept a compliment.  Unfortunately, that trait that can be endearing in the world of friends and family can cost you in the work world.  Now, let’s see if either of the following sound familiar.

Manager 1:  Hey, great job on that report.  It really highlights the areas of opportunity for the company.  Some of them were way under the radar.

You:  Oh, it wasn’t just me.  The whole team pulled together to research the information.

Manager 2:  Thanks for working late on that project.

You:   Oh, it was nothing.

Both examples were “Atta Girl” moments that could influence the amount of your next pay raise.  However, when you downplay them you increase the likelihood your manager will downplay the situation as well.    I’m not suggesting you steal the spotlight from anyone.  I’m not suggesting that you lose the team player in you.  I’m just suggesting that you don’t deflect a compliment at work.

Let’s try the same two moments again but with different responses.

Manager 1:  Hey, great job on that report.  It really highlights the areas of opportunity for the company.  Some of them were way under the radar.

You:  Thanks.  It was really exciting to discover those opportunities.  I’m glad I could shine a light on them.

Manager 2:  Thanks for working late on that project.

You:   You’re welcome.

You have taken ownership of what you did and these moments now have a better opportunity to stick in your manager’s mind when annual performance review comes around.    You will want to remember these moments as well.  Start keeping an Atta Girl file in which you keep track of every time someone compliments your work.   I’ll discuss in another blog how to use your Atta Girl file during annual review or when looking for a new job.  For now, let’s talk about how to start accepting compliments.

Practice and keep track.  Whether a compliment comes from friends, family, colleagues, or strangers give a simple Thank You as a response. No more.  No less.   Your goal is to say Thank You ten (10) times.  Keep track of how many compliments you need to receive before you respond with 10 Thank Yous.  Don’t be shocked if it takes you thirty (30) or more. Once you accomplish that, do it again.  Hopefully, the number is closer to 10 than the first round.  Continue to keep track until you feel comfortable accepting compliments that are offered to you.   Once you are at that stage you will know that you are not unwittingly sabotaging yourself and your paycheck at work.


@ Copyright 2011, Katie Donovan. All rights reserved. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited

Happy Earning $75K?!

Back in the fall, Princeton University’s Center for Health and Wellbeing released research on the salary that optimizes individual’s daily happiness.   At $75,000 we have maximized our happiness. Oh there are other benefits to making more money but it will not impact your daily happy quotient.

This is anecdotal but I think women tend to ask themselves what salary will they be “happy with” instead of what salary the job is worth.  In this case,  “happy with” isn’t about our daily happiness but more about settling.  Kind of like settling for the last donut in the box even though it is squished; settling for the shoes that don’t quite fit but they look great with the outfit; or settling for the guy who doesn’t make the heart sing but he keeps showing up.

Think of it.  When you last looked for a new job or were getting your annual performance review, did you think “I would be happy making $X?”  Did you do the new math of adulthood?

 + car payment + student loan + credit card payments + food + day care + insurance + tax + gas + utilities + clothes + entertainment + 401K

= I can live on $X 

= I’d be happy making $X

Do you think these are the questions professional athletes ask themselves?  I doubt it. Tom Brady, the quarterback for The New England Patriots will make $18 million if they actually play football during 2011. Do you think he could have been happy with $1 million or $2 million or any one of the $17 millions that come before 18?  Probably.  Especially when you think he was a sixth round pick and a backup quarterback who may not have played had Drew Bledsoe not been injured in 2001.  Mr. Brady hasn’t looked back since he got the starting quarterback gig.  He’s negotiated better contracts and now he is considered the highest paid football player.

Salaries are a scorecard for athletes.  If I am a better player than Mr. Y than I better make more money then Mr. Y.  The beautiful thing about athletes is that it is all objective.  There are statistics galore.  Even better than the stats is the fact that both salaries and stats are public knowledge.  There is nothing hidden behind the curtain.  It only makes sense that Tom Brady becomes the highest paid player since he is considered one of the best players and best brands in football.

We working Janes may not have as much information as Tom Brady’s agent when negotiating our salaries but much information is attainable today. Glassdoor.com, Payscale.com, Salary.com and SalaryExpert.com are just some of the many web sites with data that you can use.   So, next time you are thinking about your salary ask yourself a new question.  “What salary is the job I do worth?”  Then start researching to find out.


@ Copyright 2011, Katie Donovan. All rights reserved. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited

Case Study: Her First Salary Negotiations

A recent post on BlogHer.com is a great recount of a woman’s recent job search and how she tried negotiating her salary for the first time.   I recommend reading the post because it illustrates two key aspects of negotiating:

  1. Research is the foundation to establish a target salary
  2. You don’t need to make a specific counter-offer to be successful

Spoiler Alert

You’ll be encouraged to know that in the end she gets a bigger salary than she set as her goal.  That’s a great success!  The process to get there had a couple of missteps but we all have to crawl, walk, and then run when we are learning a new skill.    Let’s examine and learn from her negotiations.

Improving Negotiation Tactics

Her first job offer came with a salary offer that was 8% lower than her target salary.  She then  “…told the human resources person with whom I was communicating that I’d like to make my target number, but that I’d consider additional benefits (i.e. more paid vacation days) in lieu of salary if the salary number was non-negotiable.”

The positive is that she opened her mouth.  The areas that have room for improvement are:

  1. She told her target number
  2. She stated that she was open to additional benefits in lieu of salary

Why are these areas for improvement?  First, you should name a salary greater than what you want because the negotiations could go 2 or 3 rounds.  If the first salary you name is your true desired salary then there is no place for you to go but below your desired salary.  Not a fun place to go.  Second, stating what you would consider in lieu of salary is negotiating against yourself.  All that does is weaken your initial negotiation.   The hiring manager or recruiter will come back with or without a counter offer.  You don’t need to do their work for them.

She was unable to come to an agreement with the first company.  Then she received a second job offer and the salary was 17% below her target salary.  She repeated the same process from the first negotiation and  was again unable to come to agreement.

Confidence and Negotiations

And then she received her third and fourth job offers.  Both were above her target salary.  One was 117% and the other 141%.   This is when she was brilliant.  “After I told each of the companies about the other, (without making any requests, save a request for a few days in which to make my decision) each presented me with another offer.”

Truly the confidence she gained from having two offers helped her negotiate with each company.   But notice she never stated that she needed another offer she just let them know that she needed to consider the offer and she let them know why.  They did the work to sweeten the offer.  She was able to get both companies to make two additional offers by just letting them know each time that she needed to consider the offers

I believe there are three great takeaways from this first-person account that any beginner salary negotiator can use.

  1. Research salaries to set a target salary
  2. Act with confidence
  3. Explain why you need to consider an offer

Combined these three tactics should help you receive a better salary and benefits package.


@ Copyright 2011, Katie Donovan. All rights reserved. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited

Tactic: Silence is Golden When Negotiating

We are not used to quiet.  Your cell phone rings and chirps with calls, emails, texts, and social media updates.  Your office is a constant whir of people tapping on their keyboard, conversations, and the hum of the ever so pretty fluorescent lights.  Your home has the fridge running, the washing machine churning, the dishing washer scrubbing, the t.v. blasting a show or a game, and the tapping of keyboards as family members do homework, connect with friends, or watch cats doing oh-so-cute-things while teenage boys are doing oh-so-stupid-things.  When you think about it there are very few moments in our life that truly are completely silent.  I would say sleep but so many people fall asleep with the t.v. or radio on that even during sleep we have chosen to have noise sound us.  That is why this critical step to negotiating is so difficult for so many people but with practice it can be done.

The step is to be silent, hush up, or SHUT UP! When you are asking someone to do more or to do things differently you need to give them time to catch up and consider you comments.   I can’t tell you how many times I have been on a business call that people ask me if I’m still on the call just because there is a pause.  I like to consider for a comment before I respond.  It drives people crazy. More often than not they figure a cell phone has dropped the call.

There is an old sale’s saw that says “She who speaks first, loses.”  I just did a Google search on the masculine version of this saying “He who speaks first, loses” and got 11.4 million results.  As I said, this is an old saw that is widely practiced and amazingly effective.  This comes into play in every negotiation.   You can think of this two ways.  The first is you create power for yourself by embracing the uncomfortable silence.  Conversely you can think that you minimize your negotiating power if you prevent the other person from responding to your offer or counteroffer.  Either perspective works because the likelihood of receiving a concession increases greatly if the other person responds first.

Consider this conversation between a hiring manager and a candidate:

Hiring Manager:  Congratulations, the job is yours!  The starting salary is $40,000 and you get two weeks vacation.  The offer letter will spell out all the benefits.

Candidate:  Thank you for the offer.  I’m a little surprised about the salary though.  Based on my research I would have expected it to be in the $50,000 range.

Tic, Tic, Tic, Tic, Tic, Tic, Tic, Tic………Tic, Tic, Tic

Candidate:  Salary.com shows the median salary at $48,000 and I have so much experience.  Combined I don’t believe $40,000 to be a good offer.

The candidate just lost some power when she spoke after the silence.  The silence is important for a few reasons.  The hiring manager needs to consider your comments.  Remember, rarely is an initial job offer made at the maximum salary budgeted.   The hiring manager most likely will have the authority to increase the salary during the meeting. S/he may make a big production of it but there should be some money already approved.  So, during the silence the hiring manager is probably figuring out:

  1. How serious are you
  2. How much of the available money to offer
  3. How much of a show to give you for any additional offer

Think of this quiet time as the equivalent to the car salesperson who leaves you to check with the manager.  Oh, she said she has to run through the numbers and yada, yada but the reality is she is giving you to time to squirm.  She is giving you time to think that you may never get a better deal so you better jump on whatever offer she just gave you.

How do you master “She who speaks first, loses”? Practice.  Practice it with friends when they know that is what you are doing.  Ask them to play a hiring manager and not to respond to you for 2 minutes.  See if either of you can be quiet for that long.

Practice it when people don’t know what you are doing.    When people ask you a question count to five before you answer.  Ask people questions that you know will take them a moment to respond and give them the time to respond.

Practice by yourself.  Sit at home in total silence and do nothing but think.  Don’t read, don’t get on the computer, and don’t pick up the phone.  Try sitting there silently for five minutes but don’t time it.  When you think the five minutes are up…go look at the time.  It probably is closer to 1 minute than 5 minutes.  Work you way up to five minutes.

When you master this important tactic in negotiating it will give you the air of calm confidence.  A confidence that will scream  “I know what I’m worth and what the job should pay and I will accept nothing less.”

Good luck and enjoy the silence.


@ Copyright 2011, Katie Donovan. All rights reserved. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited